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DFL knows it blew a big opportunity Tuesday, when voters jilted the party’s expensive suitors

Sarvi, Tinklenberg, Franken and Madia
MinnPost photo illustration by Corey Anderson
When DFL candidates Sarvi, Tinklenberg, Franken and Madia came courting, voters turned them down.

Deep down in their blue hearts, DFLers know they missed a huge opportunity Tuesday.

Yes, Barack Obama easily won in Minnesota, which once was defined as a battleground state by the Republican Party.

But the smile on the face of Ron Carey, the state’s Republican Party chairman, is genuine.  It easily could have been so much worse for his party.

Across the nation, Democrats were knocking Republican incumbents out of the Senate and the House. In Minnesota, the Republicans held on to three House seats and, pending the results of a recount, the hotly contested U.S. Senate seat.  Three of those four — the 3rd and 6th District Congressional races and the Senate race — were as winnable as they’ll ever be.

On top of that, the Republicans still have Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who most believe will have to run for a third term in 2010 if he is to maintain the national profile he began to build this year.

In big political at-bats, DFL struck out
The chance for the DFL was now. The chance is gone. 0-for-3 in three winnable races. 0-for-3 despite having millions to spend. 0-for-3 despite the potential for Obama coattails.

Final tallies aren’t in yet, but the money DFLers had to spend was staggering.

Senate candidate Al Franken raised more than $16 million and had massive amounts of support from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. According to The Hill, the DSCC spent $3.4 million on commercials in just the last week of the campaign.  That amount was double what the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee was able to purchase on Sen. Norm Coleman’s behalf, although spending between the two appears to have made it the most expensive Senate race in the nation.

In the final weeks of his campaign, 6th District challenger El Tinklenberg, too, had a ton of cash. He received more than $1 million in contributions from donors, following Michele Bachmann’s “Hardball” moment. Late in the game – perhaps too late – the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee arrived with more than $1 million in revenue, plus staff support.

Most staggering of all may have been the 3rd District race, where Democrat Ashwin Madia already reported raising about $2.5 million and has received more than $1 million in support from the DCCC.

Only Steve Sarvi, in the 2nd District, had to struggle throughout the campaign for money. He raised less than $500,000 — a third of what incumbent John Kline had — and received almost no outside support.

So much money – and nothing but a recount to show for it.

Two of the races have to be especially painful to DFLers, the open 3rd District seat and the Senate seat. In both cases, the DFL had stronger candidates on the sideline than they had on the ballot. Both offer textbook examples of how DFL activists remain out of touch with Minnesotans.

Think about it. With a chance to make huge steps, the DFL ended up with candidates — Madia and Franken — who NEVER had run for political office before. Both Madia and Franken proved that winning a nomination is a whole lot different from winning an election.

Start with the 3rd District. Madia, a total unknown, devoted months to wooing party activists and, after a long fight, won endorsement over state Sen. Terri Bonoff, DFL-Minnetonka, who had proven she could win before real voters.

Bonoff clearly would have been a stronger candidate against Erik Paulsen, a conservative Republican who will now fill the seat held for years by moderate Republican Jim Ramstad. But once she was rejected in the endorsement process, there was no realistic chance for her to take her case to the voters.

That’s because in Minnesota, primaries are not held until September. That late primary date puts all the power in the hands of party activists.

“You simply can’t go into a primary in September,” said Bonoff.  “It’s too close to the general election.  In the primary, you’re going to spend a lot of money. There are going to be times when opponents are going to be tearing down each other. Then, you have to turn around and jump right into the general election.”

So Bonoff — soccer mom in a suburban district, businesswoman, a proven winner — was out of the race before she ever got a chance to run. The unknown who’d been so good at organizing and fundraising proved a dud in his first time on the ballot.

Some think Legislature might move primaries to June
Bonoff believes there will be an attempt in the state Legislature to move the primary from September to June. But legislators may resist, because they don’t like the idea of mixing the end of sessions with primaries.

The Senate race was stranger than the 3rd District race because there never was an experienced DFL pol in the field.

Remember, at its height, the so-called race for the DFL Senate nomination involved Franken, high-profile attorney Mike Ciresi and college prof Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer. None had ever won an election before.

