Jay Reding.com

What’s The Problem With Minnesota?

Ramesh Ponnuru looks at the political situation in Minnesota and wonders what is happening with the GOP. He notes the apparent closeness of the Hatch-Pawlenty race (it isn’t that close), the apparent closeness of the Bachmann-Wetterling race (ditto), and the fact that Mark Kennedy is getting his butt kicked by Amy Klobuchar (which, sadly, he is) and wonders whether Minnesota is really going purple.

For one, one has to realize that the Minnesota Poll is a pile of crap, and is invariably wrong. The same holds true for the Humphrey Institute polls. Both have methodological biases that produce a Democratic bias in the double digits. They’re great for DFL propaganda, but they almost never serve as accurate predictors of the actual outcome of the race.

What Ponnuru misses is the ground game: the DFL doesn’t have one, and the Republican Party of Minnesota has an excellent one. In 2000 the GOP started working on better organization, better outreach, and better GOTV. That didn’t help Rod Grams, who was running against the Star-Tribune rather than the incompetent Mark Dayton. (Dayton was such a bad candidate that he chose not to run again, his tenure in the Senate being an abject joke.) In 2002, that ground game got better, seeing a major GOP push that put the GOP in control of several state-wide offices. 2004 also saw a strong push, just not enough to defeat the state’s natural Democratic tilt.

That ground game makes a huge difference, and that’s why I’m confident that the polls showing Hatch ahead are off by a significant margin. Hatch is a poor candidate — many DFLers don’t even care for him due to his flip-flopping on abortion. Pawlenty is charismatic, smart, and politically savvy. Between that, the benefits of incumbency, and the GOP ground game, Hatch is toast.

Mark Kennedy’s problems are much more severe. Amy Klobuchar is an eminently beatable candidate. She’s a lightweight on the issues, she isn’t good on the stump, and her record is atrocious. The problem with Kennedy is that he is a nice guy who doesn’t know how to campaign. He doesn’t have the same level of personal magnetism that a Pawlenty has, and when it comes down to two poor campaigners in a Democratic year, the Democrats will win. Klobuchar has built-in advantages with the female vote that hurts Kennedy even more. Kennedy left a safe House seat for a risky Senate run, and it looks like that gamble didn’t work for him. I think the polls showing a 20-point gap are complete BS and the race will be at most a 5-point race, but even that means that Mark Kennedy has almost no chance of victory unless Klobuchar gets caught selling crack to schoolkids to fund al-Qaeda.

However, I disagree that her seat is hers as long as she wants it. Klobuchar, like Dayton, won because of luck and the conditions being right. A strong candidate could easily unseat her. Someone like Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer or Rep. John Kline, should either wish to run, could unseat her. Klobuchar’s record as Hennepin County Attorney is mixed at best, and she’s unprepared for the reality of working in the Senate. I would look to her following Mark Dayton as a one-term Senator.

I haven’t been following the Bachmann-Wetterling race that closely, but Patty Wetterling’s ads have been nothing short of despicable. Her lies about Bachmann supporting a flat tax that would “raise taxes 23%” are blatantly false, and her attempts to capitalize on the Foley affair will only give her a short-lived boost. Bachmann is in a very friendly district, and the last round of polling is based on a demographic profile that doesn’t match the district as a whole. Bachmann seems likely to eke out at least a slim win.

There is no doubt that it’s a bad year to be a Republican in Minnesota, but the political tides are still turning. The RNC is smart to pick Minnesota as the location of the 2008 National Convention — if either McCain or Guiliani run, Minnesota is one of the states that could conceivably move over to the red column for the first time in decades.

13 responses to “What’s The Problem With Minnesota?”

  1. Mark says:

    “He notes the apparent closeness of the Hatch-Pawlenty race (it isn’t that close), the apparent closeness of the Bachmann-Wetterling race (ditto)”

    So, everybody Republican that’s in the battle of their political lives is really not in any trouble at all. God, it’s gonna fun using you as a doormat on election night.

    “the Minnesota Poll is a pile of crap, and is invariably wrong. The same holds true for the Humphrey Institute polls”

    It’s not you that’s wrong, Jay. It’s the rest of the world. Even if you set aside the Minnesota Poll and Humphrey Institute polls, the momentum is with Klobuchar, Hatch, Wetterling, and another guy you failed to mention that is poised to win the upset of the year, Tim Walz.

    “the DFL doesn’t have one”

    Bullshit. My dad works like mad in the First District with phone banking and door-knocking in the final six weeks of every campaign. In 2004, the result of these efforts was the DFL picking up five state House seats and robust Democratic turnout holding Bush to a scant three-point majority in the once GOP stronghold of southern Minnesota.

