Well, Crap

Walker’s out of the race.

And I couldn’t  be more bummed.

Walker was the *only* candidate in the race that has actually walked the walk when it comes to pushing back on the public employee unions, whose pensions are going to bankrupt this nation long before any war will.

But he built a stadium for the Bucks!”, some chant. Yeah, he’s not perfect. No candidate is.

“But he’s weak on foreign policy”. He could appoint his motorcycle Secretary of State and have a better foreign policy team than the current occupant.

“He’s a warmonger!” No, he isn’t. Appearing strong and resolute leads to peace; begging for peace brings war.


But he’s got no charisma!”. Good God, people – voting for charisma is as likely to get you Barack Obama as it is Ronald Reagan. I’ll take an “uncharismatic” president who not only knows how to *talk* about drawing and holding lines, but *has done it, successfully, against brutal, ruthless opposition*, over some “charismatic” candidate for whom it’s all theory, however charismatically expressed.

Given a choice between Calvin Coolidge – an uncharismatic president who shrank government, getting it out of the way of epic prosperity – and a “charismatic” hamster like our current president, is it even a choice?

This is a lousy day for America.

OK, Fiorina and Rubio people. I’m listening

Game Afoot

SCENE:  Mitch BERG is prowling the aisles at Fleet Farm in Lakeville, looking for .22 Long Rifle ammo.  

He rounds a corner, and runs into Bill GUNKEL, former Republican and now chairman of the Inver Grove Heights chapter of “Former Republicans for Ron Paul”,

GUNKEL:  Hey, Merg!

BERG:  Hey, Bill.

GUNKEL:  The RINO statist John Kline is retiring from office!

BERG:  Yeah, Representative Kline wasn’t the most conservative congressman we’ve had.

GUNKEL:  He may as well have been a Democrat!

BERG:  Enh.  And in an R+2 district…well, bygones is bygones.  The real question is who’s gonna replace him?   I’ve heard talk of State Senator Dave Thompson, Mary Pawlenty…

GUNKEL:  Why elect another RINO?

BERG:  Um, what? Dave Thompson is a RINO?

GUNKEL:  He never criticized Kline!

BERG:  Er, why would he do that?

GUNKEL:  Why not?

BERG:  Violating Reagan’s 11th commandment by attacking other conservatives, even imperfect ones?  Alienating Kline supporters in his own district, to no benefit to himself?  Spending political capital on something that gains him nothing?

GUNKEL:  Gains him nothing?  He’d get the respect of the Liberty voters!

BERG:  You mean the people who bum-rushed the 2012 State Convention to send a slate of delegates to Tampa to make a symbolic vote for Ron Paul, and then largely went home and never came to another GOP meeting?  Who pushed Kurt Bills to the nomination, then abandoned him when he actually acted like he was part of the party that endorsed him?  A group that seems more focused on bashing Republicans than winning elections?

GUNKEL:  Principle!

BERG:  Right.  OK, so Dave Thompson is insufficiently pure.  Gotcha.  So who do you support?

GUNKEL:  David Gerson.  The only candidate to support if you care about Liberty!

BERG:   Gerson says all sorts of things I support.  I’ve got no problem with him.  I’d love to have him on the show.   It’s just that last go-around, he raised less money than a typical Saint Paul Republican legislative candidate.

GUNKEL:  So?   Money isn’t everything.

BERG:  Right.  But it’s a leading indicator.  If someone can’t raise money from supporters to run a campaign, it’s a fair question to ask whether they can raise votes.

GUNKEL:  Well, it’ll be different this time!

BERG:  Well, that’d sure make the race more interesting!   I think a solid, credible challenge from the Libertarian wing of the party would be a very good thing.   But the candidate – and especially his campaign – have got to ramp up the game.

GUNKEL:  Oh, we will, by the time of the election on March 1.

BERG:  Um, what?

GUNKEL:   We’ll get the support out in droves by the time the battle for all the marbles, on March 1, happens.

BERG:  Um, March 1 is the caucuses.

GUNKEL (looking confused):  Riiiight?

BERG:  Not the general election.

GUNKEL:   (Shrugs extravagantly, indicating non-comprehension)

BERG:  March 1 is when he’ll try to knock off other GOP…Oh, never mind.


Residual Force

Former mayor of the Minnesota Organization of Bloggers Andy Aplikowski is throwing his hat in the ring for a lateral transfer, declaring his candidacy for the Minnesota State Senate in SD 35.  He’s running to replace retiring Senator Branden Peterson.  

He’ll probably have an easier race in reliably read SD 35, in the far north suburbs of the Twin Cities, THAN he did winning the famously fickle MOB race..  He’ll definitely have an easier time representing that district than he did the MOB.  

Good luck, Andy. Have your people call my people..

Free For All

With the announcement that Senator Branden Petersen is not going to seek re-election in SD35, a crowd of Republicans is jumping in line to run for the seat:

Those possible candidates include Republican party activists Andy Aplikowski and Don Huizenga, state Rep. Abigail Whelan and former state Rep. Kathy Tinglestad.

SD35 is a pretty reliably GOP district; pretty much any Republican up there can count on a three-digit margin of victory.  It’s sort of the anti-Saint Paul.

While I very rarely endorse anyone for office, I’ll note that Representative Whelan seems to be leaning against – which is, I think, a great plan (another term or two of incumbency can’t be a bad thing).

And I’m going to have to do my bit to put the kibosh on former Rep. Tinglestad; she was one of the “Override Six” who famously gut-shot Governor Pawlenty’s veto of a DFL spending orgy in 2008, joining with Ron “I’m Gonna Blow Your Head Off” Erhardt and making herself a darling of the DFLMedia.  I haven’t forgotten, and neither should SD35.

Andy Aplikowski would certainly be a great choice for the office.

Dear Karl Rove

To: Karl Rove

From: Mitch Berg, uppity peasant

Re:: Agenda item


Say what you will, but you did, once upon a time, teach Republicans an important lesson; if you don’t win elections, all the principles in the world are just wind in sails.

But the mercenary, “anything to get elected” dross of your philosophy has caused a lot of problems for the GOP.

