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Michele is Here

by EFC on November 9, 2012 · 2 comments

Another frustratingly predictable election Groundhog Day has come and gone in Minnesota’s 6th Congressional District.

But, the 2012 version had an interesting twist: there was very close to enough 6th district voters tired of Rep. Bachmann’s hysteria, megalomania and duplicity to remove her from office.

Unfortunately, the Democratic Party chose to travel the 6th district road they oft take-yup, the one that is perennially washed out by the torrents of abysmal failure.  They chose a bland character as Bachmann’s rival.  And, bland isn’t necessarily bad, but when you’re running against a charismatic snake oil saleswoman, you need a candidate with sufficient fire in the belly to create his or her own oxygen outside of the circus atmosphere that surrounds someone like Michele Bachmann.

Of course, being down on campaign funds by a 12 to 1 ratio certainly didn’t help.  Mr. Grave’s war chest seemed spent after a short run of the Sartell Fire ad.  Predictably this ad prompted an avalanche of denial and smear ads from the Bachmann camp.  And, the response from the Grave’s camp?-cue the crickets.  It’s not difficult to imagine the inference-Mr. Graves didn’t refute charges that he is a liar, so he must be one.  

This campaign season, I dutifully emailed my biennial entreaty to the 6th district Democratic candidate’s camp-I pleaded with them (as I’m sure did countless other concerned citizens sometime during the past four campaigns) to simply run an ad of nothing but the outrageous and ludicrous statements that spout from Ms. Bachmann as regularly as solar risings and settings.

Coincidentally, this exact tactic was put to good use in defeating an equally despicable loon, Florida Representative Alan West.  West’s opponent, Patrick Murphy, also at a distinct campaign funding disadvantage-around a 5 to 1 disparity, not only succeeded in using his rival’s own words against him, but ultimately won a narrow victory in large part because of it.

Ms. Bachmann’s penchant for tilting at windmills created a perfect storm of circumstances that could have easily led to her defeat in 2012, but for many reasons, the Democratic Party and its candidate, whiffed on a gopher ball.  With a more savvy campaign and more money, Minnesotans very possibly could have been spared future displays of incompetence and megalomania from Rep. Bachmann.

But, woulda, coulda, shoulda aside, the important question is:  Have Democrats learned from their mistakes?-specifically attempting to run underfunded unimaginative campaigns against one off the best funded and skilled campaigners in American politics.  Democrats may never get another chance like the one that presented itself in 2012, but if they do, they should certainly after four defeats, be fully aware of what doesn’t and never will lead to a victory in the 6th.  

CathyH November 10, 2012 at 12:42 am

Jim Graves is anything but a bland character!  Have you ever spoken to the man?  I agree that the Graves campaign should have run the ad you described with all of her outrageous statements.  It was a big mistake not to especially after she started stating that she was an ‘independent voice’ working for everyone in her district.  

JML November 10, 2012 at 1:18 am

I’m having trouble with the idea that Graves was under-funded too: Graves raised $1M and put in $500K of his own money. He was on the DCCC’s Red-to-Blue list, outside groups were spending on his behalf…while he was outspent, it’s not like he didn’t have money in this race.

The tactics in CD6 are somewhat challenging for Democrats: we see Crazytown Bachmann and want to just shout to the heavens “She’s nuts! See?!?!?! We can PROVE it!” But it’s hard to convince people to vote for you by telling them they’ve been stupid by voting for a lunatic. On that path, you’re lucky if you can get them to stay home. Can’t offer an affirmative case for why you should get elected and…you’re Mitt Romney.

Graves was a strong candidate. He worked it hard and came closer than anyone. But GOD, it’s tough territory! The PVI in CD6 is brutal. And there are a lot of diehards who just won’t vote for a DFLer. Ever. It’s not like CD3 or even CD2 to a lesser extent, populated by suburban folks where the population shifts a LOT over 5-10 years. The marriage restriction amendment certainly didn’t hurt turnout for Michele B in a lot of those areas.

Here’s one of the other problems we never talk about: candidates run once and then walk away. I can understand it from the candidate’s perspective: it’s hard to bust ass for 12-18 months and have nothing to show for it and muster a lot of enthusiasm to do it again. But one of the ways you win these kinds of challenger races (which are, BTW, the absolute HARDEST elections to win) is to run the same candidate more than once. Give them a donor base at the start of their campaign. Name recognition in the district. An opportunity to learn from their mistakes and tactical errors. A network of volunteers and activists ready to go.

Missed opportunities? Yes, but not always the ones you think.

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