Has the 2010 gubernatorial race and media coverage actually been … solid?

Over at the Same Rowdy Crowd group blog, Joe Loveland has a provocative thesis — for cynics, anyway. From his post titled “Half Full”:

… I would submit that Minnesota’s gubernatorial campaign actually has been relatively solid this year, especially compared to campaigns around the nation.

It’s hard to argue with that last part (no Aqua Buddhas or Witches).

However, Loveland is pretty specific in his half-praise, for candidates who debated relentlessly and put out unusually specific (if not airtight) budget plans, and for the media that probed the numbers and the factual claims, and covered issues as well as horse race.

I’ve tended to let MinnPost’s reporters dive into the issues this year, while I’ve vetted the fact-checks, poll reporting, endorsements and the new spigot of corporate-media political donations.

When it comes to vetting spin and smears, there have been a few crack-ups (like Fox9 retransmitting innuendo). But overall, it’s impressive how hard political reporters work and how diligently they vet.

Yes, there are differing emphases, and partisans are prone to like some outlets more than others. But despite the profusion of ideological blogs (which have also done a lot of good work), Minnesota mass media lacks a Fox News that foments armed camps.

That’s not to say stories haven’t been missed or underplayed, especially with many mainstream news staffs still shrinking (or resisting).

I know hyper-partisans wonder why there weren’t more pieces that painted Mark Dayton as insane or Tom Emmer as a lunatic. I suspect that all the debates may have sucked up too much reporter time. (Despite Loveland’s arch reference, they don’t deserve to be mentioned in the same breath with the words “Lincoln” or “Douglas”.)

Especially if Emmer wins, I wonder if the media covered social issues enough; candidates didn’t talk about them much, but did we give them too much agenda-setting power here? Tom Horner’s campaign has exposed the GOP’s fissures, but Dayton/DFL splits may get more post-election play. For example, should Dayton win, the gap between him and more taxophobic DFL legislators could trash his best-laid plans; this got coverage, but was the point underlined enough? 

It’s pretty late in the game, but let’s try the “wisdom of the crowd” here. Readers, what were your “missing” stories?

(Please avoid the really tendentious ones. I might try to find the substantive coverage you may have missed for a future post.)

Assuming you’re not a fan of minor-party candidates, who as usual got nearly no coverage, it’s a little hard to argue with Loveland’s final point:

[W]e have distinct ideological options from which to choose. Dayton offers a traditional liberal approach, Emmer has the most conservative agenda of any Minnesota gubernatorial nominee in our times, and Horner is dishing up an eclectic smorbasbord. While the personalities and leadership styles were not all that we wanted, these candidates offered a broad and distinct range of ideological choices.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Jeff Rosenberg on 10/28/2010 - 12:02 pm.

    Since Emmer rolled out his budget plan, I’ve been saying I wish reporters would treat his plan more critically instead of just accepting Emmer’s numbers at face value. Emmer relies on a lot of numerical sleight-of-hand, and by and large the media has simply accepted his numbers as the truth.

  2. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 10/28/2010 - 12:47 pm.

    My only gripe with the media coverage was the that Horner got a free pass. As David pointed out in a recent column, in endorsing Horner, the Star Tribune forgot about its prior demand that Horner disclose his prior clients. Why is this important? Because the work Horner did involved many of the same issues and entities that he would be dealing with as governor. And because knowing what work he did before becoming governor would provide a lot of insight into what kind of governor he would be.

    For example, Horner’s public relations firm represented the hospitals in the nurses strike earlier this year. The nurses association, which vigorously opposes Horner because of his work during the strike, sent out a mailing to all its members, which included the following:

    “Tom Horner says he’d run a cost-conscious government, but he apparently didn’t have any problem leading his largest healthcare client down the road of fiscal irresponsibility,” Shogren said. “First, these nonprofit hospitals followed Horner’s advice and spent hundreds of thousands – maybe even millions – of dollars on a PR and advertising blitz that did nothing to settle our contract and instead sewed divisiveness and discord between the employer and nurses. Horner followed that up with advising the Twin Cities Hospitals to waste nearly $24 million in operating expenses on a one-day strike, along with millions more in lost revenue. Is that Tom Horner’s idea of being cost-conscious? If so, I think more than just nurses should be wary of voting for this guy.”


    Even if that is only one side of the story, isn’t that something that the media should be looking into? Especially from a guy who portrays himself as a moderate and the reasonable choice against extremists on the left and right? I expect that if you delved into Horner’s client list, you would find lots of things like this, which is likely why Horner doesn’t want it disclosed. If a guy has made a career out of “sowing divisiveness” why are we (and the media) taking him at his word that he is the reasonable moderate who will work well with everyone? Its a moot point because Horner’s campaign has failed, but I think it was a real failure by the media.

  3. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 10/28/2010 - 03:28 pm.

    I’m actually in the camp that says it’s been pretty good, especially by comparison to other states. For example, even recently, despite Sen David Vitter’s high profile scandals, most Louisianans didn’t even know about them, that’ how badly their media served them. One thing that does seem to be missing, probably because there are so many debates, is that refusal to answer questions has been ignored except maybe by debate moderators, and the same narrow band of issues have been covered ad nauseum because he debates have been narrow.

  4. Submitted by James Blum on 10/28/2010 - 04:16 pm.

    To me (and I would hope to all parents of public school students in MN), the big missing story of this election is when/how/IF nearly $2 billion of K-12 funding will be paid to school districts in the state as mandated by law.

    This, to me, is the story of the election, because how the next governor deals with this $1.9 billion issue impacts everything else he will do in his term.

    The current governor “shifted” money from K-12 education to pay for other things. “Shifted” is a euphemism for “took.” Although Minnesota K-12 education has a rock-solid claim to this money, the situation is this: the governor “borrowed” the $1.9 billion from MN K-12 education with no plan for actually repaying the loan. The technical term for borrowing with no plan to repay is “stealing.” It’s sad to me that of all the people he could steal from, Gov. Pawlenty chose Minnesota’s kids. Stealing on this level makes Tom Petters look like a playground bully stealing lunch money.

    An MPR story a couple of days ago touched on this issue but didn’t go into much depth and got the numbers wrong. What percent of Minnesotans are impacted by public school funding? 20%? 30%? More? Pretty much anyone who has kids in public schools, anyone who is employed by public schools, and anyone who does any kind of business with public schools. This is a hugely under-reported story.

  5. Submitted by Rick Ley on 10/29/2010 - 12:14 pm.

    I second the previous post about the lack of coverage of the education funding debacle that will need to be fixed.

  6. Submitted by Ray Lewis on 10/31/2010 - 09:23 pm.

    There were two questions that I wanted answered, but never heard asked. Although I didn’t listen to all the debates nor read all the position papers and budgets, I have a general sense of what their responses and positions might be, but it would be nice to have something on record for post election “promise keeping” purposes.

    1) Would you support Instant Runoff Voting (IRV)for Minnesota statewide races?

    2) Would you support the Minnesota Department of Health’s Statewide Health Improvement Program (SHIP)beyond 2011?

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