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Day-after thoughts on the Strib Horner endorsement

Day-after thoughts on the Strib Horner endorsement
By Eric Black

Day-after thoughts on the Strib endorsement, which MinnPost’s David Brauer analyzed yesterday.

First, a little raw data. Here are the Strib endorsements from the past six guv races:

  • 1990: Rudy Perpich over Arne Carlson
  • 1994: Arne Carlson over John Marty
  • 1998: Skip Humphrey over Norm Coleman and Jesse Ventura
  • 2002: Tim Penny over Tim Pawlenty and Roger Moe
  • 2006: Mike Hatch over Tim Pawlenty and Peter Hutchinson
  • 2010: Tom Horner over Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer

Couple of tallies:

  • That’s three DFLers, two IPers, and one Repub.
  • That’s four losers and one winner and one to-be-determined.

A couple of analysis points following from the tallies:

  • At least in guv endorsements and notwithstanding its ultra-liberal reputation among conservatives who like to call it “the Red Star,” the Strib tends to like moderates.
  • At least in guv endorsements, the Strib is not very influential. If it does have the power to move voters, its influence is almost greater among liberals. It will be interesting to see if future polling suggests that Horner is moving up and, if he is moving up, if he is doing so at Dayton’s expense.

Yesterday’s endorsement was the most enthusiastic in recent history. The Strib ed-page is all-in for Horner. The Strib even ran a previous pre-endorsement of Horner, urging Minnesotans to give him serious consideration. That piece, plus yesterday’s endorsement, ran on the cover of the Op-Ex section. And the editorial was a week earlier than the traditional date for guv endorsements.  I believe all three of these facts are unprecedented.

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The Strib overstated at least one case. Horner has not, as the editorial stated, “attracted an impressive list of bipartisan endorsements.” Horner has a former Repub governor and a former Repub U.S. senator on his team and recently released an impressive list of moderate Republican supporters who served in the Legislature. So far, the most prominent DFLer to go public for Horner is Joan Niemec, a former member of the Minneapolis City Council.

Horner spokester Matt Lewis says an endorsement by a prominent DFLer is in the bag with an announcement coming soon.

Lastly, and this is obviously just a personal reaction, the weakest thing in the endorsement was the unwillingness of the piece to really take on the “wasted vote” problem. This is tough sledding. I don’t know exactly what the Strib could say to relieve the worries of those in the anybody-but-Emmer and anybody-but-Dayton camps that by voting for Horner they will end up voting for a third-place finisher, fail to make their vote count in the lesser-of-two-evils choice, and possibly end up with the greater-of-two-evils.

What the editorial did say …

“Our advice: Talk to your fellow Minnesotans in the next two weeks. Think about the obligation citizens bear to vote their consciences. And don’t let fear cause you to vote for a candidate you consider to be the second-best choice …”

Came across as heartfelt but hortatory and lame.

The Strib has been generally friendly to Instant Runoff Voting as an experiment in Minneapolis and St. Paul, but I don’t know if it has ever called for the expansion of that system to the statewide races. Personally, I favor it, largely because it would enable Minnesotans to vote for their first choice without having to agonize about wasting their vote.

I do assume that if we had that system this year, and if Horner could finish in the top two on the first round, he would surely win the instant runoff. I don’t assume that he would finish in the top two. But whoever won under that system, we would end up, for the first time since 1994, with a governor who had at least some claim to a mandate from the majority of Minnesotans.

Wrong word choice corrected after the fact: Above, I describe the Strib’s endorsement as the most “enthusiastic” in recent history. As first published, I called the editorial the most “fulsome” in recent history, because I thought “fulsome” meant “full-throated” or “enthusiastic.” But “fulsome” is a perjorative term that says something quite different from what I intended. So I changed it to “enthusiastic.” And I apologize.