    “2004 also saw a strong push, just not enough to defeat the state’s natural Democratic tilt.”

    Yeah, 2004 was a great year for Minnesota Republicans! On November 2, they had 81 state House seats. On November 3, they had 68. What a great ground game!

    “Hatch is a poor candidate”

    Your rationale for that: He’s not a Republican. If he was a bad candidate, he wouldn’t be leading in the polls. The reality is that Pawlenty’s political skill has been artificially inflated based on previous non-competition from stiffs like Roger Moe and Tim Penny.

    “Amy Klobuchar is an eminently beatable candidate. She’s a lightweight on the issues, she isn’t good on the stump, and her record is atrocious.”

    There’s not one Republican in Minnesota who could beat her. Not one! Not even Jim Ramstad. She’s the best candidate for any statewide race in Minnesota since Paul Wellstone circa 1990. Latest proof of that: She was the scalpel who dissected Kennedy like a frog in an eighth-grade biology class in their “Meet the Press” debate last Sunday.

    “The problem with Kennedy is that he is a nice guy who doesn’t know how to campaign.”

    All I can say is “Thank you, David Minge”….for losing to this guy….and fooling Republicans into thinking Kennedy was some kind of political wizard. The GOP got their first evidence of how lame Kennedy is in 2004 when he almost pissed away a sure thing against Patty Wetterling. Instead of learning their lesson, they pushed away other GOP candidates to make room for Kennedy. Even Dayton could beat this incompetent shmuck.

    “I think the polls showing a 20-point gap are complete BS and the race will be at most a 5-point race,”

    That’s what I thought two weeks ago. Now I suspect the only way Kennedy avoids a double-digit defeat is if Fitzgerald gets five percent at Klobuchar’s expense. Not likely. Kennedy is far too weak at this point to get within five points on his own.

    “Someone like Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer or Rep. John Kline, should either wish to run, could unseat her.”

    You should have stuck with South Dakota politics because you don’t have a clue about Minnesota’s. John Kline is popular only in his GOP stronghold in the southern exurbs and Mary Kiffmeyer will be incredibly lucky to beat Mark Ritchie for the Secretary of State’s race this year. Kiffmeyer vs. Klobuchar would be the mismatch of the century.

    “Bachmann seems likely to eke out at least a slim win.”

    Possible, but looking less likely. The woman is a stark raving lunatic who squats behind bushes to spy on gay rights rallies, claims global warming is a myth, and refers to workplace safety regulations as “Marxist”. If Republicans in MN-06 had nominated Phil Krinkie or Jim Knoblach, they’d easily beat a lightweight like Wetterling (she’s the first Democratic candidate in this bunch who actually is as weak of a candidate as you claim they all are), but the radicals controlling the state GOP had to go with the nutball….and probably sabotaged a freebie in the process.

    The anecdotal evidence of a blistering DFL tide in Minnesota began last year at this time when GOP-leaning districts went for Democratic State Senators by huge margins in special elections. Drive through any neighborhood anywhere in Minnesota and see how non-existent support is for Republicans in general and Pawlenty and Kennedy in particular. If the GOP really is hiding in the bushes (oh wait, that’s just Michelle Bachmann) and poised to score this huge GOTV success story, it’ll be the greatest surprise ambush since the trojan horse. Not gonna happen, buddy. You picked a heckuva time to return to Minnesota. :)

  2. Jay Reding says:

    Given you’ve made the same claims twice before, I wouldn’t be so sure. I guess since Rowley lawn signs outnumber Kline signs by about 5-1 throughout the South Metro, I suppose Rowley’s gonna win in a landslide too…

  3. Mark says:

    “Given you’ve made the same claims twice before, I wouldn’t be so sure.”

    I have? When? I wasn’t even on this site yet in 2002 and predicted Coleman would win the day after the Wellstone Memorial….along with Pawlenty. In 2004, I predicted Minnesota to go for John Kerry, and it did (by three points just as I predicted, BTW). You predicted Minnesota to go for George Bush, which it didn’t. And the DFL’s “non-existent ground game” managed to seize 13 GOP-held state House seats that same year, vastly exceeding even my expectations. What exactly have I been wrong about again?

    “I guess since Rowley lawn signs outnumber Kline signs by about 5-1 throughout the South Metro, I suppose Rowley’s gonna win in a landslide too…”

    No, but it does indicate the exact opposite of the scenario you spun in this post. If there is so little enthusiasm on the Republican side in a district as conservative as Kline’s that they can’t be bothered to put up a lousy yard sign, how is it we’re supposed to believe they’ll be energized enough to orchestrate this mind-blowing GOTV operation capable of grinding every Democrat on the statewide ticket into dust?

