Via Fold/Spindle/Mutilate, WSJ national correspondent Jackie Calmes includes the Walz-Gutknecht race in her column "Republican Advantage on Issue Of National Security Erodes: Iraq and Handling of Katrina Shift Sentiment as Races For Congress Heat Up." Her article begins:
In both national elections since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President Bush and congressional Republicans successfully played the national-security card to win big victories against the odds. Now, with their party’s control of Congress at stake, Republicans are betting on the issue again. But it may not be the trump card it used to be.
The public’s patience has frayed as the Iraq war grows bloodier in its fourth year, eroding confidence in Mr. Bush’s stewardship of national security. Mismanagement of the response to Hurricane Katrina contributed. Democrats, having ceded the security issue to Republicans in the past, now are on the offensive. They’re attacking the administration’s competence at home and abroad and fielding candidates with military experience.
Democrats are also pressing an argument opposite to the president’s: that Iraq isn’t central to the broader war on terror but distracts from it, and breeds more terrorists. How voters ultimately decide on that issue is “one of the most important dynamics of this election,” says Republican pollster David Winston.
A Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll in June, buttressed by other polls since, suggested Democrats have gained significant ground. It gave them a three-point advantage on the question of which party can best deal with Iraq, erasing Republicans’ 30-point edge of October 2002. Democrats had a nine-point edge on handling foreign policy, a swing from Republicans’ 18-point advantage in June 2002. Republicans did retain a 24-point advantage on “ensuring a strong national defense” — though that was down from a high of 41 points just before 9/11. . . .
Later in the article, Calmes takes notes of MN-01, placing it in the context of the Republicans' "Cut and run" rhetoric:
In another break with recent campaign years, some conservatives have joined the chorus of war critics, providing cover for Democrats against the administration’s stepped-up assaults. Mr. Skelton’s comments would qualify him as a “cut-and-run Democrat” in the rhetoric that Republicans, led by the White House, took to using months ago. But lately, the phrase could apply as well to conservative pundits and Republican lawmakers seeking distance from the White House.
Moderate Republican Rep. Chris Shays of Connecticut, hammered for months by Democrat Diane Farrell for backing the war, last week returned from his 14th trip to Iraq and called for a timetable for U.S. withdrawal. “The Iraqis lack the political will to be on a time frame to get this done,” he said. Minnesota’s Republican Rep. Gil Gutknecht did likewise, calling the president’s course in Iraq “politically unsustainable.” His Democratic foe, former Army National Guard commander Tim Walz, has made Mr. Gutknecht’s formerly unquestioning support for the war a major part of his challenge.
No wonder many observers are cynical about Gutknecht's change of heart. The Strib reported after Gutknecht's return from Baghdad:
What began as a routine tour of the troops turned into national story with a narrative hardly to Gutknecht's liking: Pro-Bush, Midwest conservative goes wobbly on the war, a poster child for Republican incumbents facing strong opposition and wrestling with their position on Iraq.
Gutknecht bristles at that characterization, although observers say he appears to be undergoing a genuine reassessment of the situation in Iraq.
"You make decisions based on the best information you have," he said. "When you get new information, you make a new decision. I think the American people feel the same way."
Analysts say Gutknecht's proposal for what he called a "symbolic" troop withdrawal was bound to shake things up in a political landscape hardened between the extremes of "stay the course" and "cut and run."It's a significant change for a congressman who has been a complete supporter of the Bush administration's war policy," said Joseph Kunkel, a political scientist at the Minnesota State University at Mankato.
The turnabout is also seen by analysts as a nod to Gutknecht's Democratic opponent, military veteran Tim Walz, who is challenging him in a district with a strong independent streak.
Carleton College political scientist Steven Schier said: "He's trying to say, 'I'm not the president's man, but I'm not a squish, either.' "
More incumbency campaigning for Gil, this time captured by the Albert Lea Tribune in "Gutknecht talks farm bill, ethanol, corn"
Speaking up for ethanol in rural Minnesota? It's a bipartisan issue. Extending the farm bill? We'll explore that issue more at BSP, though it's fair to say that the proposal enjoys broad support in Minnesota's congressional delegation and their challengers.
OLLIE OX UPDATE: The Albert Lea Tribune outdoes itself in covering the incumbency campaign, devoting two paragraphs to Gil's speech at a hospital dedication:
Many prominent public and political figures were in attendance at the ground-breaking ceremony including Rep. Gil Gutknecht, R-Minn., who is running for re-election against DFL candidate Tim Walz.
“In many respects what we are doing here today is giving birth to a new baby,” Gutknecht said, referring to the words of poet Carl Sandburg. “It’s a baby that people have been thinking about and working on for a number of years.”
Given that the Walzes are expecting their second child next month, we suppose Representative Gutknecht has to try to take back the metaphor somehow.
The New Ulm Journal's editorial staff is skeptical about Bush's saber-rattling on Iran. A reader from Gibbon remembers Katrina:
TO THE EDITOR: With the anniversary of Katrina, let us not forget the massive failure of our government to keep us safe. Today, a third of the trash has not been picked up, there are many people without homes, or without electricity.
This anniversary should serve as a reminder that we need change in this country and trying to shift the “blame” doesn’t cut it.
The Fillmore County Journal offers an indepth profile of Airman First Class Stevi Smith, who just returned stateside after serving at Balad Airforce Base in Iraq, in "The Young Who Serve: An Iraq War Story," a personal essay by Tom Driscoll. A family friend of the young woman, Driscoll opposes the war and supports the troops.
Mr. Walz, a public school teacher who served for 24 years in the Army National Guard, spoke passionately of the sorrow he felt seeing young people he taught sent to a war he felt was wrong. He has outraised his opponent in his home district and is confident that Democrats around the country can secure the 15 new seats they need to shift the balance of power in Congress.
We had a scare--too common--with news of two more Minnesota National Guard members dying in Iraq. One soldier's name wasn't released immediately, and so many National Guardmen's family members anxiously waited for their loved ones' calls.
A young woman of my acquaintance (recently moved south from Detroit Lakes) had heard from her husband yesterday morning. While she was relieved to take the call from Iraq, her husband related a story of a fallen comrade much like that reported in the Strib's article.
The Iraq war may be distant to some Americans, but few rural Minnesotans enjoy that privilege, given our tradition of National Guard service and our soldiers' deployment in the war.
Evil Bobby likes the first Walz radio ad, pairing it with a parade photo.
Democracy for Minnesota noted the opportunity for another online endorsement:
DFA Link endorsed candidate, Tim Walz (MN-01) is the first MN race to pick up the netroots endorsement. So far Walz has over 130 new donors and over $4k in new donations in just a matter of days. Show your support by making a donation today (you can match mine).
If you haven't done so already, now is the time to add your name to the supporters list on Tim Walz's DFA Link Campaign page. Thank you to one of our newest DFA Link groups in MN, the Parade Brigade, for adding their group's support. Together we can help Tim Walz become the first MN DFA-List Candidate of 2006
NONPOLITICAL NEWS: LILACS IN AUGUST
The Dan and Therese Hall farm near Butterfield was hit by an F3 tornado on August 1. The twister wiped out the farmstead, which included a thriving direct-sales meat business.
But not all freaks of nature are playing cruel with the Halls this summer.
The Mountain Lake Observer/Butterfield Advocate has published a photo of Dan Hall standing by his lilacs, in bloom in August.