Campaign 2010, Minnesota Politics

Like They Have A Target Painted On Their Backs

Target, the Minnesota-based retail giant, is being attacked as being “anti-gay” by the usual crowd of radical left-wing groups, including MoveOn.org. Why is Target being attacked? Because they’re actually hostile to gays and lesbians?

No, they’re not. They’re actually one of the most “progressive” corporations out there. They give generous benefits to same-sex partners, and have sponsored local and national GLBT events.

So why in the world is Target “anti-gay?”

Because they had the temerity to donate to Republicans. But not even directly. Target gave $10,000 to a pro-Republican PAC called MNForward. MNForward is supporting Tom Emmer, the Republican candidate for Governor of Minnesota. And allegedly Emmer is somehow “anti-gay”, despite taking the very sensible position that the real issue here is jobs, not battles over cultural wedge issues. Not only that, but MNForward isn’t a social-issues organization: they are expressly about pro-business issues like taxes and regulation.

So, to these radical left-wing agents provocateurs, Target is “anti-gay” despite not being remotely anti-gay because they gave to a group that supports a Republican candidate for governor who doesn’t care that much about gay marriage. And somehow, that justifies an astroturfed smear campaign against Target.

If all of this sounds more than a little idiotic, you’re right. It is.

The reality is that the gay rights issue is a convenient bludgeon. These groups, largely funded by Emmer’s opponent, Mark Dayton, are just out to intimidate Minnesota corporations so that they no longer feel safe donating to Republican or conservative organizations. It is, to be blunt, a campaign of fear and intimidation designed expressly to prevent Minnesotans from participating in the political process. If the right had done it, the cries of “MCCARTHYISM!” would echo from the rooftops.

But this sort of behavior is par for the course from the radical left-wing, who have used such campaigns successfully in the past. Sadly, it appears that Target is buckling under the pressure, having “apologized” for their donation. This sort of behavior only encourages these groups.

These groups, especially the execrable MoveOn.org, represent the most disgusting part of American politics. Stewed in the juices of Alinskyite activism, they have a no-holds-barred attitudes towards political intimidation, and will do nearly anything to support the radical left in this country. Their values are representative of the farthest and most radical reaches of the Democratic Party.

It’s time they were called out for what they are. A smear campaign won’t stop me from shopping at Target—if anything, it makes me want to go there more as a sign of solidarity. And like cockroaches, these groups scurry when the light is shined upon them. Mitch Berg, one of Minnesota’s greatest natural resources, has been doing amazing work in tracking these groups down and exposing their astroturf campaigns and where their funding is coming from. The mainstream media doesn’t do this kind of in-depth journalism anymore, and so it falls on talented and dogged amateurs to do it. I assume that everyone who reads this humble site also reads Shot in the Dark, but if you don’t, you damned well should.

In the end, Minnesotans of both parties should stand against this kind of political intimidation. Target is not “anti-gay” for giving a donation to a Republican group any more than they are “anti-Christian” because they have a strong corporate commitment to gay rights. Here in Minnesota we don’t slam our neighbors because they disagree—and MoveOn.org’s disgusting tactics will probably alienate far more moderate Democrats than it will impress. Minnesota isn’t New Jersey, and we rightfully have a low tolerance for hardball politics. We don’t need a bunch of radical left-wing activists attacking one of our most important employers in the middle of an already-painful recession. These tactics won’t play well here, and Minnesota’s voters should make it clear to all Minnesota politicians: regardless of party, we will not tolerate political intimidation. MoveOn should move on somewhere else.

Campaign 2008, Minnesota Politics, Politics

Snatching Defeat From The Jaws Of Victory

Like 2006, this is a Democratic year. The GOP brand is more damaged than in has been in ages. President Bush has the approval rating usually reserved for moldy liverwurst. The economy is doing poorly.

But at least one Republican has reason to cheer. The Minnesota DFL has nominated Al Franken to be their candidate for the U.S. Senate. That is good news for Republican incumbent Norm Coleman.

Franken, the unfunny comedian “satirist” is the sort of person who will do quite well in the ideologically homogenous bastions of Twin Cities leftism, but will go over like a fart in church elsewhere. Minnesota already made a mockery of the political process once—and at least Gov. Ventura had some executive experience as mayor of a Twin Cities suburb. Franken cannot even claim that. We don’t need a “satirist” in the Senate—in truth it’s already a joke—what we need is a responsible adult to represent the interests of Minnesota.