And with this latest remark of yours, perhaps it’s time for you to take up gardening. Just saying.

That is all.

Money In Politics: Talk Dirty To The DFL

The DFL is in the midst of an extended campaign of sniveling about the amount of money in politics.

A look at this list of independent expenditures registered from the 10 Minnesota House races that flipped last election shows you why:

The DFL spent more.  Sometimes a helluvva lot more.  And it didn’t work.


Courtesy John Rouleau of the MN Jobs Coalition, via Twitter.

The candidate with the most indy spending in each race is color-flagged.

Of 10 races, DFL groups outspent GOP groups in eight of them, notching a little over 10% more independent spending.  And that doesn’t even tell the whole story.

  • Remember all the whining Zach Dorholt did the Twin Cities media did on Zach Dorhold’s behalf about big money in his district?  His independent expenditures were 20% higher than Knoblach’s.
  • The GOP spent more on Peggy Bennet than the DFL wasted on Shannon Savick – by about $4,000.  That speaks to what a terrible campaign Savick ran, and what a lousy term she had in office – and the power of the grass roots that turned out to bounce her.  Don’t screw with the Second Amendment outstate!
  • On the other hand – Erickson vs. Hancock (over 2:1 in favor of the DFLer) and Fritz vs. Daniel (almost 3:1 for the DFL?)  Holy cow.
  • Against that, the GOP indies only outspent the DFL in two of the flips; the Bennet/Savick race, as already noted, and a 15% margin in the Heintzelman/Ward race.

So no wonder the DFL is so concerned about rationing money in politics; theirs didn’t work.  They need less competition.

Saint Paul Republicans: It’s Go Time

If you live in St. Paul, and I’m a Republican, or conservative, or just someone who’s tired of St. Paul being a one party city, then I hope you can turn out tonight.

It’s the St. Paul Republican City Committee caucuses, and they’re being held tonight in the auditorium at St. Paul College.

It’s hard enough being a Republican in StPaul – and over the previous few years, the city committee fell into near complete your relevance. There’s new leadership – full disclosure, I’m part of it – and we’re hoping to change that. Starting tonight.

We’ll have a couple of guest speakers – Sen.Dave Thompson, and Andy Richter of “CommunitySolutions”, which has turned around politics in the city of Crystal. Will also be talking about the nuts and bolts of turning the cities political culture around.

St. Paul College is a block north of the Cathedral, at Summit and Marshall. If you park in the college’s parking lot, save your ticket – vouchers will be issued, so parking won’t cost you.

Come on down!

Open Letter To The MNGOP Judicial Elections Committee

To:  The MNGOP Judicial Elections Committee
From:  Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant Who Resents The Time He’s Wasted Listening To You People Over The Years
Re:  Monday Morning Quarterbacking

Dear JEC,

Quick – without looking at a ballot, tell us – who was running for the other Supreme Court  of Minnesota (SCOM) seat on Tuesday?

We’ll come back to that. 

Some of you are giggling like schoolgirls that Michelle MacDonald, after all of the back-and-forth over her endorsement and legal issues, got 46% of the vote for Supreme Court against Darth Lillehaug (who came in at 53%). . 

Hold the giggling.  Did you remember who was running for the other SCOM seat that was up for grabs?

It was Mimi Wright against John Hancock; Wright won 56/42.  And Hancock didn’t have the benefit of five months of media attention to his (non-existent) endorsement fiasco, party wrangling and legal travails. 

And perhaps more importantly, he wasn’t running against Darth Lillehaug

Look at every other judicial race in the state.  The challengers in the (very few) races that weren’t opposed generally netted 35-40% of the vote.  And why?  Because they weren’t incumbents. Random noise. 

So 35-40% of Michelle McDonald’s 46% were votes the GOP could have gotten by nominating Sharon Anderson or Leslie Davis or Clu Berg, my golden retriever. 

So don’t go claiming any credit for outperforming the GOP as a whole.

Now, this blog has already spent plenty of time castigating the JEC for the sleazy way you got McDonald endorsed – trotting her across the stage as a convention hall full of delegates with numb asses from 20 hours of wrangling over the Senate endorsement were getting ready for another half day of untangling a 5-way Governor race, and – unforgiveably – voting to not disclose to the delegates that Ms. McDonald had a pending court case for driving while intoxicated, rushing her through an acclamation endorsement without bothering to mention that the woman had “Media Poo-Storm” written all over her. 

We apparently didn’t need to know that. 

She spent the next five months, camera diliigently thrust in front of her, roaming the state, trashing the GOP, getting headlines from a media whose mission is also trashing the GOP, mostly winning her legal case…

A camera. Michelle MacDonald is standing behind it.

…and making people who follow these sorts of things wonder what was going on in there?

So let’s recap:

  • The JEC performs a dishonest sleight of hand, and gets Michelle MacDonald endorsed.
  • MacDonald spends months getting the kind of media attention no SCOM candidate ever, ever gets.
  • She runs against David Lillehaug – one of the few other SCOM candidates this side of Alan Page with a media profile.
  • She gets 4% better than a complete unknown running in an unknown race against an unknown opponent. 

This tells us a couple of things:

  • A good 30-40% of the vote in any contested judge race will be anti-incumbent, no matter who it is. 
  • Apparently that 30-40% doesn’t care if someone was charged with DUI, or wouldn’t know if they did. 
  • Either people liked Michelle McDonald, or they hated David Lillehaug. 

So – how could things have gone differently? 

What if you, the JEC, had tried just a skosh of honesty?  What would have happened?

Maybe you’d have lost the nomination.  And then again, maybe a straightforward minority report, coupled with an honest explanation of the exigencies from Ms. McDonald, would have won the delegates over.

Of course, the media would have have bellowed “GOP ENDORSES ACCUSED DRUNK DRIVER”. 

Which they did anyway! Only this time the GOP would have been at her back (although that would have taken some cojones).  And then it would have been off to the general election, Where 30-40% would have voted for her or Sharon Anderson or Paula Overby or Clu Berg. 