Like most things, politics is all about timing. And not one experienced DFLer office-holder felt the timing was quite right to make a bid for the Senate seat.

What might have been?

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz was courted by many DFLers to get into the Senate race. But with just a part of one congressional term under his belt, Walz wasn’t willing to jump into a Senate race against the well-financed Franken with the winner having to face Sen. Norm Coleman, who was a much stronger candidate two years ago than he was by Tuesday.

State Sen. Tarryl Clark of St. Cloud also was approached. But she was a rookie in the state Senate and didn’t feel the time was quite right.

In retrospect, either Walz or Clark would have been a better opponent than Franken.  

A huge part of the timing problem both Walz and Clark faced was the huge bankroll of cash and friends Franken started accumulating two years ago.

Franken a stronger worker than candidate
Franken may not have ended up a strong candidate, but he was an incredible worker. He was pounding on doors, shaking hands with activists and raising money, while other, potentially more qualified candidates, were deciding whether they had the courage to get into the race.

“It’s very difficult to decide to get into a race when two of the people you’d be running against (Franken and Ciresi) have so much money,” said Clark.

Clark, by the way, became a big fan of Franken’s in the final weeks of the campaign.

“I’ve traveled a lot with Al in the last few weeks,” she said. “I do think he was a good candidate. He does care deeply about the problems real Minnesotans face.”

But he was so untested.

It’s all pretty stunning. Just a few weeks ago, some DFLers thought there was a chance to win all eight congressional seats.

Now, the party and its candidates have spent millions and have nothing to show for it, except the slim hope of winning a recount.

What lies ahead?

Surely, there’ll be a lot of positioning for a run in the governor’s race in 2010. The three top DFL candidates for that office should be Walz, Clark and House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the bright hopes of the party.

But many others — Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, state Sen. Thomas Bakk of Cook, state Rep. Tom Rukavina of Virginia, former state Rep. Matt Entenza, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner  — are either in the race or said to be seriously considering it.

There’s already talk that Bonoff, Steve Sarvi (who lost to incumbent 2nd District Rep. John Kline) and El Tinklenberg (who lost to 6th District Rep. Michele Bachmann) will try again to win seats in the House.

But so much changes in two years.  

Bachmann’s district, for example, almost certainly will be redrawn following the 2010 census — or may disappear all together. There already are whispers that Bachmann has her eyes set on running for Senate against DFLer Amy Klobuchar or running for governor, if Pawlenty decides not to run.

Hard economic times and budget woes in Minnesota may dim the futures of the young DFL stars such as Kelliher, Clark and Rep. Tony Sertich, the House majority leader from Chisholm.

The fact is that DFLers had their huge chance Tuesday. They’re left with only a recount.

Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Aaron Klemz on 11/06/2008 - 10:51 am.

    I think this election cycle provides further evidence that using the endorsement process as the sole process of selecting a nominee can be damaging to a party’s chances. Let’s not just pick on the DFL here, either – the anointing of Rep. Mark Kennedy as the presumptive Senate nominee so early in the process proved to be disastrous in 2006, as well. Or consider what the effect on the then-IR party would have been if Arne Carlson had “honored the endorsement” of Quist? Part of the problem is structural; since the primary in Minnesota is so late, both major parties try their hardest to avoid a primary fight since there’s so little time between the primary and general election. Perhaps we ought to consider moving the primary up for statewide elections as we did for the caucuses, so that both major parties are more inclined to allow voters to decide the nominee.

  2. Submitted by Amanda Tempel on 11/06/2008 - 11:16 am.

    I think the example of these races have a common thread 3rd party candidates. These races show exactly why we need Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) at the state/federal level. IRV would also cut down on the negative campaigning because candidates would be seeking support from voters as their first or second choice.

  3. Submitted by David Koski on 11/06/2008 - 11:36 am.

    Fine Doug, jump on the bandwagon, blame the Democrats for all of their failings. It is a really simple thing to do, especially when taking a very uncomprehensive view of what occurred this election. First, we all know of the poor process that the DFL has and that has its faults for sure.
    Let us look at the four candidates independently. Let us not forget that they all would have done very well in office, it is really about electability.