Sen. Coleman is not a conservative ideologue by any means, and some conservatives dislike him for that. However, he has the right instincts, he has shown a willingness to engage in unpopular but necessary political battles such as UN reform, and he has demonstrated an appropriately Senatorial level of intellectual curiosity. I had the chance to hear him speak before an intimate audience a few months ago, and even some of my liberal friends (one of whom asked him a rather tough question that he answered forthrightly) came away impressed.

This may be a Democratic year, but it is not so Democratic that the DFL can put just anyone into consideration. Against a moderate, thoughtful Republican like Sen. Coleman, the thin resume and ideological extremism of Al Franken will quickly become grating. That doesn’t mean that the Senator doesn’t have a fight on his hands, but it is a fight that can be won.

Minnesota Politics

Read Our Lips…

Mitch Berg notes that the push for new gas taxes in the wake of the 35W bridge collapse isn’t being swallowed by Minnesota voters. I have a feeling that the pro-tax forces were all too predictable in their ghoulish push to raise taxes before the truth about what really caused the bridge collapse, and the voters are smart enough to see right through it.

This state doesn’t need more taxes — a lack of funds isn’t what caused the bridge to collapse. It’s looking more and more likely that a combination of factors — shifting piers on the river shore, design flaws in the nature of the bridge, a lack of redundancies, and the weight of redecking material all were part of the many factors that stressed the bridge beyond its breaking point. MnDOT had plenty of cash on hand, but no one apparently saw the need to expedite replacing the bridge.

In the last election cycle, Minnesota voters already approved a transportation amendment which substantially increased funding for transportation. The last federal transportation bill added billions of dollars more. The sheer greed of Minnesota state government in demanding more money rather than fixing the misplaced priorities that put mass transit over road safety is appalling. Mass transit is a nicety, but it is impractical for most Minnesotans. Funding a system for a minority while letting the roads that hundreds of thousands use daily fall apart is not sound management. Yet the proposed solution is to throw more money at the problem.

Across nearly every level of government, people are getting sick and tired of the ever more invasive and ever more self-serving attitudes of our elected officials. Taking this tragedy and using it to flog yet another tax hike to add more money to a broken system only proves why the Minnesota voter is rightly skeptical of this plan.

If there were an actual, demonstrable need for more money, it would be one thing. Yet when not one single bit of waste is being cut and priorities are not being reshifted to meet the needs of what Minnesota commuters actually do rather than what metro-area bureaucrats want them to do, then there is no reason to assume that more money into the bureaucracy will make our roads any more safe.

Voters see no reason to throw good money after bad — if Minnesota’s elected officials want to see our roads fixed, they’ll have to be willing to give up on their other pipe dreams first. When emergencies happen to real people, they have to tighten their belts and give up unnecessary spending — that’s part of being an adult. When we treat government like children and are always willing to raise their allowance no matter how badly they perform, we have to expect government to act like children. It’s time for government to grow up and learn how to act responsibly — and that means prioritizing infrastructure repairs over pushing the next mass-transit pipe dream.

Minnesota Politics, Politics

Nick Coleman: Partisan Hack, And Proud Of It

Nick Coleman, having shamed himself already, digs the hole a little deeper with a full-throated apologia for all-consuming partisanship. While investigators piece together what really happened with the I-35W bridge, Coleman is already putting on his partisan pom-poms and taking aim at his carefully-crafted strawman enemies in a column that demonstrates that Nick Coleman is the undisputed mastery of partisan hackery in Minnesota.

Everything about this disaster — except the heroic efforts to rescue and recover the victims — has been steeped in politics. And the most calculated political effort has been the posturing and spinning by public officials trying to act commanding while making sure they don’t get pinned with responsibility for the collapse.

To Nick Coleman, everything is political — like the 12-year-old boy who thinks that the Boston Red Socks are the greatest team ever and everything involving the New York Yankees is pure evil, Coleman has his “team” and everything revolves around support that team. Blind partisanship is one thing when it involves baseball, but when it involves more grown-up matters, it’s simply infantile.