And 4-6% would have voted for her because they’d heard of her. 

And then Minnesota’s Second Amendment lobby, convinced they were backing a viable candidate instead of a skittery liabililty, could have called in the tribes and fired off some of their carefully-hoarded political capital against David Lillehaug, their sworn enemy.  If there’s anyone who wants Lillehaug to go into retirement, it’s Minnesota’s shooters.  Most of their races won; their support turned out the tribes in support of not just a few longshots.  To take down Darth Lillehaug? 

It could have been a match made in heaven.

Instead, you – the JEC – tried to manipulate the convention, and did it very badly. 

And I haven’t the words to express my contempt for what you all did.

That is all.

And Now The Real Problem

So the GOP has won, and won big.

That’s great. And it’s still worth taking a moment to savor the win.

But the time is coming soon  – tomorrow?  Monday? – when it’ll be time to ask the GOP “OK.  Now – what have you done for us lately?”

And the answer is, outside the realm of the Tea Party, it’s been pretty mixed.  The Karl Rove “Slick Consultant” wing of the GOP – which is less allied to conservative/libertarian principle than it is to at least theoretically putting numbers up on boards – still wields way too much control over the GOP.

This piece from Politico is clearly dated; it was written last week, before the election results blew away some of its statements…:

It doesn’t seem to matter much that the political track record of this GOP consultancy-industrial complex is execrable. Targeted Victory, LLC—which was co-founded by Michael Beach, the “national victory director” for the Republican Party during the 2008 campaign—played a key role in the development of “Project ORCA,” the now infamous Romney technology effort to win in 2012. It failed spectacularly. The manager of that effort for Targeted Victory was Tony Feather, who is now the “F” in FLS Connect, a powerhouse Republican consulting firm that handles much of the GOP’s voter contact. The “L” in FLS is Jeff Larson, who had been chief of staff for the Republican National Committee. FLS Connect also, at one time, employed Rich Beeson, who also worked at the RNC and went on to become Mitt Romney’s political director.

Understanding the incestuous ties between Republican consultants—the unending referrals of business between these friendly and insular consultant cliques—and the group think they promote is vital to comprehending the Republican predicament in 2014. Many of the groups that profited from Mitt Romney’s loss in 2012 are now helping Republicans in 2014. Ron Bonjean, who worked for former establishment Republican leaders like Dennis Hastert and Trent Lott and is also a partner at a bipartisan firm, Singer Bonjean Strategies, in September took up an independent position with the NRSC. (The “Singer” in that firm, by the way, would be one Phil Singer, who worked for Chuck Schumer and served as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s communications director in 2006.)

The coveting of power for the sake of power and consultant-led group think have misdirected the GOP to strategic blunder after blunder.

…that are dated in terms of specific facts but still accurate.  Indeed, that may be the big downside of Tuesday; the consulting class is going to claim the victory, notwithstanding the fact that it was more a vote against Obama, his policies and his malaise than for the GOP.

Republicans in Washington who declared war on their very base are now shocked that conservative voters have little interest or motivation in helping Pat Roberts, Thom Tillis, David Perdue, or a host of other candidates. A Republican establishment that has spent several years badmouthing Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and outside groups like the Senate Conservatives Fund now find themselves openly begging the Senate Conservatives Fund to engage in races while they fly Ted Cruz around the country to motivate the base.

And so the base was motivated.

But are the GOP’s problems fixed?

Not by a long shot.

It’s still the party that went with the flow with George W Bush on his deficit spending.  It’s still the party that caved in to a bunch of neanderthals in purple Viking outfits and yellow wigs to give public money (appropriately laundered) to Zygi Wilf, to try to avoid losing political points.

Ask Jeff Johnson how many political points that saved us.

And I get it – compromises are going to have to happen, and no politician who actually gets into a position to to change things escapes without some compromise to their ideological purity (unless they turn themselves into self-satirizing caricatures like Paul Wellstone and Ron Paul, always voting pure unadulterated principle and rarely actually affecting policy).  But it would be just great if the GOP would provide a consistent, sharp contrast to the Democrat Party and the DFL.

Republicans who are congratulating themselves this week had best keep it short and tasteful.  The GOP has a lot of problems, and even some of us in the party are questioning the party’s commitment to being different from the Democrats in Washington and the DFL in Saint Paul.

Which GOP is going to show up at the capitols in DC and Saint Paul next January?  The real one that is an actual meaningful alternative – the Tea Party – or the chuckleheads in the suits and the binders and binders full of excuses?

So Let’s Say The GOP Wins Big On Tuesday

So what?

The driving conceit of most third party approaches is that there is no real difference between Republicans and Democrats.  And they have a point.

Half the point is “duh”, of course; politics, especially in legislatures, is all about reaching one degree or another of compromise with the other side.  The closer one’s legislature is divided, the more compromising is going to happen, provided anything happens at all.  If you mix a cup of orange juice and a cup of grape juice, there’s little way around the fact that you’re going to get orange-y grape juice, or grape-y orange juice. 

I get it.  Some compromise is inevitable.

But some of it has added insult to injury.  The GOP got a great start toward standing for conservative principle with the “Contract with America” – but by 2000 the party had largely gone beltway. 

Here in Minnesota?  The GOP legislative majority in 2011 opened weak and conciliatory on Governor Dayton’s budget hikes, and settled for “decreasing the increase”, seemingly almost without a fight.  And then they went on to collaborate with the DFL in capitulating to Helga Braid Nation, and giving Zygi Wilf hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer money to improve the Wilf investment portfolio. 

Pure principles do, inevitably, get sullied by contact with the opposition – at least if you want to effect policy; Ron Paul and Paul Wellstone both were sole principled dissenters on many fractious votes; neither ever really had much legislative effect on policy.

So negotiation – compromise – is an inevitable part of politcs

But at least make it a freaking fight. 

And I’ll be fair, here; the Tea Party class of 2010 has done a generally good job of making it an actual battle; they’re hobbled by the seniority system; most Tea Partiers don’t have much of it, and had less in 2011.  But they’ve largely stuck to doing what they were elected for.

