UPDATE: Guess I was writing this too close to bedtime, but I left off what is likely the most contentious bit. Time to ignore Tim Pawlenty.
This is a follow up to my recent diary where I wrote about this being triage time, and we can’t keep chewing the political catnip. I used the Walz/Demmer race as an example, but let’s look at the other races in Minnesota and figure out where our limited blogging time ought to go. I’m going to take a look at the statewide and congressional races. I’m not looking into legislative races only because I don’t feel I know which ones are close enough to warrant our attention. That doesn’t mean they don’t matter. Quite the contrary, the legislators elected this year will decide redistricting, and whether we have draconian budget cuts or upper income tax increases, so I hope people more knowledgeable on close races will chime in. Just keep your eye on the calendar, because there are just two weeks until election day.
Just to avoid a point of potential confusion, this whole line of thinking would seem to be in conflict with the ground-game sorts of campaigning I’ve written about, where I’m helping some candidates despite their near certainty of winning. It’s not actually a conflict, because there’s a big difference in terms of goals and audiences between the ground game and partisan media, like blogs and talk radio.
What we do here is reach out to the base with information and try to push stories and narratives into the mainstream media. Long term we want to make progress on issues, and push back on attacks from the right while going after the other side’s craziness or corruption. Short term however, the less time before election day, the less valuable it is to spend limited time or column-inches as the case may be on candidates who can’t win or can’t lose.
Direct voter contact doesn’t clash, and helping safe candidates is still valuable. We’re trying to reach one person at a time, usually someone not so engaged as to be reading political blogs, and find out what issues matter to them, what it will take to convince that individual to vote, and vote for our candidates. The person who can be persuaded to turn out for a safe candidate, or a hopeless candidate for that matter, is likely to vote for DFLers in close races. So if someone doesn’t like Mark Dayton, but has a strongly positive reaction to Keith Ellison — which I have run into a Minneapolis — I have no hesitation in asking them to turn out for the safe Ellison, figuring they’ll likely vote for the candidates in tight races. Besides, long term, campaigning seriously in a safe seat is likely to tell voters their votes are being requested instead of taken for granted and thereby keep the seat safe, and maybe, we add one more person to the base.
Right now, however, I’m addressing this to people who are already engaged, and we need to focus our limited blogging time. So while I will continue to canvass for my safe state legislators, I’m not giving their opponents even a moment of my blogging time.
So here’s how I prioritize this year’s races. Feel free to disagree, please chime in down in the comments, because we need to get this right.
Governor: Can I assume no controversy if I say the gubernatorial race comes first? That’s probably obvious to anyone who isn’t new to Minnesota. Briefly, just in case this is being read by someone who is new, the reason you see a lot about this race in our diaries is there hasn’t been a DFL governor since Perpich lost in 1990. Most DFLers feel a state that used to be near the top in almost everything where being near the top is good, like per capita income, education, transportation, etc., has deteriorated into mediocrity. Moreover, Mark Dayton has a serious chance to win.
Secretary of State: Secretary of State Mark Ritchie is probably the DFLer Republicans hate most after Al Franken, except perhaps for Keith Ellison — and that was before they accused him of stealing the Senate election. We know from Florida 2000, Ohio 2004, and the year of the recount (there were I think four more besides Franken/Coleman) what a difference it makes to have a secretary of state who wants help voters vote, or wants to pursue partisan goals by preventing voting by people with the wrong skin tone. I consider this office the second most important statewide office in general. There’s no polling on the constitutional offices, so with the Republicans appearing to match DFL enthusiasm this year, I assume this race is in doubt. That’s why I devoted a “Fun with debunking the right” to this race, and I try to push back on the photo ID issue.
State Auditor: Rebecca Otto seems to have the most serious challenger this year. Otto defeated incumbent Pat Anderson in 2006, and Anderson is running again. Otto made the case Anderson wasn’t a terribly good auditor, but Anderson at least can claim the right resume. I sensed an aspect of grudge match in their forums. If I had to guess — and my point is that with two weeks left, I do have to guess — I would guess Otto has the closest race of the constitutional offices.
