Political ‘mathematicians’ busy speculating on best formula for success in governor’s race

Mark Dayton
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Mark Dayton figures prominently in political calculations for the governor’s race.

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.

Tom Emmer
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
Tom Emmer

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.

Rob Hahn
Rob Hahn

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.”

Tom Horner
MinnPost/Jana Freiband
Tom Horner

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.

Mike Hatch
Terry Gydesen
Mike Hatch

“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.

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Comments (27)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 07/23/2010 - 10:03 am.

    The big question, “who will get the felon vote?”

  2. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/23/2010 - 10:33 am.

    It is a little difficult to take what Sutton has to say seriously.

    He, of course, wants to get Emmer elected. My sense is that Dayton will play slightly better than MAK because MAK will be tarred with the brush of having been in the legislature lately. Why this doesn’t apply to Emmer, I don’t know. Horner seems to take a little more away from MAK than Dayton.

    And God help Emmer when the DFLers get this settled and we can see some one on ones. Either Dayton or MAK should be able to dispatch Emmer when the gloves come off. The man obviously doesn’t know how to back down when he has made a mistake.

    Emmer’s handlers haven’t been doing too well lately and word about his candidacy has even made us – Minnesota – the object of derision in the national media, e.g. “Real America: Tom Emmer, Minnesota’s Last Sovereign Individual”

    “Emmer is also the official candidate of the Republican Party and he looks the part. Thick necked and be-chinned, Emmer’s gray hair and bratwurst fingers give him the appearance of a Minnesotan who went to the fair and ate ***** off a stick. In the 2016 Palin Patriot Network Tuesday Night Movie, he will be played by The Daily Show’s Rob Riggle. For many locals, in appearance and personality, Emmer embodies every water-sports ****** who ever fast-waked them at the lake.”

    and of course he gets the needle about:

    Most eye-opening is Emmer’s support of an amendment to the Minnesota Constitution that makes way for federal laws to be ignored at the discretion of the state. It defines Minnesotans as “sovereign individuals.” A seemingly tame little twist of diction that hides a revolutionary, some might say downright anti-United States, posture.

    For more, even worse: http://bit.ly/cmppRq

    Sigh… What’s a spin-meister to do?

  3. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/23/2010 - 10:44 am.

    That’s an important question, Ron, but it’s deeper than that.

    I think most people agree that the Democrat party has the felon vote pretty well wrapped up, but preference is nothing without presence. With ACORN on the ropes, SOS Ritchie can’t count on the orginizational assistance he got from them last time around.

    Unless the Democrat party can whip up some enthusiasm among the cadres, the felon community (which is by nature a rather unreliable constituency) may well never *get* to the polls in numbers large enough to make a difference.

    But then again, there is always the absentee ballot option which is again being pushed heavily by all the Democrat candidates.

  4. Submitted by Theo Kozel on 07/23/2010 - 11:33 am.

    “I think most people agree that the Democrat party has the felon vote pretty well wrapped up, but preference is nothing without presence.”

    Only the really stupid ones who come to their conclusions with insufficient evidence and still haven’t quite absorbed the fact that it’s called the “Democratic Party”.

  5. Submitted by Charles Gimon on 07/23/2010 - 11:54 am.

    Those of us who know Minnesota know that it’s the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, of course.

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 07/23/2010 - 11:54 am.

    HMMM, seems the GOP whacked-out, reality challenged, evidence-be-damned, screaming meme of the week is “felons only vote for Democratic candidates.”

    Sorry guys, that’s selling out here in the real world about as well as ten-day-old, unrefrigerated ground beef. It smells about the same, too.

    As an alternative, you might want to try to get your candidate to lay out a few specifics of just exactly what he’s most likely to do as governor. Oh! and TRY to get him to do it in ways that won’t have him spending the next two weeks back pedaling and trying to say that he didn’t actually say what he said (when what he said is available on video tape).