And it has mattered.  Because who have the Democrats been running against this cycle?  How many GOP candidates has the Democrat noise machine labeled “Tea Party”?  Demonizing the Tea Party has been Democrat Job 1 since 2010.

And the Tea Party are effective conservatives because they know that the larger Tea Party movement is still out there, still motivated, still paying attention.

The entire GOP class that may be going to Washington and to Saint Paul needs to know this.


Just saying – the real job, making sure a GOP majority actually acts like a conservative, limited-government, liberty-restoring majority –  will actually begin on November 5.

Unicorns Vote 100% Third Party!

SCENE:   Mitch BERG is biking in the southwest suburbs.  He pulls over into a coffee shop.

As he sits down, he notices Stephanie Marie ANNAN, Community Organizer for the Minnesota 5th CD Libertarian party.   She is wearing capri pants and a t-shirt with “He Gave His Only Begotten Son”, and a picture of Ron Paul walking across the water toward the camera.

ANNAN:  Hey, Mitch.

BERG:  Hey, Stephanie Marie.  Ready for the election.

ANNAN:  Yep.  I’m voting Libertarian. 

BERG:  Kinda figured.  So – why? 

ANNAN:  Because big changes need to happen.

BERG:  Yeah, that’s true.  That’s why I’m voting for Jeff Johnson as many times as Mark Richie will let me get away with it. 

ANNAN:  He won’t bring any changes.  The GOP is just as big a part of the problem as the DFL is. 

BERG:  Er…why do you say that?

ANNAN:  When people put the GOP in power, they were just as bad as the Democrats.  There is no difference between the parties. 

BERG:  Yeah, the GOP can be frustrating.  Although you’re oversimplifying.  Bobby Jindal has made a huge difference in Louisiana; under his leadership, the New Orleans Public Schools went all charter.  Other GOP governors – Pence, Haley, Walker, Martinez – have made inroads in reducing the size and power of government.  The GOP – and GOP candidates – have made a difference at limiting government and its impact over the years.   Reagan’s tax cuts were a huge help…

ANNAN:  Reagan grew the deficit!  He raised taxes!

BERG:   Bingo.  You’re making my point for me.  Reagan, being a Republican president dealing with a Democrat Congress run by a big-government ward heeler like Tip O’Neill, had to make compromises.  One of those compromises was that he had to trust O’Neill to keep up his end of the bargain on cutting spending – which, of course, he didn’t.  And for all of that, his “tax hikes” were a fraction of his tax cuts, and they happened at a time when the economy was humming along.  If you don’t think Reagan’s tax cuts in the early eighties helped immensely with the recession, you’re dreaming. 

Anyway – the GOP in 1994 made a huge difference in paring back Bill Clinton’s megalomania.  Remember “Hillary Care?”  Either does anyone else.  And the Tea Party class of the GOP, the people elected in 2010, have largely kept their promises. 

ANNAN:  But the Minnesota GOP had the governor’s office from 2002 to 2010, and the House until 2008, and both chambers in 2011 and 2011, and nothing changed. 

BERG:  Plenty changed.  “Republican” used to mean Arne Carlson.  It used to mean “go along with the DFL in turning surpluses into more permanent spending”. 

ANNAN:  The GOP raised the budget in 2011, and built the stadium. 

BERG:  Yep.  And both were wrong.  And in neither case did the Tea Party class of 2010 go along, at least without a fight. 

ANNAN:  Bla bla bla.  The GOP always compromises.

BERG:  Parts of the GOP – the older, “Moderate” wing of the party, especially, which still exerts way too much control over the party at the Capitol – certainly does.  Parties don’t change overnight.   The GOP still caves in on way too much.  It’s improving, as conservatives slowly replace moderates. 

And let’s be honest; Minnesota is a blueish purple state at best.   Minnesota is split between various shades of red and hard, deep blue.   When a conservative goes to Saint Paul, and wants to get anything done, compromise is inevitable.  There is no way anyone who gets elected to office as a conservative in Minnesota doesn’t have to defile the purity of their principles at some point or another. 

ANNAN: Yeah, well, I’m sick of voting for the lesser of two evils all the time.  I’m going to vote my absolute, pure principles and vote Libertarian. 

BERG:   And that way, you’ll promote liberty.

ANNAN:  Yep.  

BERG:  So let me get this straight; you won’t vote for Republicans because previous generations of Republicans have had to compromise the purity of their principles when they actually got into a room with the other side and had to actually try to get things done, to say nothing of having to stop the other side from getting worse things, like daycare unionization and gun control, done. 

ANNAN:   Yep. 

BERG:  And you’ll vote for someone who’s never had to test the purity of his precious principles by trying to enact any kind of policy at all, much less over the votes of a legislature that is at least 50% completely hostile to everything your candidate says. 

Don’t get me wrong.  I could see myself supporting Rand Paul for President.   

ANNAN:  Ew.  He’s abandoned his principles.  Not like Doctor Paul.

BERG:  You’re proving my point.  “Doctor” Paul never got elected to anything outside of a House district in Texas.  And for all his big talk about policy – auditing the fed, disengaging abroad, yadda yadda – he admits, albeit quietly, that he never could have done it.  He had no support in Congress. 

ANNAN:  Why do you hate liberty?

BERG:  Actually, I clearly respect liberty more than you do. 

ANNAN:  Hah!  How can you say that? 

BERG:  Because the only way you’re going to get your agenda passed is to elect a libertarian monarch who takes office, sweeps away a century of noxious policy by decree, and then steps down.  Hopefully.  And that’s fine, if “magical thinking” is good enough for you.   But that’s really all voting for a third party gets you.  A third party vote is a wasted vote.

ANNAN:  It wasn’t with Jesse Ventura!  He had principles and he stuck with them!

BERG:  No, he didn’t.  He ran on a promise of returning the entire plus to the people. And once he got elected, he had to deal with the fact that was a governor with no caucus in the legislature – two Democrats flipped over to the Independence Party over the next year, and that was it. So we had to run with his hat in hand to Roger Moe, the DFLSenate majority leader, and cut deals like a madman. Meaning that about a third of the surplus got paid back. And the rest of it got turned into permanent spending, the way the DFL wanted.

