Viewing DFL ads: Is Tim Pawlenty running for a third term?

Gov. Tim Pawlenty
Gov. Tim Pawlenty

Although it has been more than 13 months since Republican Tim Pawlenty announced he would not seek a third term as governor of Minnesota, one would not know it from watching the television ad campaigns from the three leading DFL candidates heading into August’s primary.

A Smart Politics content analysis of more than a dozen DFL candidate television ads run by Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Mark Dayton and Matt Entenza finds that the trio has collectively spent 16.2 percent of their airtime attacking Gov. Pawlenty, just 1.9 percent criticizing GOP endorsee Tom Emmer, and not a single frame attacking one another.

Overall, the DFLers have spent 19.5 percent of their airtime attacking Republicans at the state or national level, compared to 29.8 percent of the ads focusing on their goals if elected governor of the Gopher State.

Each of the three candidates has targeted Gov. Pawlenty in their ads, but none more so than Anderson Kelliher.

The House Speaker has spent 34 seconds in her two half-minute spots attacking Pawlenty and his policies, or 56.7 percent of the ads.

In her debut ad, “Minnesota Story,” Anderson Kelliher takes six seconds to mention her past battles with the governor: “And that’s why as Speaker I fought Governor Pawlenty and corporate special interests to protect families like yours and mine.”

Her attack on Pawlenty is more specific and pronounced in her follow-up ad (“Serve”) in which she narrates: “For the past eight years, the Governor has been serving corporate special interests and his own political ambition. I took on Governor Pawlenty and won – leading the fight to fix our bridges and stop cuts to health care and schools.”

In that ad, in which actors ride up to the drive-thru at “Pawlenty’s” restaurant and are unable to order good schools and jobs, the House Speaker also takes a subtle jab at Republicans in Congress. On the menu at Pawlenty’s, in addition to items such as a “Budget Busting Burrito” and a “Tax Break Sandwich for the wealthy,” are “Freedom Fries.”

Despite criticizing the governor for 34 seconds in her two ads, Anderson Kelliher spends just three seconds mentioning any of her gubernatorial priorities moving forward (5.0 percent). The ads include just one vague mention about jobs: “You can go to my website to learn how we put Minnesota back to work.”

Former U.S. Senator Mark Dayton is also not shy in his criticism of the governor — mentioning Pawlenty by name in four of his five ads to date.

In total, Dayton criticizes Pawlenty for 29 seconds in his three minutes of TV ads (16.1 percent).

However, unlike Anderson Kelliher, Dayton does not get his own hands dirty in these attacks, utilizing a voice-over artist in each instance.

In his debut ad (“9,000 Miles”), the Dayton campaign makes a general attack against the governor: “It’s the courage we need to repair the damage Tim Pawlenty has done.”

In his third ad (“Fair Share”), a voice-over artist is more targeted in the Pawlenty strikes: “Tim Pawlenty has protected tax loopholes for the richest Minnesotans, while cutting education funding for our children. Mark Dayton says it’s wrong.”

Similarly, the governor is criticized in Dayton’s fourth ad (“Forged”): “Tim Pawlenty has cut education funding in Minnesota. Classrooms are overcrowded. Districts have gone to four-day school weeks. Mark Dayton says it’s wrong.”

In his most recent spot on senior citizens (“So Much”), the Dayton campaign claims: “Tim Pawlenty’s cuts have hurt our seniors. Rising property taxes are driving them out of their homes…Our seniors have done so much for us. Isn’t it time for a governor who did more for them?”

But although Dayton shares Anderson Kelliher’s enthusiasm for attacking Tim Pawlenty, his ads do outline his actual goals if elected governor, for a total of 62 seconds or 34.4 percent of his ads.

Dayton outlines specific goals in four of his five ads, including his plan to raise taxes on the wealthiest of Minnesotans, increase funding for K-12 and higher education, champion clean energy, and create jobs through transportation projects.

While Matt Entenza only briefly attacks Gov. Pawlenty in one of his six television ads (“New Direction”), he is also the only DFLer to mention Tom Emmer by name.

In an effort likely designed to energize and expand his base heading into next month’s primary, Entenza manages to tie together four polarizing Republican figures during the first 15 seconds of the attack ad — Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, Tim Pawlenty and Tom Emmer:

“Meet Sarah Palin’s candidate for governor, Tom Emmer. Endorsed by Palin, a Bush Republican who will double down on failed Pawlenty policies. Devastating 30 percent budget cuts. Education under threat. Emmer’s more of the same.”

While Dayton and Anderson Kelliher have exclusively targeted Pawlenty as the object that they specifically attack by name, Entenza has roamed more freely.

In his energy ad “Clean Up,” the Entenza campaign states over images of the oil spill in the gulf: “We’ve watched in horror. Raged at BP. Felt the pain of all that’s been lost.”

In his ad “Disappearing,” Entenza takes a very harsh shot at the State of Mississippi — which is governed by a Republican, Haley Barbour: “If budget cuts were always the answer, then Mississippi would be a leader in this country.”

Barbour is also the Chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association.