The reality remains that we don’t know what caused the bridge to fall — it may have been a design flaw that no amount of money could fix. It may have been a combination of factors, but to Coleman, there’s no sense of waiting for the facts when he can engage in a partisan witch-hunt.

If you think everyone should play nice about it, you are living in Pollyanna Land. We are in a bare-knuckled political brawl in this country, and the government is in the hands of government haters who want to starve it or, in the alleged belief of presidential ally Grover Norquist, want to “drown it.”

You can’t drown government. It is people who drown.

This is a typical left-wing strawman conveniently trotted out: it’s just as idiotic as calling all Democrats closed Bolsheviks that want to nationalize all industry: that sort of silly name-calling is counterproductive and insipid.

Certainly the President who has grown government at a nearly unprecedented rate, who has dramatically expanded entitlement spending, and has constantly rejected the very line which Coleman attributes to him is not the sort of radical anti-government activist that Coleman makes him out to be — but then again, to some, the facts are inconvenient things best ignored.

Again, reality must intercede. There’s no evidence that there was a lack of funding to fix the bridge — but you can’t fix problems that you don’t know exist. It’s clear that the bridge was structurally deficient, but nobody was suggesting it was in dire need of immediate replacement or that it was unsafe for use. There was no lack of funds that kept an unsafe bridge in operation, unlike Coleman’s simplistic partisan tale, but a bridge that was deemed safe that turned out not to be. For Coleman and his ilk, it isn’t a matter of learning the truth, it’s all about pointing fingers.

Coleman is nothing more than a ghoul — using this tragedy as an excuse for flogging his political agenda. Conservatives can point right back and ask why Minnesota government was paying billions for a light-rail boondoggle when bridges were decaying. Why Minnesota government was chipping in for a new stadium for a privately-owned sports team instead of fixing potholes. Why Minnesota government is now demanding more money rather than wisely spending the money that they had.

Conservatives aren’t anti-government zealots, they simply realize that government should be limited to doing the things that government should do — not subsidizing ballparks, blowing money on pet projects, and expanding its own scope. Infrastructure repairs are not politically sexy — no Congressperson gets their picture taken when a bridge is repaired. And as my Second Law of Public Policy states, if there’s no photo-op involved, politicians are far less likely to care.

This state doesn’t need partisan hacks like Nick Coleman. Partisan hackery is why Congress has the sort of approval ratings usually reserved for used-car salesmen and slime molds. What this state needs are real solutions — that means ensuring that the money that government spends is used where it is needed, not where it’s politically convenient. That means more money for road repairs and less for mass transit boondoggles. That means ensuring that our government does the job it must do before spending billions on other projects. That means analytically and dispassionately finding out what really went wrong on that bridge and ensuring that any bridges like it are reinforced or replaced.

Partisan hackery doesn’t build bridges, it burns them. We don’t need people sitting around and turning this tragedy into another idiotic political pissing match. It’s an utter waste of our time and resources.

Politics isn’t about cheerleading for your team, it’s about getting things done, and making excuses for slavish adherence to the political line in the midst of a tragedy is childish. Sadly, the reason we have such a dysfunctional system of government is because some people value pissant politics over real results — and that’s exactly what Nick Coleman stands for.

Minnesota Politics, Politics

…And Now For The Bad News

While Al Franken may have made a splash with his announcement of candidacy the polling data doesn’t look good for him:

U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman would win easily if he ends up facing comedian Al Franken in Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race in 2008, according to an exclusive 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS/SURVEY USA poll.

The popular comedian announced that he would seek the seat Wednesday on the last episode of his radio show.

The poll shows Coleman getting 57 percent of the vote and Franken getting 35 percent.

The poll also looked at a possible matchup between Coleman and attorney Mike Ciresi, who is also expected to seek the DFL nomination. Coleman also wins that match by a margin of 57 to 34.

The margin of error on the poll is +/- 3.9 percent; 632 registered voters were polled on Feb. 12 and Feb. 13.

For one, since when has Al Franken been either a comedian (at least intentionally) or popular?

Franken’s numbers will improve — the DFL could put a dead marmot up for election and most of the Twin Cities would vote for it, but not by all that much. The reality remains that Al Franken just isn’t the sort of person who makes a good politician — and all it takes is one instance of blowing one’s lid to demonstrate it in front of the entire electorate. (And if you don’t buy that, ask Mike Hatch…)

Coleman’s a talented politician, and he’s been careful not to associate himself too closely with the Bush Administration — he opposed drilling in ANWR, he supported the Warner/Levin Amendment on Iraq, and he’s hardly a staunch conservative. However, he is conservative enough that Republicans will still support him (as 94% in this poll do), but not so conservative as to alienate moderates.