So where was the principal?

ANNAN:  He sent a message!

BERG: Yep. And that message was “voting for a third-party candidate is of nothing but symbolic value”.

ANNAN:  (Plugs ears, turns, starts running).  Bla bla blaaaaa can’t year youuuuuuu bla bla bla bla bla).


Three Shockers

Three new polls indicate that the “good year for the GOP’ might not stop at the Saint Croix:

The first two are, of course, internal polls.  It’s possible they’re self-serving – although generally the parties are paying good money for the internal polls, and want them to be accurate.  They are, of course, intended to start a “bandwagon effect”, convincing voters who are inclined to be friendly that their support can be rewarded, and likely opponents to stay home and avoid the futility. 

Sort of like the DFL, ABM and mainstream media (ptr) have been doing to make DFL wins feel inevitable. 

Three weeks ’til the election?  This is huge. 

Also – with the Democrats pulling their money out of Kentucky and Colorado, look for Al Franken to get a wad of cash, as Democrats around the country start to realize Senator Smalley is a lot more vulnerable than the local media let on.

What Conservatism Needs In Minnesota

In the middle of a year that promises to be a good, if not great, year for Republicans nationwide, Minnesota Republicans are hoping to flip the House, so as to at least contest control for the state, and praying for an upset in the Senate and a come-from-behind miracle for Governor.

It was ten years ago that the conventional wisdom was that Minnesota was purple, flirting with red.

Today, it’s a bluish-purple state – some bright-red points, some dingy blue swamps. 

In 2002, after the death of Paul Wellstone, the DFL was in disarray;  they lost the state House, the Governor’s office and Wellstone’s Senate seat.   The grownups controlled all of the state offices except the Attorney General; the DFL held the State Senate by a hair, and was well behind in the House. 

Inside six years, they turned that into nearly-complete domination of Minnesota.  They held Mark Dayton’s old and barely-used Senate seat, they took Coleman’s they took both chambers of the Legislature in 2008, lost them in 2010, and took them back in 2012, and have controlled all of the state Constitutional offices – Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Auditor – for eight years now. 

How did they do this?

The 24 Month Campaign:  Ben Kruse got it mostly right Monday morning on the morning show on the lesser talk station; Republicans need to learn something from the Democrats.  For them, their 2016 campaign will start in earnest on November 5.  The Republicans, in the meantime, will meander about until State Fair time, 2016. 

I know – to be fair, Jeff Johnson and Dave Thompson started their governor’s races back in 2012 in all but name; Mike McFadden was aggressively moving his Senate candidacy at the State Fair in 2013. 

In contrast, the DFL’s attack PR firm “Alliance for a “Better” Minnesota” never stopped campaigning.  The group – financed by unions and liberal plutocrats with deep pockets, including Mark Dayton’s ex-wife Alita Messinger – does something that goes beyond campaigning. 

It bombards Minnesotans with Democrat propaganda, 24 months every campaign cycle.

The Communications Gap:  The Minnesota GOP has plenty of strikes against it; while it’s made up a lot of financial ground since its nadir two years ago, it’s still in debt, and still scrambling to get back to even.

But even when it’s in the black, it only does so much communicating – and then, it only does it in the run-ups to elections and, maybe occasionally, during legislative sessions (and that’s mostly the jobs of the GOP legislative caucuses). 

In the meantime, the Democrats (with the connivance of regional media whose reporters may not overtly carry the water for the DFL, but whose management largely most definitely does) shower the Minnesota voter with a constant drizzle of the Democrat version of “the truth”. 

Which means the low-information voter – the one that might start thinking about next month’s election any day now – is kept on a constant drip, drip, drip of the DFL’s point of view.  It means the baseline of thought for those who don’t have any strong political affiliation of their own leans left of center; they assume that raising taxes helps schools, that Republicans are rich tax evaders who hide their wealth out of state, that there is a “war on women”, and on and on.

There’s No-one To Fly The Flag – Nobody Seems to Know It Ever Went Down: So how was the situation different when the GOP was contending to take MInnesota away from the left? 

Other than the DFL having an endless parade of checks from plutocrats to cash? 

For starters, back then Minnesota had a number of overt conservative voices on the media, statewide, day in, day out.  It was when Jason Lewis was at his rabble-rousing peak; I call him the Father of Modern Minnesota Conservatism, and I’ll stand by it.  With Lewis on the air, a lot of people who didn’t know they were conservatives, figured it out – and a lot of conservatives who figured they were alone in the big blue swamp realized there were others out there. 

And Joe Soucheray was on the air three hours a day talking, not so much directly about politics, but about the absurdities that the left was inflicting on the culture.  It may have been a decade before Andrew Breitbart noted that Politics springs from Culture, but Soucheray knew it, and made it a constant topic for a long, long time. 

Lewis and Soucheray had record audiences – not just in the Metro, but outstate, where both had syndication in Greater Minnesota. 

And between the two, the media’s left-leaning chinese water torture had competition.

And for a few years, MInnesota had a couple of voices that did for conservatism in the state what Rush Limbaugh helped do nationwide; dragged it out of the basement, aired it out, made it relevant to the challenges Minnesotans faced then and today, and made being conservative, unapologetic and smart a thing to be proud of. 

And this happened at a time when Minnesota conservatism…came out of the basement, aired out, and started grabbing Minnesota mindshare. 


Feed The Cat:  Of course, this doesn’t happen on its own.  While conservative talk radio is still, along with sports, the only radio format that’s paying its bills, the format has atrophied – largely because it’s become, for money reasons, a national rather than regional format.  Syndicated network programming – Limbaugh, Hannity, Prager, Hewitt, Michael Savage, what-have-you – delivers ratings on the relative cheap.  And they deliver political engagement, nationwide.  

But they don’t have a local political effect like a solid, firebrand local lineup does. 

But radio stations pay for very little in the way of “local lineup” anymore; KSTP has turned Soucheray into just another sports talking head; AM1280 has the NARN; AM1130 has Jack and Ben and, temporarily, Dave Thompson. 