Overall, Entenza criticizes Republicans for 24 seconds of his three minutes of ads (13.3 percent). The former Representative also spends 61 seconds of his three minutes of ads discussing substantive policy goals of his campaign (33.9 percent) — with a particular focus on education (ending No Child Left Behind and increasing funding), as well as clean energy, the economy, and halting budget cuts.

Notably absent from any of the 13 ads under analysis are attacks against any fellow DFLer running in next month’s primary. Perhaps there is a tacit agreement among the three camps to keep the gloves on in order to more easily unify around a candidate after Aug. 10.

In the meantime, the DFL candidates seem to be content in utilizing the same communication strategy to rally supporters – attacking Governor Pawlenty and largely ignoring Republican Tom Emmer, who hopes to extend the Gopher State’s third longest Democratic gubernatorial drought in the nation.

But while the anti-Pawlenty tactics may be in vogue as a DFL primary strategy, it is unlikely to win DFLers an election in November, as the governor has largely maintained 50+ percent approval ratings throughout the last year.

This article appeared on Smart Politics, the blog of the Center for the Study of Politics and Governance at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Smart Politics provides non-partisan analysis of public policy and statewide and district elections for Upper Midwestern and national politics.

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Comments (18)

  1. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/22/2010 - 10:52 am.

    In addition to aiming at the wrong target, these Democrat commercials make outright untrue statements.

    In real dollars, T-Paw increased the K-12 budget. It was the MAK led, Democrat house budget that would have cut funding.

    I think we should mandate warnings be broadcast before any more mendacious Democrat papspew reaches the innocent eyes and ears of children.

  2. Submitted by Mike Haubrich on 07/22/2010 - 11:52 am.

    Why are you so naive? When the other party’s candidate is a no-name whose positions are similar to the incumbent, the thing to do is to reiterate the track record against the incumbent.

    Your article illustrates the formulaic nature of a great deal of the political reporting that comes up as News and Commentary every election season. Yes, they do this. No, they are not running against Pawlenty. They are running against someone whose policies are similar.

    Move along, nothing to see here.

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/22/2010 - 12:13 pm.

    What do you mean by ‘real’ dollars?
    1990 dollars?

    And are you taking into account Pawlenty’s ‘kicking the can down the road’ strategy of delaying payments to school districts, which is a real cut since it will cost them interest dollars which they could otherwise use for education?

    As far as the Demo’s running against Pawlenty rather than each other; there’s very little difference between their positions; they’re basically running on the issue of who has the best chance of winning the election.

    And as to why they’re running against Pawlenty rather than Emmer….
    1. Pawlenty IS the incumbent (he supposedly is still Governor and getting paid for doing that job, although he hasn’t been sighted around here recently) and
    2. Emmer hasn’t made any serious proposals (unless you count the tipping kerfluffle) to criticize, so Pawlenty is the only target out there. If Emmer would state what he would do differently there might be a real issue.

  4. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 07/22/2010 - 01:04 pm.

    In all honesty, both sides stretch facts in political ads. But Swiftie, if you are implying your beloved Republican Party is innocent of that, you’re crazier than Michele Bachmann.

  5. Submitted by Lora Jones on 07/22/2010 - 01:17 pm.

    I’d be very interested in where you’re getting those numbers Swifty. There’s sure no proof of an increase on the ground. Larger classes, school closings and teacher layoffs is what I see. Oh, that’s right, TPaw did start that boondoggle of QComp — which increases funding for a minority of schools and adds an extra layer of (gasp!) bureaucracy —

    Bottom line, for a man who refused to calculate inflation into any of his budgeting, it’s impossible for me to believe he increased anything in “real” dollars. Show me

  6. Submitted by Lora Jones on 07/22/2010 - 01:19 pm.

    Oh, Swift and all the other cons, its Democratic party not Democrat.

  7. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 07/22/2010 - 01:45 pm.

    It seems the dozen or ads run by the DFL candidates have only raised their unfavorable numbers.

    According to the latest Rasmussen poll of 500 likely voters, the unfavorable numbers are Kelliher at 44%, Dayton at 45%, and Entenza at 41%.

    Emmer’s is at 40% but he really hasn’t started running ads yet so that will probably change.

  8. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/22/2010 - 02:48 pm.

    “According to Minnesota Management and Budget, in real dollars schools received about $6 billion in state aid in fiscal year 2003. Since then, the number has slowly risen to the current figure of $6.9 billion.”


    “There’s sure no proof of an increase on the ground.”

    You’re looking in the wrong place, Lora; try your pay check stub.

    Inflation in the cost of K-12 public education is driven by teacher salary and benefits.

    While almost everyone (still employed) in the private sector has seen dramatic salary and benefit cuts; I’ve taken a 10% cut since last year, for instance.

    Teachers, like all unionized public sector employees seem to feel they are immune from such economic realities.

    The simple fact is that there are fewer teachers, and larger class sizes because the taxpayers cannot afford to keep up with teachers wage inflation.

    We also cannot keep up with the Democrat party’s appetite for increased spending, which is why there will be a sea change in November.