  7. Submitted by Lance Groth on 07/23/2010 - 12:16 pm.

    Wow, I have to admit I’m surprised at the comments posted by the Repub apologists. It seems the only things they have to talk about are cutting the income of food servers, and the fantasy of felons voting for Dems. Seriously, guys, if those are your issues, you don’t have a prayer. Of course, if I had Pawlenty’s record to defend, and Emmer and his big mouth as my standard bearer, I’d be desperately trying to change the subject too.

  8. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 07/23/2010 - 12:21 pm.

    Ron and Swiftie,

    I married into a family with two distant felons. One adopted; one step-nephew. Neither vote, but both are anti-government conservatives. One is a skinhead. The other likes to beat up his girl friends. Neither would do well in DFL circles.

  9. Submitted by Karl Bremer on 07/23/2010 - 01:10 pm.

    Shiftee opines:

    “I think most people agree that the Democrat party has the felon vote pretty well wrapped up”

    Really, Shiftee? Let’s have a little history lesson, starting with convicted felon Frank Vennes Jr. You know, the money-launderer who Pawlenty, Coleman and Bachmann took tens of thousands of dollars from while he was orchestrating the Petters Ponzi, and then all three requested presidential pardons for Vennes. Coincidence? I think not. Pay-to-play? You be the judge.


    Who do you think convicted felon Frank Vennes Jr. would vote for, Shiftee? Or is he waiting for President Pawlenty to finally issue his pardon so he can vote.

    Now comes Bobby Thompson, another big-buck donor to Bachmann ($10,000), Coleman ($21,500), and the Minnesota GOP (thousands more). Thompson, as you may have read, is on the lam after attorneys general in several states shut down his allegedly fraudulent U.S. Navy Veterans Association and launched investigations coast to coast. Thompson was last seen at the Michele Bachmann-Sarah Palin-GOP freak show in Minneapllis April 7. As a veteran, Shiftee, I would have thought the Bobby Thompson story about ripping off veterans, their widows and orphans would have you screaming from the rooftops for this guy’s head, but not a peep?

    Who do you think suspected felon Bobby Thompson would vote for, Shiftee?

    Come back when you’ve got some answers for my questions, Shiftee. Until then, you might want to keep your sage political analysis to yourself.

  10. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/23/2010 - 01:14 pm.

    How can it be, Thomas, that no one has told you that a federal judge found ACORN

  11. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 07/23/2010 - 01:17 pm.

    How can it be, Thomas, that no one has yet told you that a federal judge found Acorn 100 PERCENT INNOCENT of all the allegations made against them by a crooked right-wing “journalist” and his accomplice(s).

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/23/2010 - 01:21 pm.

    Jeremy, I hate to point this out but unless you married into a “GOP family”, your felonious relatives *grew up* in DFL circles.

    Please tell them not to vote.

  13. Submitted by Brian Simon on 07/23/2010 - 01:53 pm.

    The big question, “who will get the felon vote?”

    My guess is the Heckers and Petters of the world like Emmer.

  14. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 07/23/2010 - 01:54 pm.

    Felons? Are we talking before or after their demise?

    …those with political clout (i.e. money) like Jack Abramoff, Bernie Madoff, Ken Lay, and Jeff Skilling …

    …and close to home, Denny Hecker and Tom Petters!?

    But seriously, folks, does corruption (or crime) care which party is in power?

    It is despicable for any party to implicate, without provable grounds, its opponents as having ties or associations with criminals. Unproven declarations and innuendos are the sleek handiwork of underhanded fabricators of lies.

    Wouldn’t you all laugh me out of town if I declared that the GOP (under Bus/Cheney) secretly whisked Ken Lay out of the country, that he is not dead, that he is (even as we speak) happily drinking margaritas in Tahiti!?

  15. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/23/2010 - 02:42 pm.

    Bernice, you had me pretty excited for a minute there.

    It’s true that I hadn’t heard that a federal judge found Acorn 100 PERCENT INNOCENT, and since I like to be well informed I went to the google….


    ….needless to say, my enthusiasm has waned.

    Maybe you’re thinking of some other federal nutcase?

  16. Submitted by Jim Halonen on 07/23/2010 - 03:34 pm.

    We have no idea what party Hecker or Petters like, but we do know where Daschl, Rangle and Geithner are from, don’t we?