Minnesota business – at least, the part of it that realizes that a conservative outcome benefits everyone, themselves included – needs to pony up and sponsor the next generation of rabble-rousing Conservative media with a cause; the fact that it’s actually a good ad investment is a collateral benefit, compared to flushing money down ABM’s drain. 

And yes, I’m focusing on radio – but this rabble-rousing presence would need to cover all of the social and alternative media, not just the traditional AM band.  Still – there is no (affordable) medium that reaches, or can reach, more Minnesotans.

And through that, maybe, we start turning the intellectual tide in this state. 

It’s happened once.  It can happen again.

Needs to happen again, really.

Trojan Horse

To: Members of the MNGOP Judicial Elections Committee
From: Mitch Berg, Uppity Peasant
Re:  Weasel Words


First things first; I’m an elected party officer, so I’ll support our party’s endorsed candidates.  So – yaaaay, Ms. McDonald.

Of course, Ms. McDonald’s candidacy has turned into a Bolivian Goat Rodeo;  the DFL and Media (ptr) on the one hand are caviling and gamboling about the story like happy little pixies.  And some of the Ron Paul clacque – who were non-factors in this year’s caucuses, for the most part – have latched onto the whole episode as a way to try to stick it to the state GOP.

Now, I’ve asked a number of members of the JEC – in this space, in other online fora, and in person – to explain…:

  • Why the committee voted to endorse Ms. McDonald, if they did, and…
  • …more importantly, why the committee voted to suppress the “minority report” – supported by the committee chair – that would have informed delegates about Ms. McDonald’s legal issues.

The “answers” I’ve gotten have been, to be charitable,  weasel words.  The kind of thing that would shame a punch-drunk fourth-grader.  Silence, or idiotic little cutiepie resopnses (“Ask Chairman Downey!”).

So far, I’ve thought of this whole episode as incompetence on the part of the JEC – and knowing a few of the people who are on the JEC and/or heavily involved in JEC business, it’s not a stretchy theory.

The other possibility that jumps out at you, seeing some of the people involved?  It was an intentional sandbagging of the GOP by people who have a bone to pick with the party’s leadership.

The more I hear about this sorry episode, the more I’m leaning toward “sabotage”.

The MNGOP’s Judicial Goat Rodeo

I was at the GOP booth when endorsed Supreme Court of Minnesota (SCOM) candidate Michelle McDonald came to the building.

It was awkward; the GOP wanted her out, she and her volunteers wanted her in. 


The flap, of course, was over McDonald’s pending trial on a variety of charges related to an attempted drunk-driving arrest.  This Strib story lays out the initial round of particulars; Aaron Rupar at the City Pages updated the story in July along with a heaping helping of his peculiar partisan glee.  So did Cyndy Brucato at the MinnPost.  As did…

…well, hell – just about everyone with a keyboard and some server space, from the Daily Kos down to every leftyblogging hamster in the Metro.   Indeed, the media has been having a ball.  And they had another, when she got pulled over again, for allegedly violating the terms of her limited driving license (which is directly related to the pending charges, fair and accurate or not).  And they were waiting outside the GOP booth when I arrived yesterday morning, like carrion-feeding animals, looking for a spectacle.

Not sure they got a “spectacle” in the classic sense of the term, but it was a thoroughly modern flap; McDonald’s supporters and volunteers, defying instructions from the MNGOP that she not appear at the booth, and operating under their own directive to appear every single day at the booth, arrived.  Most of the pack of volunteers held cameras in front of them, including Ms. McDonald.  They marched into the booth.  Some of her volunteers very intentionally blocked the GOP booth staff from getting to Ms. McDonald. 

Oh, yeah – the Twin Cities media was looking on with carrion-feeding glee, recording every single contortion.  And they talked with Ms. McDonald – who responded, holding her camera out in front of her, recording her every interaction with the media, notwithstanding the knot of volunteers standing around her doing exactly the same thing. 

To summarize:  in a year where the MNGOP has been recovering its organizational and financial mojo, the party endorsed a candidate who may as well have been tailor made to garner immense, entirely negative media attention. 

To put it in terms recognizable to anyone who has grown exhausted from the MNGOP’s capacity to shoot itself in the foot, it was best termed a “goat rodeo”.  A “dumpster fire”.  Perhaps even a “Hungarian cluster-cuddle”. 

And it didn’t have to be that way. 

Let’s break it down.

Continue reading

The Strib And Berg’s 11th Law

Over the weekend, theStribissued its endorsements for the GOP primaries.

And they were mostly utterly predictable – if you keep Berg’s Law in mind.  In this case, “Berg’s 11th Law of Inverse Viability” (“The conservative liberals “respect” for their “conservative principles” will the the one that has the least chance of ever getting elected”), and especially the Huckabee Corollary to Berg’s 11th Law (“The Republican that the media covers most intensively before the nomination for any office will be the one that the liberals know they have the best chance of beating after the nomination, and/or will most cripple the GOP if nominated”). 

It’s largely the Strib’s history of endorsements – endorsing the most moderate Republican for “reaching across the aisle”, but supporting the most extreme liberals for their “rock solid principles” – that ledShot in the Darkto the law in the first place. 

Race To The Middle:  The Strib endorsed Jim Abeler for Senate

Now, I’ve got nothing against Abeler, a longtime House rep from Anoka.  I’ve interviewed him more than any of the other Senate candidates.  He’s a sharp guy.  Too moderate for my tastes, of course – he was a member of the Override Six, among other things – but he states a good case for much of what he does.  I disagree with him, but I respect him.

But he came in around the bottom in the endorsement race at the convention.  The GOP left the moderate wing of the party (not that anyone’s told the moderates, like Dave Durenberger).  The Strib is doing its best to buff of the “moderate” wing of the party.  But only the GOP, naturally.

Coming from the Strib – which will surely endorse extreme liberal Al Franken for the race in November – how can this be seen as anything but trying to split their opposition?