    Your entire argument reeks of desperation. Because the GOP had a single successful GOTV operation in the perfect storm year of 2002, we’re supposed to take that as evidence that the party will be consistently capable of duplicating that effort, even when the partisan wind is a jet stream blowing right into your face and when the GOP is too demoralized to set up yard signs in places that are usually overflowing with signs supporting Republican candidates. Ultimately, Pawlenty could squeak by if Hutchinson peels away enough votes from Hatch, but his victory would probably be so weak that it would remove Pawlenty from the ranks of top-tier GOP running mate candidates on the 2008 Presidential ticket. On the other hand, if Pawlenty loses, it’ll be an awfully embarrassing convention for them with the Minnesota GOP delegation of one (Norm Coleman) sharing the stage with whichever lousy candidate the party nominates.

  4. Jay Reding says:

    Again, the presence of yard signs doesn’t signify anything. When you’re John Kline, a well-establlished name running against a candidate so hoplessly incompetent that the national party has already dumped you, spending money on yard signs is hardly a necessity. The idea that the number/presence of lawn signs has any meaning whatsoever is putting stock in a theory with no basis in political reality.

    If you’re an established politician, and you have to resort to lawn signs to remind voters who you are, then you’re in big trouble. In fact, it’s probably a stronger argument that lawn signs are more apt to be a sign of desperation — they’re cheap, and if you need the appearance of support, it doesn’t cost much to plaster a district with them.

    Of course, like in previous years, the Democrats can keep crowing about how they won in lawn signs and pre-election polls. The only contest that counts is Election Day, and the Democrats may be getting an unpleasant surprise after filling their heads with their own propaganda.

  5. Mark says:

    Try to understand why your premise here is so laughable.

    You want us to believe there is this undercurrent of ferocious GOP momentum capable of overcoming huge deficits in the polls, even though the Republicans’ pre-election ground game is the most invisible that it has ever been in my lifetime. Underestimate the significance of a 5-1 Democratic yard sign advantage at your own peril. When there have been more sightings of Bigfoot in the Minnesota woods in the month of October than signs in support of Mark Kennedy and Tim Pawlenty, it speaks volumes of the level of enthusiasm Minnesota Republicans are bringing to this election.

    More directly, you would have us believe that because the Minnesota Republican Party had a single successful GOTV effort following the perfect political storm of 2002, that there’s no way Tim Pawlenty can lose in 2006 no matter how far behind he goes in the poll….and that Mark Kennedy can gain 15 points on Klobuchar in the last three weeks even though he’s been completely abandoned by his party and his staunchest early supporters.

    I understand the feeling. You’re backed into a corner….your shirttail’s on fire…the bill collector’s at the door….your credibility’s on the line….and your swinging aimlessly with arms and legs flailing to try to fight for the “good cause” that everybody else has given up on. It’s cute, but ultimately makes you look sillier than if you simply acknowledged the ugly reality and the fact that Amy Klobuchar is a terrific candidate who mowed down your party’s golden boy and has a tremendous future as the next popular Democratic Senator for the state of Minnesota.

  6. Jay Reding says:

    Try to understand why your premise here is so laughable.

    My doctor advises me that removing that much of my brain would have some hazardous side effects.

    You want us to believe there is this undercurrent of ferocious GOP momentum capable of overcoming huge deficits in the polls, even though the Republicans’ pre-election ground game is the most invisible that it has ever been in my lifetime.

    Which is an argument entirely premised on the lack of lawn signs, one of the single most worthless political activities a party can do. What the GOP has been doing is identifying voters and motivating them to get to the polls. That strategy has worked in the past and will work again.

    Underestimate the significance of a 5-1 Democratic yard sign advantage at your own peril. When there have been more sightings of Bigfoot in the Minnesota woods in the month of October than signs in support of Mark Kennedy and Tim Pawlenty, it speaks volumes of the level of enthusiasm Minnesota Republicans are bringing to this election.

    No, it says that the GOP has decided not to bother with lawn signs. And who can blame them? Does anyone honestly believe that lawn signs are effective? Quite frankly, I’m starting to wish they’d be outlawed as a public nuisance. I can’t stand the damn thing, and I’ve planted hundreds of the things over the years. Again, I’m a pretty staunch Republican, and I wouldn’t think of putting a lawn sign in my yard.

    If your barometer for political support is based on something so flimsy, then you’re reaching for straws.

