In Minnesota Is Not Massachusetts, Smart Politics has some rather unflattering things to say about the DFL's performance at the polls. An interesting analysis that is no doubt extremely substantial, though we wonder at the wording of this passage:
Since the Republicans don't hold six congressional seats among the state's eight congressional districts, we think Ostermeier is only writing in the smart prose above about those congressional seats that Republicans held in 2006. The passage itself is certainly a lesson in smart style.
Were we to apply Ostermeier's clear diction and crystalline sentence construction to a discussion of the congressional seats and the statewide constitutional offices held by the Democrats since 2006, the passage might read something like this:
In other words, if the RPM is carrying the ‘right values/ principles’ for Minnesotans, how is it that that the Democratic Party held the attorney general office in 2006, held 10 out of 10 Congressional seats since 2006 (with a gain of one that year), held a Senate seat in 2006, and gained two additional two statewide constitutional offices in 2006, though it appears to have lost, subject to the recount, the most fiercely fought Senate race in state history?
It would be apparent to nonpartisan observers that a plurality – if not a majority – of statewide or district-wide Minnesotans are actually voting for Democrats in these high profile contests save one. Indeed, both questions--Ostermeier's and our own imitatio--remain in our mind after reading the learned analysis.
We are less impressed with the scholar's acumen when we find the doctorate of political science glossing over The Mysteries of Southern Minnesota's Recent Voter Behavior, which seem to puzzle political scientists everywhere:
There must be something in the water up in the Cities that renders Walz's surprise--but definitive--victory in 2006 and this year's landslide unfathomable to people who are much smarter than your ordinary blogging heifer.
We tend to think that Walz won his seat in 2006 by out-hustling and out-organizing Gutknecht, who was feeling pretty snug. Another factor in the 2006 race was the deliberate and strategic organizing by the MN-01 DFL after redistricting. A strong tail wind didn't hurt, nor did Walz's unpretentious personality and skills gained in teaching, coaching, and soldiering.
Nah--those sorts of things on the ground couldn't matter, and so we see a DFL win explained by smart people as a mere Republican loss brought on by gaffes. Ostermeier is silent about Walz's 2008 win, so smarter people will just have to repeat that Walz is a good fit for the district or whatever the current conventional urban wisdom might be.
RPM Chair Ron Carey has launched one chestnut that posits that Walz's campaign spending "bought" the election, and we suspect we'll be hearing more of this one. Our disaffected pachyderm friends in the First tell us that Second District Republican Congressman John Kline would like Brian Davis to run again. This being the case, we doubt people smarter than we are will be blaming the 2008 GOP debacle in the MN-01 race on the candidate's gaffes, general haplessness and lack of appeal for the district's voters.
Instead, smarter people than blogging bovines will continue to call Davis "formidable," despite the fact that he had raised over $1 million by the pre-general election reporting deadline in October (see line 24 here) to get less than 33 percent of the vote. This is as formidable a loss as we know of in southern Minnesota.
The new RPM platitude is to point to Walz's fundraising as the culprit. A contrast of the MN-01 contests in 2004 and 2008, both presidential years in which the MN-01 race featured an IP candidate, might be a good starting point for determining the actual barrier for Davis. Indeed, Davis's fundraising and the duration of his campaign provide a sharp contrast to the bid by last-minute DFL candidate Leigh Pomeroy in 2004.
Pomeroy raised a $55,910 during his entire five-month campaign, launched in July 2004 when health issues forced endorsed DFL candidate Joe Mayer to withdraw from the race. In contrast, Davis first announced his bid for Congress in the unlikely confines on Representative Walz's own office, which Davis was visiting on behalf of ASTRO in April 2007. Davis didn't file his FEC papers until June 1, 2007, but we understand some very smart people in the Beltway and the Cities were already talking to him about running by then.
Davis thus had over a year more than Pomeroy in which to gain name recognition; purists might point to the endorsement and primary process, but even so, Davis had months more in the public forum and far more walking around money than Mr. Pomeroy enjoyed.
Despite a much shorter time to get to know the public and a comparative teensy treasury, Pomeroy not only received a greater percentage of the vote (35.59%) in 2004 than Davis did in 2008 (32.93%), but the prof and wine critic also received a greater number of votes (115,088) than did the Mayo oncologist (109,453).
Thus, when we turn to the dollar per voter ratio, Pomeroy raised $.49 per vote received, while Davis's ratio is $9.13 per vote. And remember, we're pumping up the DFL dollars here : the Pomeroy fundraising includes some money that came in post-election, while the Davis figure does not. (Walz raised $12.88 per vote gained--again, a figure that will change when the post-election reports are out; we will also be able to compare spending per vote).
Smart people will probably continue to ponder Southern Minnesotans' lack of interest in Brian Davis and will in time come up with explanations that are just as clever as their analysis of the 2006 Walz victory. It certainly can't be because of any weakness in a formidable candidate. We can't wait.
Photo: Anthropologists captured this image of southern Minnesotans in a recent expedition.