  9. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 07/22/2010 - 03:25 pm.

    Since there is no such thing as a “Democrat” party, your statement is meaningless.

    And I suggest that you take a look at what’s happened to school energy and construction costs in the past ten years. Adjust your $900,000 increase since 2003 for energy costs (or inflation; take your pick) and you’ll find a net loss.

    And most people in the private sector have NOT taken salary cuts — maybe yours was earned??

    On the Rasmussen (right-leaning) poll front:

    “Rasmussen Poll: DFL Candidates Lead Minnesota Governor’s Race
    Still unanswered is how DFLers Line up

    Updated: Wednesday, 21 Jul 2010, 9:17 AM CDT
    Published : Tuesday, 20 Jul 2010, 9:30 PM CDT

    Jeff Goldberg / FOX 9 News

    SAINT PAUL, Minn. – As the Democrats battle it out leading up to the August 10 primary, a new Rasmussen poll shows each would fare well on November 2.

    According to the latest Rasmussen Poll released first to FOX 9, Mark Dayton would beat Republican Tom Emmer 40 to 36 percent, with the Independence Party candidate Tom Horner netting 10 percent.

    Margaret Anderson-Kelliher scored 40 percent to Emmer’s 35, with Horner at 11 percent and Matt Entenza leads Emmer 37 to 36 percent, with Horner at 12 percent.”

  10. Submitted by Ed Stych on 07/22/2010 - 04:22 pm.

    Wow, the Libs are sensitive today!

    Anderson Kelliher claims she “took on Governor Pawlenty and won.” What a fantasy world she must live in!

    AK showed incredible weakness in her battles with TPaw. She’s trying to rewrite history.

  11. Submitted by Lora Jones on 07/22/2010 - 05:19 pm.

    Swift, both you and the (partisan) budget office are taking the word “real” dollars to mean something other than “inflation-adjusted” dollars, which is, to most of us what “real” means. See

    And, MAK overrode your boy. I count that a win.

  12. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 07/22/2010 - 05:51 pm.

    “..the (partisan) budget office..”

    Huh? What?

    Lora, did you know that Minnesota Management and Budget is a government run office? If it’s partisan, it’s tilted left just like the Democrat legislature.

    “And, MAK overrode your boy.”

    Um, no, that’s not correct either. Even your Democrat ilk admit the Governor owned MAK & Co. In fact, every leftist out there (but you, I guess) is squirting tears about all the cuts T-Paw fed the Democrat legislature.

    I think you’ve been watching too many Democrat campaign commercials.

    Paul, 80% of the K-12 budget goes to salaries…sorry, facts are facts.

  13. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/22/2010 - 06:38 pm.

    First of all, I would urge the governor to come back home and fix the MN budget before he preaches us on the fiscal fix for the nation.

    He entered office with a deficit of about 3.5 billion. And now the recently projected budget for next biennium is between 5 and 7 billion dollars. So the governor hasn’t made a lot of headway putting MN back in the black.

    For the past eight years the governor has been practicing avoidance. How can we avoid the hard decisions, endless postponement. Call it a shift or a deferral, call it borrowing. All those deferrals are delayed tax increases. And then you’re hoping that they will happen on someone else’s watch and then blame them.

    If you take a look and start to relate his political rhetoric to reality, you’ll find that there is a wide gap. A large piece of these budget problems go back to when Pawlenty was majority leader in the house. The expectation that we will economically grow our way out of the problem. The reality is quite the opposite. We have grown our way into the problem and the problem has become larger because we’ve been rolling over deficits for the past eight years.

    We have a governor who is focused on how do I run for president and face up to the real financial challenges of MN. So he’ll defer those decisions until he’s out of office.

    We should reward accomplishment and not avoidance. Governor Pawlenty has demonstrated how political ambition has become a substitute for good governance.

    We could always re-elect Pawlenty as a write-in candidate. Although I can’t really imagine him wanting to finish the job he started eight years ago.

  14. Submitted by Lora Jones on 07/22/2010 - 06:55 pm.

    Sorry Swift, if you seriously think that a department headed by the appointed commissioner of finance, who helped your boy come up with the whole unallotment ponzi, you’re ascribing virtue where no virtue lies. And, I’ll grant you that the no-one “won” a darned thing this last, 09-10 session. As Schulze says, a lot of can kicking.

  15. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 07/22/2010 - 08:12 pm.

    The focus, I think, should always be on two questions: what do we want from the government and is that what we’re getting. The focus should never, in my opinion, be on Haley Barbour’s opinion.

  16. Submitted by George Hayduke on 07/23/2010 - 08:33 am.

    How does one get to be a highly paid blogger on the taxpayers’ dime at the U of M to churn out drivel like Ostermeier? Nice work if you can get it.

  17. Submitted by PHILLIP HANKLAND on 07/25/2010 - 01:02 pm.

    Pawlenty should run again!
    These other losers are all bad material to be Governor.!
    Really Pawlenty has done a decent job as Governor.
    And, Pawlenty entreating a residential bid is sheer folly !
    He hasn’t a chance.

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