Sivarajah:  I like Rhonda Sivarajah.  She’d make a spectacular Congresswoman.  Had Tom Emmer, and his name recognition and money, not entered the race, I think she’d have been a walkover to replace Michele Bachmann, and I’d have been happy to throw whatever I could offer behind her campaign (although that’s minimal, as is my impact on the race, as I live in the Fourth CD).

A lot of Republicans are like that. 

And what other reason could there be for the Strib to endorse her?  I mean, reading the part of the endorsement where they note Sivarajah helped build a conservative majority on the Anoka County Board, you can practically imagine the writer throwing up in their mouth.  But there is division to be sown, and the Strib will sow it, trying divide the GOP, and give the DFL candidate (whose name eludes me as, I suspect, it does all the voters in the 6th CD) a fighting shot. 

As always – Berg’s Law explains everything.  At least when it comes to politics.

Slouching Towards St. Paul

The Invisible Primary heads for it’s exciting dramatic interesting necessary conclusion.

There have been no polling updates.  No shocking endorsements.  No conflicts.  A candidate ended up in the hospital…due to an ulcer.

The slouch towards the Minnesota GOP choosing a candidate to go up against Gov. Mark Dayton will end in the next two weeks, and perhaps finally usher in some interest in what has proven to be a deadly dull campaign cycle thus far.  So how can the four major contenders to be the GOP nominee win on August 12th?

Businessman Scott Honour

Why He’ll Win: In the words of Jimmy Buffett, Honour has spending money – money to burn.  Having raised more money than any other candidate running for governor, including Mark Dayton, Honour has the highest cash on hand of the GOP field in the primary’s closing weeks.  While those figures are highly inflated by his self-contributions totaling over $900,000, Honour has demonstrated the ability and willingness to spend freely – a desirable quality when third party interest groups have raised $11 million (most of it for Democrats) for the cycle…

Why He’ll Lose: …but have you seen how he’s spending it?


Zzz…huh?  Oh, it’s over?

Honour may be playing on his “outsider” credentials, but he’s running the most “insider” looking campaign of the four major Republicans in the race.  His advertising hasn’t been unique, either in terms of style or substance, nor particularly plentiful for a man whose raised $1.7 million.  Even a sympathetic profile of his candidacy suggest he “hasn’t run a highly visible campaign.”  That’s not surprising given Honour’s massive payments to consultants.  Long-time GOP consultants Pat Shortridge and Shanna Woodbury have combined to cost Honour’s campaign almost $270,000.  Considering the last polls on the race showed him in 4th place, Honour may wonder what exactly he paid them for.

Former Speaker Kurt Zellers

Why He’ll Win: Give the former Minnesota House Speaker credit – he’s taken what should be a huge vulnerability (his uneven performance as Speaker) and leveraged it about as well as he could into a narrative of his opposition to Mark Dayton.  Granted, Zellers’ narrative ends in 2011, when the legislature forced Dayton to end the government shutdown on their terms, and leaves out the messy details such as the controversial constitutional amendments or the Vikings’ stadium debate debacle.


Much like his TV ad, Zellers is doing nothing wrong, even if he’s not excelling at doing anything right.  His branding isn’t unique, but it’s on message.  His no new tax pledge may be an albatross in the general election, but he’s running to win the primary.  He doesn’t have the greatest amount of cash on hand or legislative endorsements, but he’s second in both those categories.  Plus, he’s been either in the lead or tied for it in most polling (what little has been done).

Why He’ll Lose: A low turnout election, which this race is shaping up to be, isn’t great news for a man whose reasonably high name ID comes from a poor performance as Speaker.  Zellers has never been adored by the GOP rank and file, and his advertising isn’t abundant enough to necessarily undo memories of 2012 and a lost House majority.  The real question may be if Zellers has invested his limited resources into a get-out-the-vote (GOTV) organization or not – a likely better use of money than TV or radio advertising.  Zellers may win in a divided field where just enough Republicans vaguely remember his name without his political baggage, but that’s not a great winning strategy.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson

Why He’ll Win: The nearly 20 Minnesota GOP Victory Centers.  Neither Johnson nor the State GOP may have bountiful resources to contribute to the primary, but the endorsement process still has some value in the form of thousands of dutiful volunteers making GOTV phone calls.  And while that sort of internal support hasn’t been as consistent as it once would have been for an endorsed candidate (see the 8th Congressional District’s pushback, for example), it’s been more the exception than the rule thus far.


Despite being the endorsed candidate, Johnson’s advertising (what little there is of it) has leaned more on quirk than his endorsement (Scott Honour could have learned something here).  Given the state’s penchant for electing candidates with memorable advertising (Paul Wellstone/Jesse Ventura), the tactic is likely a wise one.  And with an independent expenditure group also running TV ads on his behalf, Johnson looks less likely to get buried in a last minute blizzard of ad revenue.

Why He’ll Lose: Johnson’s week off the campaign trail to deal with surgery for an ulcer is the least of his concerns; especially as his campaign took kudos for their handling of the situation.  The problem is that Johnson’s health was the most campaign coverage he’s received since the endorsement battle.

Nor has Johnson exactly leveraged his endorsement well.  Only 44 current and former legislators have endorsed his candidacy.  Rep. Erik Paulsen throw his support behind Johnson, but there’s little sense that the GOP powers-that-be are overly willing to spend political capital to ensure Johnson wins in August.  Even Johnson himself acknowledged a “wait and see” approach from at least the donor class.  If that attitude exists with the average activist, Johnson could certainly lose.

Former Rep. Marty Seifert

Why He’ll Win: He’s a “maverick.”  He’s courting voters in the rural regions of the State.  He’s completely unapologetic about his parliamentary maneuver at the State GOP Convention…wait, I’m writing about why he’ll win.

The former House Minority Leader certainly has some name ID with GOP activists, having won both the 2010 and 2014 caucus straw polls.  And despite all the attention being paid to the endorsement tiff, relatively few primary voters will have really heard about it, and even fewer will understand what the angst is about.  What voters in outstate Minnesota will hear is a consistent message targeted to rural issues, as Seifert has furiously toured the non-metro sections of the state.  The result should likely be Seifert dominating in districts like the 1st, 7th and 8th Congressional…

Why He’ll Lose: …but those districts don’t comprise nearly enough voters to win, especially if Seifert under-performs in the Metro.  Despite being the first GOP candidate to air a TV ad, the buy was small and not really focused on the Metro.