    More directly, you would have us believe that because the Minnesota Republican Party had a single successful GOTV effort following the perfect political storm of 2002, that there’s no way Tim Pawlenty can lose in 2006 no matter how far behind he goes in the poll….and that Mark Kennedy can gain 15 points on Klobuchar in the last three weeks even though he’s been completely abandoned by his party and his staunchest early supporters.

    The last WSJ poll has Kennedy down by 7 — and if you’d read my post, you’d see I’ve said that Kennedy will almost certainly lose unless trends drastically change. And as for Pawlenty, I haven’t seen a single reputable poll that shows the race outside the margin of error — unless you believe the Minnesota Poll, which is consistently off by double-digit margins.

    I understand the feeling. You’re backed into a corner….your shirttail’s on fire…the bill collector’s at the door….your credibility’s on the line….and your swinging aimlessly with arms and legs flailing to try to fight for the “good cause” that everybody else has given up on.

    I’m sorry, but I have to submit you to the authorities. Torturing those poor, innocent metaphors so horribly has got to be illegal under the McCain Amendment…

    It’s cute, but ultimately makes you look sillier than if you simply acknowledged the ugly reality and the fact that Amy Klobuchar is a terrific candidate who mowed down your party’s golden boy and has a tremendous future as the next popular Democratic Senator for the state of Minnesota.

    THERE… ARE… FOUR… LIGHTS…!

    (And if you get that reference, you’re such a nerd…)

  7. Mark says:

    “What the GOP has been doing is identifying voters and motivating them to get to the polls. That strategy has worked in the past and will work again.”

    Considering how few remaining Republican voters the polls indicate are out there, I won’t challenge your assertion that the GOP is having no difficulty “identifying them”. You may even have some luck getting them to the polls….not that it’ll be any help considering the overwhelming majorities of voters intending to vote for the other side who need no “motivation” to get them to the polls.

    “No, it says that the GOP has decided not to bother with lawn signs.”

    Must be a very recent change of heart as the GOP always seems to pollute the roadways and side streets with a vastly more significant number of their signs than the competition ever did…..until the fall of 2006, where they reached the epiphany that “yard signs suck” with amazingly convenient timing that parallels the diminishing ranks of Minnesota voters who support them.

    “Does anyone honestly believe that lawn signs are effective?”

    Put it to you this way. I’d rather be the candidate whose signs dot city and suburban side streets, and remote country roads (Klobuchar, Hatch, Walz) than the candidate who can’t buy a free grassroots advertisement virtually anywhere in the state (Pawlenty, Kennedy). Ever heard of psychological momentum? If I’m a swing voter whose neighbors all support Klobuchar, I’m more likely to support Klobuchar. If I’m a soft Republican who thinks that the total abscence of ground-level support for Pawlenty has doomed him, I’ll either stay home or vote Hatch since “it’s a done deal anyway”.

    “Quite frankly, I’m starting to wish they’d be outlawed as a public nuisance.”

    Considering that 90% of the people with yard signs in Minnesota this year have Democratic yard signs, I’m not surprised you want to criminalize them. And let me guess….they should all be arrested and jailed within the next, oh, 17 days right?

    “The last WSJ poll has Kennedy down by 7 — and if you’d read my post”

    Remind me. Who is the pollster that carries WSJ’s water again? Oh that’s right. John Zogby. The guy you selective ridicule as the most Democratic pollster in the business….until one of his goofy internet polls shows good news (using that term very subjectively, obviously, in regards to what passes for good news in the Kennedy campaign these days) at which point Zogby is da man!

    “And as for Pawlenty, I haven’t seen a single reputable poll that shows the race outside the margin of error”

    Now you’ve lowered the bar on success for Pawlenty to him not being BEHIND outside the margin of error when he’s essentially running against three liberals (Hatch, Hutchinson, and Pentel) and should be 10 points ahead? Given the dynamics of this race and the charisma gap that Pawlenty will bring to the one and only statewide televised debate coming later this month, I certainly don’t count Pawlenty out, but the timeframe in which he has to stage a comeback is getting awfully narrow.

    “I’m sorry, but I have to submit you to the authorities. Torturing those poor, innocent metaphors so horribly has got to be illegal under the McCain Amendment…”

    Why do you hate America so much?

    “(And if you get that reference, you’re such a nerd…)”

    Nah, I’m a Democrat. I’m one of the cool kids. And trust me, we’re gonna punch you nerds in the guts and steal your lunch money daily after we win. :)

  8. Jay Reding says:

    Wow, so now lawn signs are the sin qua non of political support… I guess all the electoral researchers who study such things will have to go back to work then…

    If you seriously want to make the argument that lawn signs mean something, be my guest. It’s a truly silly argument with no basis in fact, but then again, if you didn’t believe silly things with no basis in reality, you wouldn’t be a Democrat then, would you?