    Sarvi vs Kline – less money, why lump him in? How winnable was that seat anyway?

    Madia vs Paulsen – Whoa, did we forget about the independent party candidate taking votes from the Dems? Why do you not examine runoff voting in your quickness to condemn the DFL? Plus , there were very racial overtones in from Paulsen’s side, did you mention that?

    Tinklenberg vs Bachmann – You know Bob? Bob Anderson, we all know one or maybe even more. Independence party AGAIN.

    Franken vs Coleman – Franken has not lost this one, and if it is fair, he should win. The Star and Tribune allowed Coleman to paint his troubles on Franken, who had nothing to do with Coleman’s lawsuit.
    Do you forget how much the National Republican Party has been involved in Coleman’s campaign. Franken went head to head with probably their most fortified candidate. Oh, did I mention Barkley who seems to have symbiotic relationship with Coleman?

    Nice try Doug, quite being so nice to the Right Wing and tell it like it really is. It is called keeping things in proportion and perspective.

  4. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 11/06/2008 - 11:51 am.

    I can’t argue with a lot of what you have to say, but I’d add that, beginning with Reagan’s “Good Morning” and running through the religious-right stuff and the Milton Friedman/Ayn Rand philosophy that leads people to dream that trickle-down and selfishness are good for democracy and the economy and government is the evil enemy and propagandists like Rush Limbaugh and slime-throwers like Karl Rove, and ending with the constant repetition in TV commercials of falsehoods and deliberate misrepresentations — it is no wonder that many Minnesota voters end up believing what they need to believe in order to vote for right-wing candidates.

    On the other hand, someone asked if I thought there might be something in the water of the Sixth.

  5. Submitted by Jeff Goldenberg on 11/06/2008 - 11:55 am.

    There are institutional issues in the state party structure, but I find the behind-the-scenes talent here to be thin and provincial.

    There are three power groups in Minnesota DFL circles: the money crowd, the downtown smart guys and the Wellstone retreads. Its a self-reinforcing troika that looks pretty back-water across the board.

    The connections are poor between local dems and national players. Those links are weak and largely one-way. That means local-yokels maintain more control over candidates and their strategies here – to the detriment of the party’s success even with the wind strongly at their back. Also, when candidates here do reach outside our borders for help they often make poorly informed buying decisions.

  6. Submitted by Gerald Greupner on 11/06/2008 - 12:42 pm.

    I live in the 6th District and would just like to state how disappointed I am in the results of the election for this area. After the world
    saw Ms. Bachman show her nonsensical notions, the Tinklenberg camp utterly failed to take any kind of advantage. It is not only disappointing, it is just plain disgusting.

  7. Submitted by Patrick Lee-O'Halloran on 11/06/2008 - 01:15 pm.

    No one knows exactly what happened in the Third District, but I disagree with your blame of the endorsement process. The DFL “activists” you blame for endorsing Madia over Bonoff and Hovland included a wave of new participants to the process including more than a few “soccer moms,” small business owners, and military veterans. The established DFL “activists” were firmly behind other candidates, but most of them had made their choice before anyone knew who Madia was.

    Ashwin Madia and his campaign worked tirelessly to win this thing, raised a ton of money, and were either tied or leading over Paulsen with just weeks to go. No one knows exactly why it fell apart, most likely there is plenty of blame to spread around. I tend to think that the negative third-party ads (unfairly credited to Madia) and Paulsen’s baseless anti-Madia attacks took a heavy toll. I don’t know for sure, but neither does anyone else. No crystal ball exists to tell us whether or not the other pre-endorsement candidates would have fared any better or, indeed, even as well.

  8. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 11/06/2008 - 01:24 pm.

    Anyone who got to know Al liked him. He is a likeable guy, plain and simple. And Norm isn’t. Norm likes you when you call him Senator or Mayor or treat him with deference, but otherwise he’s pretty standoffish. But that’s not the way the two of them came across. Norm came across as a regular guy and Al came across standoffish. And those of us in the party who knew both of them don’t know why.