Coleman also has the benefit of the free publicity of the Republican National Convention in 2008, which is a powerful incentive as well.

Franken may be more of a serious candidate that I’d first thought, but he’s got a long way to go before he even gets the DFL nomination — and Mike Ciresi has the money to pull off a serious challenge. I’m not convinced that the DFL will see Franken as being in their best interest, and Franken may not even get the chance to run against Coleman — at least as an endorsed DFL candidate.

Minnesota Politics, Politics

Franken’s Announcement

Al Franken has officially announced his run for Senate in 2008 and produced this video announcement:

As much as it pains me to say it, this was probably one of the better campaign announcements I’ve ever seen.

Franken’s not a dumb guy. He knows that the meticulously polished, scripted, and controlled campaign speeches that everyone else does won’t fly for him. So instead, he chose to be conversational, sounding like he’s just sitting down and explaining himself. The fact that it sounds so unscripted (and I’m presuming that it really is) helps sell Franken as a viable candidate.

Franken explains his liberalism in a way that’s conversational and appealing. If this is the only Al Franken we get during the campaign, Senator Coleman is going to have one hell of a job keeping his seat.

Franken’s big problem is that the Al Franken we see in this announcement is not the real Al Franken. As Ed Morrissey explains:

Despite being a Minnesota native, he seems far too obnoxious to gain a following in this state. People here talk about Minnesota Nice, where people remain pleasant and mind their manners even when they encounter unpleasantness. Franken is the opposite, attacking his political opponents in mean-spirited, schoolyard epithets. That might sell in New York, where Franken lived most of his adult life, although he seems a little too strong even for the Big Apple, but that kind of temperament will only appeal to the most hard-core, left-wing voters in this state.

Sooner or later, that Al Franken will come out. If the only side of him we see is the side he displays in this announcement, I’d give him good odds at winning. However, there’s a world of difference between sitting down in front of a camera and speaking and having to deal with the rough-and-tumble world of politics. Franken is an actor, he knows how to play a role, but politics is different than Saturday Night Live.

Still, I will give Franken this, his announcement was excellent. He and his advisors crafted a powerful message, and Franken made it work. It gives him the level of respectability that he needs to get his campaign off the ground. Ultimately, I don’t think it will be enough, but Franken has demonstrated that he has the ability to be a great communicator. In terms of political rhetoric, Franken just hit his first home run. It may not win him the game, but it certainly puts him off to a strong start.

Minnesota Politics, Politics

Like Christmas All Over Again!

Al Franken is running for the Senate in 2008.

This is great news for Norm Coleman, who could be a vulnerable GOP incumbent otherwise. Al Franken is one of the most thin-skinned people out there, his speaking style is atrocious, and Minnesota’s last affair with electing someone to office based solely on celebrity didn’t go so well.

Franken can certainly play to the urban angry liberal set, but he’ll go over like a fart in church outside the Patchouli Belt. Especially given that his angry liberal schtick won’t be relevant without Moby Bush to kick around in 2008.

The second Franken displays his infamous temper and storms out of an interview, it’ll be all over. I’m not convinced he’ll last long enough to even get through the general, especially when the DFL has plenty of candidates who aren’t has-been comedians.

Campaign 2006, Minnesota Politics, Politics

Election Analysis – Minnesota

Again, thank heavens Pawlenty won. Mike Hatch would have been a disaster for this state. While Pawlenty’s margins were razor thin, it’s still a victory. In fact, it’s a considerable victory, as Republican turnout was likely depressed in this election. When the bottom fell out of the Kennedy/Klobuchar race, it undoubtedly hurt the rest of the Republican ticket. That seems to show in the other statewide races — Kiffmeyer and Anderson were trounced. GOP voters just didn’t show up to the polls yesterday in as large a number as they normally do. What this means is that Pawlenty was able to get enough crossover support from Democrats to pull off his narrow win — if he had just gotten the GOP base, Hatch would have trounced him by several points.

