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Facts, thoughts, questions and observations heading into the end of DFL primary campaign

Facts, thoughts, questions and observations heading into end of the DFL primary campaign

Fact: There was another new poll last week, after the Strib poll that showed Dayton with a 10-percentage-point lead in the primary. This one was a SurveyUSA poll for KSTP and it showed Dayton 43; Kelliher 28; Entenza 22. For all the previous talk of Dayton’s strength by group, among older voters, for example, this one showed Dayton leading both rival in every single subgroup of likely primary voters: young, old, male, female, liberal, moderate, north, south, metro, rural,  more education and less, church-goers and non, tea party likers and dislikers. It was really pretty remarkable.

Observation: I know the polling is complicated by the difficulty of predicting who will turn out. The Kelliher/DFL ground game has received a lot of attention. I know polls aren’t supposed to be predictions, and I’m certainly not making a prediction. But if Dayton doesn’t win the primary, it will be a major national blow to the credibility of polling in a race like this.

Fact: Dayton managed to spend an hour on MPR’s “Midmorning” on Thursday and commit absolutely no news. The estimable Gary Eichten and MPR listeners led him through answers so familiar by now that I heard every word before it was spoken. Did you know that, as governor, Dayton would make the wealthiest Minnesotans  pay their fair share of taxes and spend the money on education? Dayton’s “message discipline” has been impressive.

Fact: The final Entenza ad, released with a small amount of fanfare last week, was the first by any of the three DFLers that mentioned any of the others. This one mentioned MAK and pushed back mildly against her (also mild) criticisms of Entenza’s position on No Child Left Behind. The ad says that Kelliher has been “attacking” Entenza over this, although that seems a strong word choice. Polinaut headlined “Entenza hits back at Kellier.”  Then Kelliher’s campaign manager and key supporters, such as DFL chair Brian Melendez, complained publicly about the ad as if it was a low blow. I also heard complaints that the Entenza ad used unflattering images of Kelliher.

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Observation: This was no attack ad, except against George W. Bush. The nastiest thing about it was linking Kelliher to a Bush policy (Kelliher’s position on NCLB is mend it, don’t end it.) But the fact that this mild ad could be criticized as dirty is more evidence of what a civil three-way battle this has been.

Question: What makes Entenza and his folks think NCLB is a winning issue? He’s highlighted his NCLB position (don’t mend it, pull Minnesota out of the program) in several ads. Likewise, what makes Kelliher think that contrasting her NCLB position with Entenza’s is a vote-getter? She has challenged him on it in several debates. And what makes either of them think picking a fight with each other is helpful when it is Dayton leading in almost every poll?

Observation: The last debate of the primary campaign, live from the Fitzgerald Theater and broadcast on MPR (with frequent interruptions for updated thunderstorm warnings) also produced no new themes and, unless I missed them, no race-shaking moments. As MinnPost teammate Doug Grow reports from the scene, Kelliher clearly had the most supporters at the Fitzgerald and cheering for her outside the theater. Will that translate into a poll-bashing upset on Tuesday?

Thought: Come to think of it, the love-fest between Entenza and Dayton, up to and right through last night’s debate, has been remarkable. It might make more sense to think that Entenza’s final ad, if it was designed to move voters from Kelliher to Entenza, might help Dayton, presuming that Kelliher is in second place in the race.

During the final debate, when the candidates had a chance to pose questions to one another, Kelliher seemed to be angling for a way to gain some kind of edge on Dayton. But Entenza and Dayton threw each other soft pitches. And, when Kelliher actually used her question to Entenza to invite him to gang up with her against Dayton’s tax-the-rich theme, Entenza actually called it what it was (a question that Dayton needed to answer for himself) and deeded his time to Dayton to do just that.