    And the ads by the US Chamber of Commerce were against Al were completely unfair. And they hammered him and hammered him. And the statewide political press, never this state’s best portion of the fourth estate, did much less than was needed to clarify that issue. We had union families with Norm Coleman signs in their yards and when they finally figure out that Norm was backed by big business they’ll be sorry.

    When it comes to smarts, the ability to study and understand an issue, the ability to think outside of the norms and seek solutions, the DFL put forward the best candidate. One of the best candidates we’ve ever put forward.

    And as I regularly say, if the journalists who make these comments had to undergo the scrutiny of the typical politician, we would have less than a sozen reporters in the whole state.

  9. Submitted by Aaron Petty on 11/06/2008 - 01:40 pm.

    Old news;

    “Both offer textbook examples of how DFL activists remain out of touch with Minnesotans.”

    That party has consistently but up Ho Hum the uninispiring, WhoTF, or Why in the World! candidates for a ho lotta cycles now.

    It’s not the electoral system that’s fundamentally flawed it’s the party system.

    My understanding is that Obama ended up where he is partly due to eschewing the “rank and filed” early on.

  10. Submitted by Mark Gisleson on 11/06/2008 - 01:54 pm.

    Kill the endorsement process and extraordinarily render the hard core DFLers to Uzbekistan where their ability to rewrite the party constitution at the drop of a hat will be highly valued.

    Early primaries are the absolute best way to pick candidates. If you can’t win a primary, what hope do you have of winning the general election?

    Neighboring Iowa is the gold standard for caucus states. They do NOT pick their nominees through the caucuses, but through a June primary. What on earth is wrong with the DFL that they constantly fail to grasp that their profoundly anti-democratic endorsement process alienates most Minnesota Democrats?

  11. Submitted by Brian Simon on 11/06/2008 - 02:20 pm.

    As an independent voter, it is hard for me to understand why someone would blame the Independence Party for the DFL’s failure to nominate a candidate that appeals to a majority of voters. While Al Franken might be smart and might be likeable, nothing about his run for office inspired in me the feeling that I wanted him as my Senator. That’s not Barkley’s fault – I didn’t particularly want him either. Its also not Coleman’s fault, who I’d just as soon see retire from politics. If you want my vote, start making the case for what your candidate is going to do that merits support. Tearing down the other guy isn’t very appealing.

  12. Submitted by Mike Fratto on 11/06/2008 - 03:34 pm.

    This isn’t the first time the DFL blew an election. They did it two years ago in the Governors race. Many DFL Central committee members didn’t really want to support Mike Hatch. Some even admitted voting for him while plugging their nose. They certainly weren’t actively campaigning for him.

    I blame the DLF insiders for Madia’s loss and the close Senate race. I blame Rep McCollum and other DFL women leaders who, after Fanken’s endorsement attempted to get him to drop out of the race so Mike Ciresi would run.

    When are these so called leaders going to allow voters to choose DFL candidates and then support them? That is when the DFL will again be a strong party.

  13. Submitted by Sandra Larson on 11/06/2008 - 03:44 pm.

    I live in the 3rd district and have been a loyal party activist for many years. We worked very hard here to promote Terri Bonhoff from her special election onwards. The irony of the matter was the huge interest in the presidential election brought quadruple the number of folks out on caucus night. What we regulars didn’t realize was that Madia had brought troops along to sign up as his committed delegates going forward from that night, (and to be fair–with getting some of the party faithful to commit to him early too). He overwhelmed the process. Many of us, although thinking he would be a good candidate down the line, knew we had the optimum candidate in Terri. So chalk it up to the one night stand that the caucuses can become. Personally, I think we need primaries or a more well-thought out process that doesn’t allow for raiding the system on the one local primary evening.

  14. Submitted by David Thompson on 11/06/2008 - 05:07 pm.

    With the Independence party pulling more votes from DFLer’s than Republicans, the Democrats have to nominate candidates with broad public appeal. This is obviously not so easy to do when party activists are the ones in charge of the nominating committee. I would really welcome a June primary instead of the caucus system of nominating candidates. The reason is, the winner will be someone who can campaign effectively on television, and who will appeal to the independents as well as party regulars.