    Dayton as gov? Is there anything more unimaginative than, “We need to tax the rich more”. BTW, the wealthiest 1% (income earners, -not current wealth holders) already pay 40% of the income tax revenue. Isn’t that enough?

  17. Submitted by David Brauer on 07/23/2010 - 03:47 pm.

    Jim H. (#16) –

    Actually, we do have a pretty good idea. Hecker favored Republicans:


    Petters favored Dems:


    Point being, partisans often find their purist case undone by facts.

  18. Submitted by Hénock Gugsa on 07/23/2010 - 03:52 pm.

    Why do most of these candidates look like old, haggard, war-weary pols who have very little to offer in the way of new ideas or answers for current situations?

    Mark Dayton is decent, earnest, and without guile. But ultimately, he will not be tough enough. The Republicans will make life a misery to him.

    Tom Horner is appealingly packaged, or should I say repackaged, as an Independent. But, he used to be a Republican. Maybe he used to think of himself as an Independent Republican. But these days, there’s no such animal.

    I like Rob Hahn for his youth. Maybe, this is the time for the un-foggy-headed!

    M.A. Kelliher – Isn’t it time to elect a woman as Governor of Minnesota? I think she is tough enough.

    Tom Emmer – the old gas-guzzler. No, thanks!

    Michelle Bachmann – She should be term-limited by her constituents anyway as she is out gallivanting around, having tea in Missouri or some such place.

    And for the 3rd District (my district), give me Jim Meffert. He’s 42, and he’s not a Republican retread. I’m tired of the incumbent already!

  19. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/23/2010 - 04:01 pm.

    It is pretty telling that Swiftie and compadres have not yet turned over the rock that is Emmer’s candidacy. When you’re holding aces and eights you make a lot of noise and point elsewhere. Felonious democrats, ACORN, the usual yadda, yadda. But when the rubber meets the road, Mr. Tom (Emmer) is in deep doo-doo. More examples from the same source cited above:

    Naturally, he’s not just anti-abortion—he authored a bill that said Minnesotans had “no constitutional right to abortion.” And, despite blaming the media for many of his woes, Emmer’s name is on bill HF0936, allowing “News media representatives to enter polling places for up to 15 minutes during voting hours to observe the voting process” and “make a list of persons voting or not voting.”


    While on the subject of democracy, during the 84th Legislative Session, Emmer’s name appeared on the author list of a “heritage” bill. It stated that all Minnesota school students will be taught the “world view of America’s founders; including documents that contributed to the foundation or maintenance of America’s representative republican form of limited government, the Bill of Rights, our free-market economic system, and patriotism.” This education should include, but not be limited to, “American or Minnesota state history or heritage based on religious references in documents, writings, speeches, proclamations, or records… Students may voluntarily choose to read, write, share, report, or otherwise study a topic which is religious in nature….”

    No wonder Swifty would rather look the other way.

  20. Submitted by Roann Cramer on 07/23/2010 - 05:53 pm.

    The discussion regarding the race for Governor of MN deserves a serious look at the way we conduct the election. MN is a state with at least six active parties; Green, Constitution, Libertarian and others, in addition to the ones highlighted here. This article and comments illuminate the need for a majority winner that is the most preferred choice among the candidates. There are voting reforms, such as Ranked Choice Voting (AKA IRV) that bring the focus back to the issues. This helps the discourse stay on the issues that matter, so we can collectively elect a governor that represents most of the voters.

  21. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/23/2010 - 08:47 pm.

    “…he authored a bill that said Minnesotans had “no constitutional right to abortion.

    …Emmer’s name appeared on the author list of a “heritage” bill. It stated that all Minnesota school students will be taught the “world view of America’s founders; including documents that contributed to the foundation or maintenance of America’s representative republican form of limited government, the Bill of Rights, our free-market economic system, and patriotism.”

    “No wonder Swifty would rather look the other way.”

    You’re kidding, of course, right Bill?

  22. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/23/2010 - 09:17 pm.

