This is all idle speculation. There is no clear-cut evidence here. But where there is political smoke, some arson might be involved.
Now, let’s get into some solid scuttlebutt . . .
There’s a mathematical formula floating around in DFL circles in these final two weeks before the primary election portion of the gubernatorial campaign. It addresses the potential low turnout on Aug. 10 and its implications. The numbers were nicely analyzed Sunday by the Star Tribune’s Rachel E. Stassen-Berger, but Secretary of State Mark Ritchie told me the other day that turnout for this first August primary could be in the 10 percent range, or about 400,000 total votes.
Gubernatorial math: a fascinating formula
This turnout number implies a fascinating political formula: D-H = EOC.
That is, Dayton minus Horner equals Emmer’s Only Chance.
The feeling among Dems is that, generally speaking, whichever candidate gets through the primary — endorsed candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher or challenger Mark Dayton or even Matt Entenza — can defeat Republican-endorsed candidate Tom Emmer head to head in November.
The polls seem to show that, although an Entenza-Emmer head-to-head is too close to call, according to the most recent Rasmussen Reports poll.
Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Tony Sutton tells us he likes his chances against any DFLer seeking higher taxes.
The conventional wisdom is also that a DFL victory is particularly ensured if Independence Party-endorsed candidate Tom Horner wins his primary against his increasingly aggressive challenger Rob Hahn.
MinnPost’s Doug Grow addressed this briefly in a piece he wrote in June about “cross-over voters,” that is, voters from one party jumping over to vote in the primary of an opposing party to create a little bit of mischief.
In Grow’s story, Sutton shot down the notion that the GOP could somehow choose between Kelliher and Dayton, calling them both “big-city liberals” who won’t play well statewide.
Besides, as Sutton told MinnPost again Thursday, the GOP needs its base to come out and vote in critical primary contests statewide — such as attorney general — and locally for their own party candidates.
Factoring in the Horner-Hahn race
But what of a choice between Hahn and Horner?
If, somehow, Hahn could knock off Horner in the very-low-turnout IP primary, then, the thinking goes, that’s good for Emmer. In theory, fewer Republican-leaning voters know of Hahn and would, come November, hold their noses and vote for Emmer if Horner weren’t an alternative.
The Independence Party primary — such as it will be — could turn on a total of as little as 10,000 votes, and probably fewer. If only 40 Republicans in each of the state’s 87 counties voted for Hahn rather than Emmer, that would add more than 3,000 votes to Hahn’s tally, maybe enough to thump Horner, who has been the target of vociferous GOP attacks throughout the campaign.
“The Republicans have gone after Horner at least as aggressively as any of the DFL candidates,” said Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, who has been watching the campaign closely. “They see [Horner] as a threat . . . Whether they would use any operational or organizational effort in the primary, I don’t know. But it seems they would have a motivation to do it.”
And it’s not necessarily about money, but more about quietly spreading the word among GOP party faithful to vote for Hahn.
Hahn, in an interview, said he knew nothing of any GOP plan to back him and denied receiving any new stream of funding or campaign support — such as voter lists — from the GOP. He said he’s had no contact with GOP officials.
His latest major “buy” has been two billboards on freeways in the suburbs. Not exactly a giant splash. He did, however, produce a wicked video called “Oily Tom” earlier this month. These are indications that, at the very least, he is ramping up his attacks on Horner, attacks that seem to echo GOP rips on Horner about his client list and his “insider” status.
The notion that Horner or the DFL may feel threatened by him tickles Hahn, who says his campaign skills have grown over the months and “I’ve been much more focused.”
Horner, in an interview, made it clear that he has no hard evidence at all of some sort of stealth backing by the GOP of Hahn, but he has seen a recent feistiness in Hahn’s rhetoric that sounds more GOP-ish in nature. The arrival of those billboards and video might suggest a rise in “technical capability” previously unseen in Hahn’s campaign, Horner said.
There is also a campaign finance issue that looms here, a sort of doughnut hole in the state Campaign Finance Board’s reporting schedule.
After last Monday, any contributions of less than $1,600 to a gubernatorial candidate won’t get reported until Oct. 25, just before the general election.
Thus, if Horner is indeed taken out by Hahn, we won’t know if it was on the strength of last-minute contributions from GOPers or others between now and Aug. 10.
GOP chief Sutton chuckles at it all. First of all, he views Hahn and Horner as “left of center” and thinks either one of them would draw from the DFL candidate and not Emmer. Secondly, he says it’s only “the chattering class” who has picked Horner as the lead IP candidate. But, “you go out on the street, no one knows who Tom Horner is or Rob Hahn.”
Intriguing Dayton speculation
While we’re kicking around rumors and speculation, how about this one? Could former DFL Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Mike Hatch, who has expressed support for Mark Dayton, end up as Gov. Dayton’s chief of staff, assuming Dayton wins. Luke Hellier of Minnesota Democrats Exposed first tweeted that Wednesday. But it’s also going around the Twin Cities business community that Hatch has increased influence on Dayton’s campaign.
“No and no,” Hatch told MinnPost when asked about his purported new job-in-waiting and his role in Dayton’s somewhat shifting abortion-rights position.
Katharine Tinucci, Dayton’s deputy campaign manager, said, “Mark is not hiring anyone and not promising any jobs to anyone.”
Tunicci also said it was unfair to characterize Dayton’s abortion stance as in flux. Minnesota NOW’s Political Action Committee gave him a ‘C’ grade recently, compared with “A” grades for Kelliher and Entenza.
In his recent response to NOW’s questionnaire on reproductive rights, Dayton answered that he supported parental notification before abortions. Tinucci said Dayton has held that position for a long time, along with some restrictions on late-term abortions.
“Mark’s been a great advocate of women’s right to choose,” she said.
But others see Hatch’s fingerprints on Dayton’s NOW response. On many of his own past campaigns, Hatch has walked a line or flipped between pro-choice and anti-abortion positions, always trying to differentiate himself from his DFL opponents. Dayton has done so this time around with Kelliher and Entenza not favoring abortion restrictions and getting NOW’s endorsement.
“He has not been advising the campaign on choice issues,” Tinucci said of Hatch.
So, with three political parties and the Kelliher-Dayton-Entenza race likely to be a squeaker — even though Kelliher seems to have a get-out-the-vote advantage over her opponents — and with Horner and Hahn perhaps neck-and-neck, guess what.
Secretary of State Ritchie is poised for a statewide recount. Imagine that.
If there is one, though, it will have to be quick, because ballots for the general election must be printed quickly enough to be in the U.S. mail by Sept. 17. No protracted trial this time.