  15. Submitted by Jesse Mortenson on 11/06/2008 - 07:35 pm.

    Independence Party, Green Party, whatever – a substantial number of Minnesotans would prefer to vote for somebody other than the two big parties. It’s ten years since Ventura won and the MNIP is still having an impact on federal races. How long can the legislature ignore this reality? A majority of us want more than two candidates in elections, and a meaningful minority of us will back up that preference with votes.

    It’s past time for the two-party bigwigs to wake up and start a public, statewide discussion about election reform. Use the position of leadership to bring ideas like Instant Runoff Voting and early primaries to the public. Hold town halls or consider convening something like the Ontario Citizens’ Assembly on Electoral Reform ( Give us a chance to improve our elections to accommodate changing reality.

  16. Submitted by David Hoden on 11/06/2008 - 07:46 pm.

    I agree with Patrick, nobody really knows for sure what happened in the 3rd. My gut tells me that the constant barrage of negative ads by Paulsen, the State Rep. Party, the RNC, and the Nat. Chamber of Commerce eventually took their toll and enough voters believed them…Dillon most definately took more votes from Madia rather than Paulsen. The outside ads against Paulsen did very little to help Madia’s cause, and may have actually turned a number of undecided voters off. Until our system is changed, quit whining about it and give Madia credit for understanding it and doing a way better job than Bonoff or Hovland. Madia did in fact energize a tremendous number of NEW activists and they will be there for him when he decides what his future holds. A number of successful politcians have lost elections before….Clinton, Bush, and Obama to name 3. We have not seen the last of Ashwin, and I would not bet against him a second time. I for one hope Ashwin runs again against Paulsen…I would love the opportunity to volunteer again for him and make a difference.

  17. Submitted by donald maxwell on 11/06/2008 - 10:09 pm.

    I’m afraid our esteemed scribe found a lot of trees but no woods on this one. It’s easy to lay out blame after a losing game, but reality is always more complex.

    In the Madia race, one would have to factor in the barrage of xenophobic, racially tinted broadsides run against him. The nature of those attacks speaks very badly of the Republicans, and will eventually come home to haunt them. The final attack piece was against the IP candidate but was a double-edged sword, portraying the IP guy as more liberal than the DFLer.

    Do we conclude that the DFL must only nominate pure white candidates in the 3rd District? Does anyone know where Dillon’s money came from?

    In most of the races cited in the article there was a clear IP effect. As long as we have an Independent Party active in the state, without Instant Runoff Voting, we are not going to know what most voters really wanted to say.

  18. Submitted by Amy Wilde on 11/06/2008 - 10:17 pm.

    As a four-term county commissioner (who has NO higher political ambitions!) I think Doug Grow hit the nail on the head by pointing out the lack of prior elected office experience of all of the Democrats mentioned except for Tinklenberg, who had been mayor of Blaine. A candidate learns things about public office by dealing with storm sewers, neighborhood activists, lake associations and groups of concerned parents while serving in local government. Franken’s lack of experience–not his policies–was what garnered Coleman all those newspaper endorsements. The general public will usually support leaders they know over a party purist.
    The caucus system is also to blame–although Republicans can be equally dysfunctional–look at the right-wingers who endorsed Mark Olson for Senate and failed to support proven leaders Neil Peterson and Kathy Tinglestad for the legislature last spring, because of their one-time veto override? I reside in a county which sent mostly Ron Paul supporters to the District convention. Under the current system, all it takes are six or eight folks with an agenda to show up at a few caucuses and they are in a position to take over. Most other caucus attendees are either blind-sided or too “Minnesota Nice” to object.
    However, I also question the wisdom of dragging out the campaign season with super-early primaries. But both parties could do something about reforming their caucus process.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/07/2008 - 08:30 am.

    The Democrat’s ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory is well established, but Franken was not the wrong choice. Anyone who thinks Cerisi or Palmeyer would have done better just doesn’t get it.

    I’m not fan of Coleman, but the fact is that he has not been a terrible congressman for MN, he has managed to position himself as a moderate, and he was going to be difficult to beat no matter what. Coleman is talented politician, that’s all there is to it, he was not particularly vulnerable.

