FARGO — Let me throw a theory at you, one crazy enough you might think I've been cooped up in a house for more than a month with a high-strung dog, a mischievious cat and a wife and daughter who are increasingly saying and doing things they know annoy me because I'm close, this close, to curling up in the fetal position and sucking my thumb as a sign of surrender.
Or maybe it's the Lysol I mainlined on the recommendation of Stable Genius, chased with hydroxychloroquine pitched by the nice people on state-run TV.
Anyway, here goes: Both Doug Burgum, a Republican, and Tim Walz, a Democrat, have done a good job — so far — leading their states through the coronavirus pandemic.
Neither have been perfect — good luck with that standard in this unmapped minefield — but both governors have steered with consistent, non-partisan, data-driven leadership while fending off knuckleheads (knuckledraggers?) trying to score quick political points with protests that gained as much traction as a banana peel in an olive oil factory.
Nor has either used a serious health and economic crisis to raise their national profile and audition for a bigger job, as Republican Gov. Kristi Noem has done in South Dakota.
I know it's not trendy to praise equally a Democrat and a Republican, and it's simply not allowed in some circles, but it's possible, just maybe, that both men are qualified to lead under these circumstances and best understand the unique makeup of their states in terms of geography, population, economy, health-care capacity and politics.
Burgum is governor of a sparsely populated, expansive state in which the largest "metro" area is Fargo/West Fargo, all of 170,000 people. North Dakota is politically uber-conservative, with a group of wackadoodle right-wing legislators who can stir up enough media attention to cause trouble.
Walz is governor of a state inhabited by 5.7 million people, including a major metropolitan area of 3.5 million and large outstate towns like Rochester, Duluth and St. Cloud. Minnesota has more than 10,000 lakes, to which people in those cities and large towns travel regularly. The state's population is much more mobile than North Dakota's, for both commercial and recreational reasons.
When Burgum espouses his talking point of "the light touch of government mixed with individual responsibility of North Dakotans," perhaps he's been able to successfully govern that way because of the makeup of his state.
And when Walz issued a more stringent stay-at-home order and strongly urged Minnesotans to not travel long distances, he did so knowing that's what was needed in his much more populated, much more mobile state. He also knew it would work politically in a moderate environment that leans slightly left.
A recent Public Policy Polling survey found 74% of Minnesotans approve of Walz's handling of the pandemic. A different poll of North Dakota found 67% approve of Burgum's response.
There's a strong possibility if Burgum governed in Minnesota and Walz in North Dakota, they'd adjust their thinking to fit the situation. That's what smart people do, regardless of political party.
All right, back to the Lysol.