Conventional Wisdom

With the departure of Norm Coleman from the gubernatorial race, things are both wide-open and, paradoxically, more focused.  The GOP is down to three real contenders – Tom Emmer, Marty Seifert and Dave Hann.  The DFL is holding steady, so far, at about 12 candidates.  The Indpendence Party shows us the value of those little loopholes in “Major Party” laws.

Dave Mindeman at MnpACT  thinks he smells victory.

Now that Norm Coleman has made his decision and practically every person in the world has given us their opinion, let’s go for one more.

Here’s my opinion.

Minnesota will have a Democratic Governor elected in 2010.

And I, as we shall see, disagree. 


Now, I realize that nowhere in that sentence do you see Norm Coleman’s name, but Norm’s decision is a pretty direct translation.

According to the “conventional wisdom” in this state, that’s exactly true.  The CW has it that Minnesota is a purplish-blue state that needs a “moderate” for any statewide office.  Of course, the term “Moderate” – and for that matter, “conservative” – rarely are put into any meaningful context (and the keepers of conventional wisdom in this state, the DFL and media – pardon the redundancy – distinguish the concept of “liberal” no more than an Eskimo distinguishes the idea of “cold”).  And in many elections, that might be OK.

But not this one. 

We’ll return to that.

Without Norm Coleman in the race….

a) The GOP nominee will be either Marty Seifert or Tom Emmer. A contest between the two of them will be causing them to fall all over each other grabbing for the farthest right slot. Besides I can’t think of Seifert without remembering his dalliance with pirates. Arrrgh!

Remember that “no meaninful context” bit I mentioned above?  Here’s where it kinda matters.

Mindeman does what most media/DFL types in Minnesota do; assumes everyone to the right of Arne Carlson is an Attilla the Hun in a gray suit. We conservatives all look the same to Dave Mindeman (and pretty much everyone like him).

But they’re as different as can be; Seifert is a personable pragmatist in the Tim Pawlenty mold – which to a DFLer means “heartless conservative marauder”, and to a conservative means “acceptable, but needs constant scrutiny to keep them from swerving to the center”.   Emmer is the real deal, of course; after years of hearing the left crying wolf over the supposed conservatism of the MN GOP, Emmer is an actual hip-shooting podium-dominating Reagan Conservative.

And to someone like Mindeman, that’s all that one needs to know. 

We’ll come back to that.

b) So far, the Independence Party has not come up with a strong enough name to be a deciding factor. Most of the candidates in the past have had somewhat liberal leanings and siphoned off Democratic votes. Right now, the top prospect is Tom Horner, who will be a bigger drawing card for siphoning off moderate Republicans from the GOP.

In an ordinary year?  Perhaps.  But there are two wild cards in play here (as well as the fact that the Independence Party has become less of a “wild card” than a “soft three”).  Those cards are:

  1. This is not a normal year for conservatives.
  2. Tom Emmer, in person, resists Mindeman’s facile stereotype.

We’ll come back to both of those.

c) Contrary to the conventional wisdom, I don’t see the Democratic candidate moving (or perceived) as far to the left as is being surmised. With the probability of a primary challenge a virtual certainty, the Dems will have to make a broader appeal much earlier than the GOP candidate. This will give the Democratic candidate (and right now it doesn’t matter who it is), the advantage of broader statewide appeal.

That is a good point, as far as it goes.  The would-be Dem candidate is going to have to play less to the base than in a normal race, and more to real Minnesotans. 

And they’re going to have to, because the DFL Legislature has handed the MNGOP nominee, whomever he is, a priceless gift; their arrogant, self-entitled, spendthrift profligacy in the past two sessions stand a great chance of turning the southwest, northwest, and the third-tier suburbs – the GOP’s stronghold, which got a lot less strong in the past two elections – vibrantly red.  These areas are the hotbeds of the Tea Party movement; the conventional wisdom in the past few elections had it that the third tier ‘burbs were the swing districts, and if they were then, they are moreso now.

d) It is also doubtful that the Republicans will be able to substantially outraise the Democrats in money. Norm Coleman could have presented a challenge in that regard — the rest of the field will have a tougher time. Big donors will be more concerned with Congressional or Senate races. The GOP field wasn’t attracting the big money before Norm’s announcement — and even if they were holding back to see what he would do, that doesn’t necessarily mean there will be an enthusiastic outpouring now….it’s still the same field they were hesitant about.

It’s a possible problem – but it’s focused on “big money”, which is a very DFL-y perspective.  The MNGOP has always been about small donors.  Great case in point – in 2002, Paul Wellstone and Norm Coleman raised similar totals.  But Norm got his money from five times as many people; the donations were smaller, but they made up for it with volume.  And the GOP is turning the corner on winning back the Internet fundraising race; I suspect “big donors” will be a lot less important to the GOP nominee.

e) There will be no GOP primary battle. Republicans think this is a good thing, but even if Norm would have lost in a primary, the attention would have given Seifert or Emmer some serious name recognition. And they need it. The Democrats may have to fight it out, but the media attention will be focused on them and if the winner has the money to stay with it into the general election…. well, same result….. Democrat wins.

Enh.  Depends on the Democrat that gets through, and what the GOP nominee does.  Mindeman would be absolutely correct – if the GOP nominee were totally dependent on the metro media for exposure while the DFL was sorting things out.

That’s no longer entirely true.

And people out there are pissed.  That’s not normal.

It’s too late for someone else to get in. It’s Seifert or Emmer.

Democrat wins

That’d be the conventional wisdom.

It’s been a bad year for conventional wisdom, so far.

More on this tomorrow.

5 thoughts on “Conventional Wisdom

  1. “, the attention would have given Seifert or Emmer some serious name recognition.”

    I kind of agree with him on this part. That’s why I don’t necessarily look at a GOP primary as a bad thing.

  2. While the odds of someone else jumping into the GOP field at this late day are increasingly unlikely, it wouldn’t shock me a bit to see a few other retired “big” name trial balloons get floated again.

    To the extent Coleman was generating any traction, it was due to the lack of motivation among the grassroots over the current field – and concerns over the field’s electability. The idea that both Seifert & Emmer have raised that Coleman’s supporters will now find a home in one of their two camps misses the point – Coleman’s “supporters” were backing him as a candidate of (nearly) last resort. They were sitting on their hands waiting for Godot before and will likely resume that position now – at least until after the endorsing convention.

    I would fully expect to see names like Mark Kennedy, Jim Ramstad, John Kline, Brian Sullivan and more get one last look – whether they’re interested or the move makes sense or not. Until either Seifert or Emmer score a fundraising or endorsement coup that communicates that the dwindling GOP powers-that-be have recognized these are their options for governor, I don’t expect the last-second candidate chatter to end.

  3. If a Minneapolis big gov’t liberal is the DFL candidate, I wonder if a limited government, 2nd amendments rights supporter for Republicans could do well in normally DFL northeast Minnesota.

  4. I would fully expect to see names like Mark Kennedy, Jim Ramstad, John Kline, Brian Sullivan and more get one last look – whether they’re interested or the move makes sense or not.

    Throw in Mary Kiffmeyer and you’ve named all of them.

  5. Pingback: Shot in the Dark » Blog Archive » What The Hell Is An “Extremist”, Anyway?

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