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.
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.