Attorney General: This has been the invisible race. I haven’t searched out a candidate forum, but with other races, I haven’t had to. Considering Chris Barden had a close primary against Sharon Anderson, even though it was the only contest for which Republicans asked their voters to stay in their own primary, I’m guessing even Republicans don’t know who he is. Either that, or they ignored the party’s request and crossed over to vote in our primary. My guess is Swanson will win handily, which is good since she drew the crazy opponent. Anderson, Dan Severson, and even Tom Emmer aren’t crazy, just dogmatic. Barden is the one with the questionable contact with reality, believing that illegal aliens are voting through vouching, and he calls Swanson “pro-ACORN” on his web site home page, even though ACORN doesn’t exist anymore.
CD1: The Walz/Demmer race is probably the closest congressional race this year. It’s the only one besides the 6th to attract outside polling, and Walz had a small lead. He’s had to run negative ads, and Republicans have been putting cash into helping Demmer. I rank this race our top priority among congressional races.
CD2: John Kline is a conservative in a conservative district in a conservative year. Shelly Madore has gotten no press that I’m aware of. I wouldn’t tell anyone in the 2nd not to campaign for her, because every voter you can turn out helps the winnable races, and builds up the database of identified DFLers. In blogging terms however, this race is done.
CD3: I’ve heard of no polling, but Erik Paulsen’s ads have all been attacks on Jim Meffert, complaining about Meffert’s ads, despite Meffert having been unable to get on TV. Perhaps Paulsen has an internal poll showing a close race? CD3 is one of those rare districts that voted for Obama but GOP for House. This ought to be a competitive district, and though no analyst has listed this as a competitive race, Paulsen’s ads make me wonder. This is perhaps our second priority.
CD4: This seems to be the quietest race other than CD2. I’ve heard of no polling for the McCollum/Collett race. It’s a heavily DFL district. My guess is this one is over though again, if you live in CD4, don’t let that deter you from turning out voters for Betty McCollum, for the sake of the rest of the ballot.
CD5: I strongly support Keith Ellison. I know him, I like him, I will come to his defense if he’s attacked — any other time. Unless an attack could cause long term damage, I’m going to fight the temptation to punch back. This race is over.
CD6: I can read the polls and realize Clark’s chances aren’t good. She is however close enough to keep trying. A Bachmann win is basically just a conservative winning a conservative district, but beating Bachmann would be a big blow to the paranoid right. Only the nuttiness makes this race competitive. Bill Prendergast is right: while there’s a chance in this race, we have to try. It’s an arguable second priority with Meffert/Paulsen.
CD7: Colin Peterson recently released an internal poll that showed him way ahead. This was presumably to counter the idea his seat is in doubt. The 7th leans GOP, and would favor a Republican for an open seat — but it’s not open. This race is over.
CD8: Chip Cravaack claimed an internal poll showed him just 3% behind Jim Oberstar, but unlike Peterson, he released no details, which seems strange if you’re so sure about the poll. He got his press attention though. He has some decent funding, and anecdotally he has lots of volunteers and signs. We know the 8th was extended into the Twin Cities exurbs in the last redistricting, which is where most of the state’s growth has been. The exurbs are the GOP base, thus why the 6th and 2nd are so conservative. If this seat was open, it would be purple. I personally rank this race fourth priority, but I see a reasonable argument for ranking it higher. Cravaack has so far gone unscrutinized, so far as I know, but if anything had reached the mainstream press I would think I would have heard.
There’s one person I left out, who deserves none of our attention: Tim Pawlenty. That’s a tough habit for a lefty blogger to break, but one thing stands out: he’s not running for anything. After election day, since he’s likely to declare for president in the next few months, then it will be important for us to have information on him at hand when the national media are ready. This is what Alaska bloggers did when the national media hadn’t even heard of Sarah Palin until she was nominated for VP. So November 3rd, get the facts. Until then, he doesn’t matter.