    Nah, I’m a Democrat. I’m one of the cool kids. And trust me, we’re gonna punch you nerds in the guts and steal your lunch money daily after we win. :)

    Yup, Democrats are a bunch of bullies who victimize others and steal their money. Glad to see you’re finally seeing the truth. :)

  9. Seth says:

    Sorry–missed a key. Here is what was meant:

    As usual, you a pretty much wrong all over.

    1.) Gov race–people identify health care and education as top two issues. People ID Pawlenty’s job performance on those issues very low. That explains a close race. A guy who already has $2.5 million doesn’t break public financing limits and then call in the state party to run attack ads on his opponent if he thinks “it isn’t that close.” Pawlenty’s ads tell me he hasn’t closed the deal on the suburban professionals–a big problem if you are a Republican and you want to win in Minnesota. Anoka County is supposedly the bellwether county and not looking good for Republicans right now. Hatch’s internals had him up 5 before the Foley debacle. Hatch’s ads have been much more effective. Hatch has traditionally been a good closer. Pawlenty can’t seem to get more than 44% in any poll (including the 2002 election) and Hutchinson is fading. I’m wondering why Jay Reding is the only person in America or in either campaign that doesn’t seem to think this is close.

    2.) Senate. Whining about the Minnesota poll? Is Rasmussen reputable enough? Because “Rasmussen put Klobuchar up 17 before the Foley scandal. But while we’re talking about bullshit polls, why don’t you mention the WSJ poll that puts this at a 7 point contest? I haven’t seen anything else put this at under 12 in at least a month.

    3.) CD-6. Michelle Bachmann is nuts. Thanks to her church blunder, the media will start paying much more attention to how crazy Bachmann really is. Wetterling has more money and has seen an 8 point turnaround in the polls in the last two weeks. The polling in the 6th that’s got Wetterling ahead inflates Democratic turnout, but only by a point or two–this one is within the margin of error right now. Then you take into account the fact that Wetterling has more strong supporters. Yes, Wetterling has run a pretty awful campaign and yes El Tinklenberg would have been a much better fit for the district. But saying this one “isn’t that close” puts you in a pundit class all on your own.

    4.) You’re forgetting CD-1. Gil Gutknecht is in some real trouble and the GOP knows it. Bottom line: Walz gets his name recognition above 85% and deflects the Republican smear he’s going to see and you can put the title ‘Congressman’ in front of his name. While you’re whining about polls, the most recent poll in that one actually inflated GOP turnout by several points and only put Gutknecht up by 1. The benefit of this is that it will teach Democrats in GOP-leaning rural districts that a straight-shooting economic populist can win.

    5.) Speaking of Rod Grams, did you hear him say he had no solution whatsoever to deal with skyrocketing tuition costs? I think his words were pretty close to “I really don’t know so I’ll just end my answer there.”

    6.) The biggest GOTV operation in the state will belong to neither the DFL or the GOP.

  10. Justin Paul says:

    Bachman’s transportation solutions “we need more pavement” when combined with her ridiculous religious rhetoric (what do you expect from someone who went to the defunct Oral Roberts law school) will hopefully sink her as being an individual who deals better with rhetoric than reality.

  11. Bobby_b says:

    Seth?

    Bachman’s a nut? This is proven by what transpired at the church?

    I’m guessing that you don’t hang out with many religious people.

    But, yeah, I think you need to start running spots in the 6th that point out, clearly and loudly, that Bachman is very religious, and, thus, nuts.

    Please.

  12. from a few states south of you says:

    Your critics are in denial. Minnesota is purple, on the way from blue to red. You may, most unfortunately, backslide a bit this year, but the trend is inexorable. Ramesh is wrong that the seat will be Amy’s as long as she likes.

  13. Seth says:

    Bobby–
    This woman once formed a prayer circle around a gay legislator’s desk. She once hit a secular activist at the statehouse over the head with a Bible. She was caught in bushes spying on a gay-rights group. She says God tells women they should be submissive to their husbands. She thinks the minimum wage is “superfluous.” She wants to see the Department of Education dismissed. Her church has a pastor that lies (he can’t vote for Michele Bachmann) and that says I do not believe in Jesus if I believe that church and state should have a little breathing room between each other.

    She’s not a nut because she’s religious. She’s a nut because she’s a nut.