    The problem with Democrats is that they rarely have the guts to run something other than a mediocre candidate, and mediocre candidates don’t energize the electorate. Cerisi wasn’t just mediocre, he was Republican light. I know many Democrats believe that Clinton’s move to beat Republicans by becoming Republicans was political genius, but it wasn’t. Eight Years of Republican-light made it possible for Nader to claim with credibility that there was no difference between the two parties in 2000, and the Democrats have been scrambling ever since.

    MN Democrats didn’t have a perfect candidate run against Coleman. I don’t know if Franken will win in the end, but he was the only candidate that could have won. Franken’s campaign was very well run, and very well organized. His message was effective and well articulated, and for all we know, it worked. If he loses he loses, but he didn’t lose because he was wrong guy, if he loses it’s because Coleman beat him.

    Democrats have a unique ability to learn the wrong lessons from elections won or lost. For the first time in my life they gave me a full ticket that I could vote for across the board because they managed, despite themselves, to actually run liberal candidates.

    Democrats- I know you’re afraid, I know that fear and anxiety drive your decision making process, but don’t give in. Your supposed to be a liberal party, be a liberal party. We need liberal ideas, we need a liberal agenda, we need a liberal party. You’ll never win every election but Republican-light won’t work, and it’s bad for the state and the nation. If Franken loses don’t panic and retreat back to mediocrity. A great man once said there’s nothing in the middle of the road but yellow lines and dead armadillos.

  20. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/07/2008 - 10:10 am.

    First of all, note that Tim Walz also had never run for elected office before.
    And he has no current intention of running for the Senate (unless he is keeping it a big secret from even his closest friends and supporters — speaking as someone who was in it from the beginning).

    Second, and more basic:
    This election followed the same pattern as 2000 and 2004. The country is still polarized; people are voting more for party than for candidate.
    Obama won (and other Democrats benefited) by increasing the turnout of his supporters, not by getting support from many Republicans. Republican turnout was uninspired by McPalin and low.
    That’s why people like Bachmann in strong Republican areas won, despite rather than because of the way they ran their races).
    Norm Coleman was a relatively popular incumbent, and would have been difficult to unseat by any candidate (and he still pulled only forty two percent of the vote as an incumbent).
    The challenge for Obama is to become (unlike Bush) the President of more than 52% of the voters, against the resistance of the hard core GOP base.

  21. Submitted by Kevin Judd on 11/07/2008 - 10:34 am.

    Re. Franken (and all candidates for higher office who have not been through grueling campaigns), the DFL needs to hire a Poly-sci major who can use You-Tube and Google, and simply ask them to come up with the obvious opposition attacks against the candidate’s public record (heck, hire a Republican!) All of the quotes used against Franken are available in the public domain (witness the Democrats Uncovered site); Franken and the DFL need to have a prepared response to these incendiary quotes.

    I always had the feeling that the DFL was surprised at the attacks on Franken’s quotes. Not to have some kind of canned response to obvious attacks seems to me highly irresponsible, especially when it was clear the race would be nationalized.

    Franken, George Allan (Senator from VA defeated in 2006 largely on the basis of You-Tube video of indiscreet remarks), the Kerry “troops and college” comments in 2006; modern candidates have to address the realities or digitized comments. In the old days, you could buy up the negatives and be done with problematic pix. Now, comments posted to some blog, pix on Flickr, and video on You-Tube are available. And they never go away; all are cached somewhere on the internet and available long after they are deleted.

    At my work (computers), when we create a new product, we hold an evaluation meeting before rolling out the product, and try to identify the most likely cause of failure, and the highest probability risk factors. Some of those factors you can mitigate early, some you just have to tell people about, and handle at the time. But it is irresponsible to be surprised by the obvious.

  22. Submitted by myles spicer on 11/07/2008 - 10:38 am.

    To me,the most pathetic loss was the Bachmann one — barely mentioned by Grow. She was a total embarrassment to Minnesota, and so far out of the mainstream that she should have been easily beaten. Yes, she has a strong and active base; but that base is a small segment of her constituency. How sad that she remains in congress representing our state

  23. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 11/07/2008 - 11:35 am.