Nor does he have the resources to likely compete.  Seifert has raised the least amount of money of the four major candidates and has the smallest amount of cash still on hand – $71,000.  His totals aren’t massively different than Jeff Johnson’s, but Johnson has the party apparatus and an independent expenditure group to provide support.  Seifert’s ground game is totally up to him to fund.

While the resentment from Seifert’s endorsement exit may be hard for non-politicos to fully understand (or care about), it doesn’t help that in a race that’s been defined by the lack of conflict, Seifert’s candidacy is the only one having any significant anger directed towards it.  Under the old, “where there’s smoke, there’s fire” rule, some primary voters – even those who may not understand the anger – may simply steer clear of Seifert based on the reaction his candidacy causes among others.  If Seifert had a well-funded ad campaign, it’s highly doubtful such anger among a small, but vocal, minority would impact the race.  In the absence of a strong counter-message (in particular in the media-heavy metro), Seifert’s candidacy looks like an outlier with segments of the base.

Why I’m Never Running For Office

About ten years ago, a sitting (at the time) GOP representative and long-time friend of this blog told me “you do realize, Mitch, that between the blog and your show, you can never, ever run for political office, don’t you?”

The fact that my written body of work is, no doubt, some oppo researcher’s dream has certainly served to keep me from getting too enthusiastic about pursuing a life in politics. 

And that’s largely a good thing.

Of course, opposition research on both sides – but especially the Democrats – is dedicated to making running for office as personally gruelling as possible for anyone who’d want to try.

Which is why the leftymedia’s on-cue jumping up and down like a bunch of poo-flinging monkey’s over Sheila Kihne’s old, excellent but long-dormant blog is so unsurprising. 

Of course, since it’s a primary battle, some Republicans are pitching in to defend incumbent Jennifer Loon against Kihne’s challenge. 

I suppose that’s one good thing about the blog; it’s cut down on any temptation.

The Invisible Primary

The electorate hits the snooze button on the Minnesota Republican gubernatorial primary.

It’s been 20 years since the Minnesota GOP had a competitive primary for, well, anything.  And with just over a month to go before voters chose Gov. Mark Dayton’s general election opponent, that rust is showing.

Whether it’s the airwaves, newspapers, or even political blogs, interest/coverage in the GOP primary has been as invigorating as an Ambien with a warm milk chaser.  What little polling on the race has been done bares out that fact, with 22% having no opinion of the four main candidates running, and 33% either undecided or choosing none of the above.

The result isn’t surprising.  Of the four major candidates, only businessman Scott Honour is running any sort of campaign advertising – a modest radio ad buy hitting Dayton on his handling of MnSure.  But having blown through the better part of $1 million on infrastructure and staff, Honour has been reduced to recycling his material.  The nearly exact same ad ran in May.

The rest of the field isn’t exactly making news, either.  Kurt Zellers’ campaign seems to exist solely by press release, with few direct campaign actions.  Marty Seifert’s endorsement by former Governor Al Quie is the campaign’s biggest story to date, as Seifert seems intent on winning the primary by eschewing the state’s major media markets to focus on outstate voters.  Jeff Johnson’s endorsement by Rep. Erik Paulsen carries some weight, but largely seems to reinforce that most of the state’s Republican endorsers are staying out of the fight.

If you can call this primary a ‘fight.’  Despite the ill-will following the Republican Convention in May, the interactions between the campaigns have been downright Marquess of Queensbury:

Last Friday, TPT’s Almanac hosted the first debate between the Republican candidates for governor since the Republican Party of Minnesota’s state convention in Rochester…I watched it three times this week, looking for some spark of energy, some sign of life in the Republican race for governor. I found none, as it was a non-event.

I reviewed Twitter, expecting to see a flury of public jockeying by the campaigns or their supporters. Nothing.

No press releases were sent out by the campaigns after the debate, boasting about the performance of their candidate. Nobody claimed victory, nobody really said anything. There were no debate parties, where supporters of a candidate gather to watch the event.It is almost like the debate didn’t happen.

Avoiding the traditional circular firing squad may be the prudent choice, but against the backdrop of such a vanilla campaign, one has to wonder how any of the four candidates expect to even reach November.

Most assuredly, August 2014 will not resemble the August of 2010 as Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza spent wildly, with Margaret Anderson Kelliher doing her best to keep up via her organization.  Indeed, the question of 2014 may be what candidate (if any) can create the organization necessary to match the GOP’s GOTV efforts on behalf of Jeff Johnson.  The endorsement may no longer carry the same monetary value, but the organizational value of numerous BPOUs making phone calls definitely has a price-tag for those seeking to replicate the effort.  In a low-intensity, likely low-turnout field, the GOP’s GOTV efforts will likely prevail.

The GOP’s greater challenge may be to have a nominee that’s prepared to contend after August.  A GOP candidate having won by a minimal amount, and armed with a poor campaign account – as would likely be the case for three out of the four candidates – isn’t in the best position to challenge Mark Dayton.

ADDENDUM:  Marty Seifert may slightly regret getting former Gov. Al Quie’s backing, given Quie’s decision to now also support US Senate long-shot Jim Abeler.  Nor does it likely help that the Star Tribune is reminding readers that Quie also backed Tom Horner four years ago.

Becoming The Enemy To Defeat The Friend

Joe Doakes from Como Park emails:

Thad Cochran, RINO Senator from Mississippi, was challenged in the primary. He won by 6,000 votes of which 30,000 were cross-over Democrats, voting for the RINO instead of the Conservative challenger, McDaniel.

Take a look at the flyer distributed to help the mainstream establishment Republican against his conservative Republican opponent in the primary. This would be low even for a Democrat:


Politics may not be beanbag, but this is a serious violation of Reagan’s 11th Commandment if there ever was one.