Facts, thoughts, questions and observations heading into the end of 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.

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.

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Comments (17)

  1. Submitted by Ross Williams on 08/09/2010 - 10:46 am.

    “What makes Entenza and his folks think NCLB is a winning issue? ”

    Focus groups and polling? These folks are not amateurs relying on media polls and coffee house discussions for their issue choices.

    With Dayton under 50% of the primary vote, I suspect the only winning strategy for either Kelliher and Entenza is to be THE alternative. All the noise about low turnout, ground games and GOTV strategies is the same. The message is I can still win the primary, the other guy can’t.

    Entenza knows he has lost. He wants to live to fight another day.

    If Dayton wins, and I think Kelliher does stand a chance of turning out her vote to beat him, his message focus ought to frighten the GOP. He will seemlessly switch from the “tax the rich” message for primary voters to “pay their fair share” for the general election.

    I can easily imagine the Republicans blurting out something about the problem isn’t that taxes on the rich are too low, its that taxes on everyone else are too high. Dayton should be able to turn that retort into a GOP proposal to double the state deficit with further tax cuts. I am not sure that will fly with anyone outside the Republican base.

    Horner’s middle of the road strategy will leave him supporting leaving the poor and middle class paying more of their income in taxes than the wealthy. As Jim Hightower once said ” There is nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos”. That position sounds like a dead armadillo strategy.

  2. Submitted by Todd Rapp on 08/09/2010 - 10:48 am.

    Polling for primaries is difficult. Experienced DFL operatives remember that the last pre-primary poll in the 1990 Wellstone-Nichols race was dead even, yet Wellstone won by 25 points. The people running phone banks for Wellstone and the DFL Party saw this coming, as undecided voters were overwhelming falling Wellstone’s way. No poll could have measured the significant advantage Wellstone had in turning undecided voters into supporters in the last 3-5 days, and it would have been very expensive to measure the difference in intensity of support between the Wellstone voters and the Nichols voters, no matter how experienced the polling firm was.

    Taken at face value (in other words, based on the methodology released), SurveyUSA projects the universe of likely DFL primary voters to be about 800,000 people. Since the most optimistic of projections are for 400,000-450,000 voters, SurveyUSA has probably done a better job of demonstrating the potential interest in each of the three candidates than providing a realistic model of the August 10 primary. At this point, voter loyalty and GOTV strategies will determine whether each candidate gets 25%, 40%, 60% or 80% of their potential vote out.

    Takeaway — if the Dayton campaign does as well as Kelliher and Entenza at getting out the vote, SurveyUSA says Dayton wins. If Kelliher does better at getting out the vote, there could be a much different result, one that SurveyUSA or any polling firm would have had a hard time predicting.

  3. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/09/2010 - 11:12 am.

    Given Eric’s analysis of the demographics, I am not so sure – any more – that the MAK strategy of get ’em to the polls is going to work.

    Once you’ve been cajoled into actually going to the polling place, you are standing there looking at the choices, and you may think one more time about whose ticket to punch.

    I can’t really explain why, but MAK just doesn’t seem to have the presence to get people excited. She may also be perceived of as part of the problem because of her leadership role in the legislature. So I still have this gut feeling that Dayton will prevail.

    I’d happily support MAK though and feel that she would still be an overwhelmingly better candidate than Emmer. Dayton has been careful to point this out on numerous occasions. Not a bad strategy. We’ll see.

  4. Submitted by Dean Carlson on 08/09/2010 - 11:44 am.

    It will be interesting to see how weather plays in Tuesday’s election, especially since Dayton is depending on seniors to come out in droves for him.

    Predictions are for more steamy and stormy hot weather. Will this discourage some seniors from leaving the air conditioning, and go vote?

  5. Submitted by Alicia DeMatteo on 08/09/2010 - 12:38 pm.

    Nice summary, Eric. Here are a few of my own…

    Fact: Of the three, Dayton is the only one who has run a statewide campaign before.

    Thought: I wonder if this increases his name recognition, and thus, his standing in these polls? (I guess that was a question, too).

    Fact: By being the DFL-endorsed candidate, Kelliher has access to a lot of pre-made calling lists of known DFL supporters. I know this because I got a call from her camp today (and never signed up for anything Kelliher-specific).

    Question: Will I get a call from Dayton and Entenza’s people today, too, or is Kelliher the only one with access to this database?

  6. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/09/2010 - 12:39 pm.

    “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.”

    There seems to be a certain amount of self contradiction here. I agree more with the first sentence, then the second sentence which contradicts it. Polls are nothing more than what they are. Predictive quality is what we read into the raw polling data. Polling of even low turnout elections can be used for predictions if the polling sample is similar to pool of voters who actually vote. The practical problem for this is that the turnout in primary elections is too dependent on too many variables. There is no consistent historical pattern which the pollster can use effectively to construct his sample.