    I have to agree with Kevin Judd. I kept waiting for the generic response to all these negative and misleading ads, and it never came.

    I kept waiting for the ad that simply asked why it is that all these big money special interest groups (the petroleum institute, the US chamber of commerce, etc.) are so invested in these Republican candidates? There was no better way to link Republicans to special interests. The issue with Coleman wasn’t his control of lack thereof of ads from the Chamber of Commerce, or the RNC but the fact they were supporting him in the first place. The Democrats seemed to be content to leave this up to the “Fact Checkers” on local news. They should have had a stock ad running all over the state. Same with the RNC ads attacking Franken. I kept waiting for the “There the Republicans go again… no ideas, no plan, so they attack attack attack, lie lie lie”. Never saw it.

    I think is some ways the Democrats made a tactical error in simply trying to link candidates to Bush. The problem with that approach, as Bachmann and Coleman demonstrated, was that they always point to some vote or another that defied Bush. Or as McCain handled it, “I’m not Bush, if you wanted to run against Bush…”. I think it would have been more effective to transform Bush into a generic Republican brand characterized by corruption, deregulation, incompetence, more interested in regulating our private lives than running the government, etc. They could run then against the brand. Bachmann and Coleman could deny they were Bush, but they couldn’t deny they were Republicans, it’s lot easier and less risky to distance yourself from a president than it is distance yourself from your party. I think this would have put them on the defense and kept them there.

    I also think that Franken was to worried about being taken seriously. He had a little video response to the Coleman’s bowling alley deal… he should have run that on TV. I think the reason they didn’t was they were afraid of being accused of being funny instead of serious. Listen, funny works, Tina Fey did more damage to Sara Palin than anything the Obama campaign did. If you got funny, and not every one does, use it. If you can get people laughing with you, and at the other candidate, you win.

  24. Submitted by Carol Masters on 11/07/2008 - 12:17 pm.

    The DFL, because of a flawed endorsement process, lost an opportunity much earlier than Nov. 4. Jack Nelson Pallmeyer was clearly the most qualified, articulate, and committed candidate for Senate. In debates around the state he was a clear winner and probably was the favorite at the endorsing convention — apparently many delegates believed they were bound to Franken through earlier conventions, in a process that was financially and politically skewed.

  25. Submitted by John Olson on 11/07/2008 - 05:25 pm.

    Nelson-Pallmeyer would have never had a realistic chance against Norm, except among the far left wing of the party. Franken was doomed to be handicapped by the eventual disclosure of his body of work, but the DFL gladly took whatever monetary gain it could.

    I don’t think it would be very hard to find 1,000 persons in Minnesota who did NOT vote for Franken because of his writing. Never mind that they never actually took the time to read what Franken had written, but they just believed what the republicans were saying.

    The DFL Central Politburo (which was struggling to make its own payroll not too long ago) can rejoice in knowing that Al was able to replenish the bank account, but whether or not Al actually gets to the Senate is a whole other matter.

  26. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 11/07/2008 - 10:13 pm.

    Kevin Judd has it exactly right. Before the campaign, you need to conduct opposition research on your own candidate. You have to know every single little thing that could ever possibly used against the candidate, and then have a response to it.

    In the case of Franken’s radio show and comedy career, there is so much out there that there is no way to get it all. The other side of that, though, is that if there is too much out there, maybe you shouldn’t be running for office in the first place.

    For things like Franken’s tax and work comp problems, to not discover those until the middle of the campaign was just inexcusable. It is not uncommon to have those kind of problems, especially in Franken’s line of work. But they should have been discovered and resolved long before they came out.

  27. Submitted by Charley Underwood on 11/07/2008 - 11:28 pm.

    I am completely with Carol that Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer would have be an incredible candidate. Two things work for him. First, he was clearly the most qualified to actually do the job as senator. Second, he had a style that resonated with most people in Minnesota.

    How I wish we had had a fraction of all that money behind a JNP candidacy. Instead of mud, we might have talked about issues. Instead of 6 more years of Coleman, we might have a worthy heir to Paul Wellstone’s seat.

    What a waste of money. What a waste of volunteer hours. What a disappointment this entire campaign has been.

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