    No, Tom. I’m not…

    Want more:

    (same source)

    That same session, tireless Emmer co-authored a common sense bill that designated cigarettes forfeited to the court during legal seizure to be delivered “to the commissioner of human services for use by patients in state institutions.”

    Emmer says marriage “is the union between one man and one woman” and he supports the constitutional marriage amendment defining marriage as such. As a point of his “values” position, Emmer has been married to just one (presumably biological) woman since 1985. Meanwhile, claiming that it infringes on individual rights, he opposed the state’s indoor smoking ban. Displaying a complete lack of self-awareness, Emmer called one of these two issues “social engineering.” Can you guess which one?

    Also, Emmer supports legislation that would allow pharmacists to decline contraception to whomever they deem unfit, an anti-family-planning position Emmer doesn’t just endorse, he lives: he has seven children.

    Want to watch a conservative politician with gubernatorial aims, one who’s supposedly confident in his faith, squirm when asked if the earth is only a few thousand years old?

    Want to watch a conservative politician with gubernatorial aims, one who’s supposedly confident in his faith, squirm when asked if the earth is only a few thousand years old?

    Tom Emmer faces an uphill climb in the polls. That he wasn’t even born in Minnesota hasn’t hurt him. But, while he played hockey and he’ll remind you of that, it was for Boston College and U. of Alaska—both Gopher rivals. So how is he going to convince voters he’s truly ready to lead Minnesota as a Minnesotan? His two DUI charges are a good start.

    Sorry Tom (Swift). It is like shooting fish in a barrel. Haven’t you got something better to do like go out and round up the usual suspects?

    Emmer? Seriously? I thought better of you.

    Good night.

  23. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/23/2010 - 09:24 pm.

    Pretty sleazy, Tom.

    You’ve heard of Roe v. Wade. The Court held that the constitutional right to privacy extends to a woman’s decision to have an abortion.

    So Emmer’s statement is bunk as is your (apparent) support of it.

    You’ve also truncated my second quote. You forgot: “Students may voluntarily choose to read, write, share, report, or otherwise study a topic which is religious in nature….”

    Have you ever heard of separation of Church and State? Is that a concept that you recognize.

    As I said, pretty sleazy. I thought better of you.

  24. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/24/2010 - 06:59 am.

    The 13 weeks that remain to election day is several lifetimes in politics. Can Kelliher ‘out campaign’ Dayton to win the primary? If not, will Dayton manage to keep it together the entire run to November. Will the voter’s have an opportunity to see Emmer’s legendary temper erupt prior to November?

    Tom Horner will benefit most if the contest turns into a cage match and the airwaves are filled with attack ads. Absent large sums of money, Horner will be the steady candidate who articulates good policy and remains above the fray. If Hahn can squeak by Horner with help from the GOP then all bets are off.

  25. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/24/2010 - 11:36 am.

    Gee Bill, that stuff is just awful, isn’t it?

    I mean, you start teaching kids about the Constitution and the history of America and the next thing you know, they’re liable to start believing they are pretty darned lucky to be here.

    And OMG!(oops), allow kids study topics with religious implications if they want to? Stuff like maybe why the Pilgrims came here in the first place?

    That’s just crazy talk, isn’t it Bill?

    Oh, and standing against infanticide, well no good can come of that, can it….http://tinyurl.com/32s3gox….?

    Yup, you’ve really got him this time.

    I’d make fliers and get this stuff out to as many people as possible, if I were you Bill. There is no time to lose.

  26. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 07/24/2010 - 01:11 pm.

    No need to make fliers, Tom. Not with folks like you and the other Tom continuing to shoot yourself in the foot. Not as long as Tom’s gaffes continue to be reported by the wicked media.

    I’m sure others will have noticed that you side-stepped Roe v. Wade and that you did not address the question of separation of church and state. No your child may NOT “share or report a topic of a religious nature” with mine nor should a teacher have to be exposed to it.

    But I guess that’s just your modus operandi.

    I won’t make the mistake in the future of thinking otherwise.


  27. Submitted by John Olson on 07/24/2010 - 11:02 pm.

    Always amusing to watch people already in a hole digging faster and deeper.

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