    I think we ask too much of pollsters anyway. Things are always changing. No two elections are the same. Fewer people are available on the landlines pollsters use, distorting the sample. Every year it seems, people are more difficult to canvass, more reluctant to disclose their views. At best, polls give a picture of what’s happening, but often a very blurred picture.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/09/2010 - 12:45 pm.

    As has been pointed out here at MinnPost, the top 10% of income earners (starts with those filthy rich, $125k per year/two income families) are already paying 43% of the state’s bills.

    Can’t wait to hear brave Sir Mark, during a moment of lucidity, explain to the voters exactly what constitutes a “fair share” in his world.

    Good times, coming.

  8. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/09/2010 - 12:50 pm.

    “What makes Entenza and his folks think NCLB is a winning issue?”

    From my perspective, and it’s just as valid as any other DFL primary voter’s, this is an appeal to teachers who vote a lot and are said to be an influential DFL constituency. I also think Matt’s laziness and indiscipline resulted in his saying some pretty silly things, which he is now forced to defend.

    NCLB is certainly a flawed program. No one defends it in it’s current state, and that makes it easy to attack. But the objectives of the program are still valid, or at least politically necessary. We need the money NCLB provides, and that has always made participation a given. Matt rails against the testing requirements, and I agree NCLB testing doesn’t serve program objectives nearly as well as it should. But what is very clear is that the public wants our schools to be accountable, and accountability means tests. And even I, a fan of schools and teachers, believe the public is right about this. If Matt’s hints are indeed his positions, that he wants to banish tests which hold our schools acountable, he is quite simply on the wrong side of the issue, and the wrong side of history.

  9. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 08/09/2010 - 01:15 pm.

    Mr. Swift–
    ‘Fair’ is paying the same proportion of your total income in taxes as someone earning one tenth what you do.
    A true flat tax with NO exemptions or deductions would cost the rich compared to the current tax code with all its codelets.

  10. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/09/2010 - 01:21 pm.

    Being Tom means never having to say you’re sorry…

    And what percent of the wealth of the state do those ten percent own, Mr. Swift? We’ve been through this before and here you are dancing the same old jig.

    I think it will be a wonderful campaign this fall if we can figure out whether it is “tax the rich” or “make the rich pay their fair share.” Don’t you?

    “Facts, we don’t need no steenkin’ facts,” said Tom, verbigeratively.

  11. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 08/09/2010 - 01:56 pm.

    Bill, I know this may come as a shock, but outside the scary smart, reality based community, peering at one’s neighbors through slotted, avaricious eyes is considered a serious character flaw.

    But I think the Democrat party should go with it, by all means.

    “Look at all the stuff he’s got,” said the leftist, hungrily.

  12. Submitted by Brian Simon on 08/09/2010 - 03:01 pm.

    “Can’t wait to hear brave Sir Mark, during a moment of lucidity, explain to the voters exactly what constitutes a “fair share” in his world.”

    The same can be said, of course, of Messrs Emmer and Horner. Perhaps – naive, I know – but perhaps we can all have that discussion as part of this election campaign; what is it fair to expect from the state, and what is a fair way to pay for it?

  13. Submitted by Glenn Mesaros on 08/10/2010 - 05:50 am.

    The latest poll by James Carville and Stan Greenberg’s Democracy Corps shows that Obama’s policies are so rotten and so hated by the American people, that, for the first time, voters are more confident in the Republican Party’s ability to deal with the economy, than the Democrats’ ability. The poll of 1,000 voters who cast votes in the 2008 general election was picked up, enthusiastically, by the Wall Street Journal Friday, under the headline: “Voters to Obama: Your Priorities Stink!”

    The Journal quoted Democracy Corps: “Democrats are lagging further behind Republicans on which party can best deal with the economy,” noting, “Among these voters, the GOP now enjoys a 49% to 36% edge on which party can best handle the economy. A striking 54% of these voters also believe President Obama’s policies have done nothing to reduce the impact of the recession. Only 39% think Mr. Obama’s efforts averted an even worse crisis.

    “When asked about how they intend to vote in November, 52% of those who voted in 2008 said they plan to vote Republican to lodge a protest about current economic conditions. Only 41% plan to support Democrats.”

  14. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/10/2010 - 07:02 am.

    Don’t people remember what the situation was like two years ago?

  15. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 08/10/2010 - 10:12 am.

    The GOP if *anything* has message discipline.
    The Democrats need a little more spine and a unifying coherent message would be to their benefit. If the Democrats will start attacking hard, always demanding “What?” when a Republican says, “Cut”, this election season could be a bit different.

    Given the choice between a party asking voters to be patient and a party promising action (however ill-defined and ill-advised) there is no choice for some folks.

  16. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 08/10/2010 - 10:17 am.

    “Drat! Those envious liberals keep bringing up facts” said Tom, in denial.

  17. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 08/10/2010 - 05:03 pm.

    It’s a lot easier to be unified when your message is no than when your message is yes, or maybe.

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