December 11, 2004

All Politics Is Local

For all the time and effort I expend on covering Minnesota's political scene, you, my devoted Cake Eater Readers, would think that I wasn't very interested in the whole thing.

And you would be right.

I have absolutely no tolerance for Minnesota politics. It bores me to tears because it's so damn predictable. Once in a long while you'll get a Jesse Ventura who will make things interesting, but for the most part...pfft. You have your DFL'ers, who want socialism. You have your Republicans who are cheesed at anything the DFL'ers want and who have just enough clout to ensure a deadlock at the legislature. It's just so, so...boring. Every legislature session is exactly the same. There's nothing new in this battle of (supposed) wits that makes me want to pay attention. About the most worked up I ever got about Minnesota politics was wondering whether or not to yell at Ted Mondale (Former Met Council Chair and ex-VP's son) and Mike Erlandson (the State DFL Chair and a major brownnoser) as they worked out on the elliptical machines next to me at my old health club. I opted not to. It would have been too much work and I was out of breath as it was.

But I do pay some attention, because I live here. The fact that the state is trending right and will eventually go majority Republican, despite our much vaunted Scandahoovian Socialist roots, is also interesting. With a 77% turnout, Kerry only won the state by 98,000 votes. Which really isn't interesting to people who don't live here and assume we are, indeed, a bastion of Scandahoovian-rooted liberality. But if you do live here, you would have assumed simply by the biased coverage we get from our newspapers that it should have been a much greater spread.

But there is interesting news on the political front regarding Senator Dayton's re-election effort and who Normy Boy (TM) is---potentially---endorsing as his opponent.

Courtesy of First Ring, who apparently snuck into Normy Boy's (TM) fundraiser in St. Paul the other night:

{...}Not to be undone in the speculations market, Coleman also offered an endorsement, of sorts, to Congressman Mark Kennedy, on the U.S. Senate campaign in 2006.

”I’m an ambitious guy and I think that ambition is okay. I have one ambition that I’d like you to help me with and that’s to become Minnesota’s senior senate in 2006. I saw Mark Kennedy tonight…and I think Mark is one of those people who could make that possible.” Coleman’s comments were loudly cheered with shouts of “Senator Kennedy” from individuals in the room. The Second District’s John Kline also said a few words, indirectly endorsing Kennedy when asked who he thought the Republican nominee would be against Evacuatin’ Dayton.

Kennedy himself was mum on the subject. That may change sooner rather than later.

Ruminations on the possibility of this after the jump.

Now, I don't know if Mark Kennedy has a snowball's chance in hell in defeating Dayton.

And I write that wishing it were otherwise.

Dayton bought his senate seat. He is one of many heirs to the Dayton department store fortune (now, conveniently, called Marshall Fields). Dayton's also owned Target there for a time, and Mervyn's California before they went belly-up. So, he's got his own cash. During his 2000 run, he threw just about every dime he had into advertising. Literally there was not a time you could turn on a local TV station and not be bombarded with ads about Dayton. The pro-Dayton ads outnumbered the anti-Dayton ads, just a rough guess, but by about three to one. It was disgusting. He was also elected because Rod Grams, the Republican incumbent, received little to no party support and because his son, Morgan, had had more than a fair share of problems with the law during the summer of 2000. Rod just didn't have a prolonged fight in him, and Dayton bludgeoned him into defeat. Hence Dayton won by advocating whatever his bosses in the DFL told him to endorse. He brought no unique ideas to the fore: he was simply there to take a senate seat back from the Republicans. You could have inserted any other candidate into the race in his place and the words and message would have exactly been the same. Dayton won out because he had the bucks and the connections.

So, it should be noted that Dayton's fairly canny. He got himself elected to the senate. Yet, what has he done with his time in office? Well, I'll be damned if I know. I know he was Wellstone's lackey, and supported every single thing Wellstone did. If Wellstone had a press conference, you could guarantee that Dayton was standing right beside him. He campaigned for Wellstone's reelection effort, but has pretty much been operating without a compass since his political mentor died. How else to explain why he closed his office because he was afraid of terrorist attacks in Washington? Wellstone would never have done any such thing: he would have known it was political suicide.

Do I think that all of these detractors make him a target to be taken down in 2006? And by Mark Kennedy, no less?

Nope. Sorry, just don't think it's going to happen.

Mark Kennedy, I'm sorry to say, has never overwhelmed me.
While no one in our Congressional delegation has thrilled me, he seems extraordinarily lame and lacking in charisma. He may actually get things done in Washington, but as he's not my congressman, I don't really know. What I do know about Kennedy is that he had to fight to get to Congress each and every time he ran for office. His first time out was a recall win and he just barely slid into office. His second time out, well, the DFL'ers in the legislature gerrymandered his district, so it was contentious, but he won. The third time out, the DFL chose Patty Wetterling to run against him and threw a boatload of cash into the race to get her elected. If you don't know who Patty Wetterling is, know that her son Jacob was abducted and she has since become something of a local celebrity as a result. Even though she was the lamest candidate known to mankind, and Kennedy eventually won, the DFL managed to make it a race where no race should have existed. It's apparent that the DFL does not like Kennedy. They've got an axe to grind where he is concerned and if he chose to run against Dayton in 2006, well, they'd throw the whole ball of wax at him.

Have I mentioned how DFL'ers have never really gotten over Wellstone's death and Mondale's defeat by Normy Boy (TM) in 2002? I haven't? Well, that should probably be mentioned because it will be a big motivator in the upcoming race. While the rest of us watched Wellstone's memorial service with mouths agape and shock on our faces, there are many, many people here who thought there was absolutely nothing wrong with what occurred that night. I should know: I live next to a few of them. They have Wellstone-green stickers on their cars that declaim, "Never Park the Bus!" They kept their Wellstone yard signs up for months, if not close to a year. They donate money to Wellstone politician training camps. They are pissed off that Normy Boy (TM) is in office and they will come out in full force in 2006 and will be chomping at the bit to get their idol's political comrade in arms re-elected. And you can bet your last dollar that Dayton will be counting on them: it's the one quid pro quo he's earned while he's been in office.

Is this an insurmountable task for Kennedy? I don't think so, particularly not if he's got Normy Boy(TM) in his corner. Norm's got a lot of clout. But wil Norm's ringing endorsement be enough to get Kennedy over the hump and into Minnesota's junior senator's seat?

I don't think so. I hope otherwise, but I think it's a doomed attempt for Kennedy. It's too much, too soon. He's barely consolidated himself in his congressional district. Every election he's ever been involved with has had problems, which leads one to wonder, exactly, whom does he have running his campaigns? Issues that other incumbents would have never been confronted with, Kennedy has to battle through time and again. Would he be bright enough to hire more seasoned staff? There are more questions than answers at this point in time. I seriously hope the Republicans aren't betting the farm on Kennedy being the one to take Dayton down.

{hat tip: Dayton v. Kennedy, a blog devoted to the defeat of Mark Dayton, run by the estimable Gary Matthew Miller. Not dissing your political wishes, Gary. I just think it's doomed.)

Posted by Kathy at December 11, 2004 01:46 PM
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