Bachmann did better against Wetterling than I would have expected. I suspect that both Kennedy and Wetterling were hurt by negative advertising. Going negative is always a risky political strategy, and when Kennedy and Wetterling did it as challengers, it ended up hurting them rather than helping.

The big shocker was the Gutknecht/Walz race. It wasn’t close, Walz soundly trounced Gutknecht. Obviously the early reports that MN-1 was safe were completely and totally wrong. Again, I think that turnout is key in that race. The GOP turnout was probably much lower than it should have been. Two other factors seem to have been in play. The first is that Gutknecht was far too complacent, and many Republicans are blaming him for running a campaign that was lackluster at best. He thought he had a safe seat, and while conventional wisdom would have said that was true, every smart politician runs like they’re 10 points down. Gutknecht didn’t do that, and it cost him.

The second one is that the demographics of the First are changing. Rochester is trending more and more Democratic. Immigration is changing the demographics of cities like Worthington. It’s a less safely Republican district than it has been in the last few cycles, and redistricting made it much more diverse than it was. It’s quite possible that a smart GOP candidate can knock off Walz in the next electoral cycle, but it’s going to take a lot of work.

No doubt about it, the Republicans got trounced in Minnesota, even harder than they got trounced nationally. Ron Carey hasn’t been able to pull off what his predecessor did, and that’s hurting Minnesota Republicans. The Minnesota GOP is going to have to work hard at fixing their problems and increasing turnout. Minnesota will be firmly in the spotlight in 2008, and while the GOP has suffered a major setback, that doesn’t mean that Minnesota will forever be a blue state — just that there’s a lot of work that needs to be done.

Campaign 2006, Minnesota Politics, Politics

Pawlenty Ahead, Gutknecht Down

Well, looks like the situation has reversed itself from earlier tonight. Gov. Tim Pawlenty is now very narrowly ahead of Mike Hatch in the gubernatorial race, and Democrat Tim Walz is building a sizable lead over Gil Gutknecht in MN-1. Michelle Bachmann appears poised to defeat Patty Wetterling in MN-6.

Pawlenty’s lead is very tenous, but he’s managed to come up from behind, and it seems likely that Hatch will lose, if by the narrowest of margins. The Walz lead is a bit perplexing to me. The early reports indicated that the GOP had strong turnout in MN-1 — which may be true, but that turnout appears to have benefited Pawlenty rather than Gutknecht. It’s possible that Gutknecht will pull enough of a margin in his home turf in southeast Minnesota, but with Rochester and Olmstead County trending more Democratic, that’s not as certain as it may have been in past elections.

It all turns on where the remaining votes remain. Pawlenty, Gutknecht, Kiffmeyer, and Anderson all need some significant help in order to stay in office. Pawlenty seems to have good odds, but today is not a good day for Minnesota Republicans.

UPDATE – 11:15PM Central: The trends are staying steady. Pawlenty is slowly gaining. Gutknecht appears headed for a loss.

The Star-Tribune has called the auditor’s race for Rebecca Otto. Again, that’s a testament to Democratic voting strength, assuming that people are voting straight party line on those statewide positions. If that’s true, it also means that Hatch is doing poorly with DFL voters — and the county and precinct-level figures seem to point in that direction.

Campaign 2006, Minnesota Politics, Politics

MN-1 Looking Good For GOP

Word is that the Gutknecht/Walz race is not shaping out to be as close as the prognosticators had it. Now, keep in mind that early reports like the ones I’m hearing are unreliable, so anything can change, but it looks like my predictions that the race won’t be that close are roughly on track.

MN-1 is becoming less reliably conservative, but a hotbed of liberalism it’s not. It’s difficult to sample a House race, and it’s even more difficult to sample a House race in a quite heterogeneous district spread out over a wide geographical area like MN-1 (which basically encompasses Southern Minnesota). There are a lot of conservative rural voters who aren’t likely to answer pollster’s phone calls but vote as a matter of obligation.

Gutknecht was supposed to be running last election cycle as well, and I remember some dire predictions for him in 2002. The adage to remember here is to always keep in mind that incumbency is a powerful thing, especially in a rural district like the First.

We’ll see if those rumors continue to play out as the night goes on…

UPDATE: Just in case, if you’re a Gutknecht voter, don’t forget to vote. It could still be close, and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.