Category: Minnesota Politics
Posted: 08/03/08 06:56
by Dave Mindeman
One more posting on Blois Olson. This one is regarding his follow up MinnPost piece on Al Franken, How Franken Could Win
Olson says that Franken still could win, giving us his own version as to how:His new team must make major changes in campaign strategy and the candidate?s own authenticity on policy issues, political tactics and his own personal history.
Olson likes the word "authenticity"...he uses it a lot. If a candidate has it, they are in good shape...if they don't, well you know.
But what does it mean? The best definition I can find for the word authenticity is "undisputed credibility". Olson thinks that Franken needs to establish that credibility in order to win.
Maybe, but Norm Coleman won in 2002 and I defy you to show me one shred of "authenticity" in anything Norm says or does.
But I digress.
Olson talks briefly about Franken's new campaign team. He is impressed with their credentials -- many people are. This is an "A" team for a campaign to have and I doubt that these people would have signed on if Franken's chances were not credible.
But Olson points out what he perceives as a flaw:That could be a challenge among what has been characterized by many as a staff that is too young and too close to Franken to be critical of him or confront issues that the campaign clearly needed to confront, such as his writings and comments as a satirist.
I'm not sure how the youth and loyalty of staff can be described as a drawback when changing the leadership team. Franken's workers are tireless and unwavering -- can't imagine that as a problem. It is the job of the campaign's leadership to confront the issues -- the staff implements them. This problem is being addressed.
Olson then talks about Franken's "impressive" list of donors. It took hard work to develop that list -- something that only direct mail, phone solicitation and personal contact can build. The very thing Olson criticized Franken about in his previous piece.
But then Olson gets to the "heart" of the problem:The major issue that seems to be holding back Franken as a candidate is his insistence on acting like a traditional candidate. He isn?t traditional, and he seems uncomfortable being serious all the time. That?s natural, he?s been funny (at times) most of his life. That is where Schriock can draw from her past work for authentic candidates.
There is that word "authentic" again. He says that Franken isn't a traditional candidate and shouldn't act like one -- yet in the same breath Olson says that Franken's "writings and comments as a satirist" are a problem that needs to be addressed. So Franken should be "authentic" by disavowing his past?
I went to a Franken fundraiser last week and I watched Al work the crowd and talk about the things important to him. He was very serious when talking issues and he wasn't "uncomfortable" at all. The better description would be "passionate". His humor permeates his natural style and it enhances his message. I believe Franken is already "authentic". Olson seems to misinterpret his definition of authentic as an adjective for past candidates who have already won....after all, who is going to analyze someone who lost as authentic?
Olson continues...If she can tap some authenticity from Franken that can resonate with voters, Franken could begin to make up ground on Coleman. His latest ad could be a start. Authenticity is a major plus in today?s successful candidates and it is a place where Franken could edge out Coleman.
More authenticity. Authenticity doesn't resonate with voters...a good, clear message resonates with voters. Over the last 10 days, Franken has delivered on issue after issue.... while Coleman's campaign talks about bowling. At some point, when people begin to pay some real attention that should be the contrast that makes a difference. It is no guarantee -- the Coleman people are good at producing "noise", but Franken is still doing the right thing.
Olson does make one good point here:But the most important thing Franken?s campaign has to do is to make Coleman react. So far, the only things that Coleman has had to react to were the National Journal reports about missing a few rent payments and Sen. Ted Steven?s donations. The Franken campaign should be trying to make Coleman react every day.
And over the course of the last week, I think you are seeing exactly that. Franken has talked about energy, home mortgages, lobbyists, and health care. Each time he has pointed out Coleman's ties to corporate special interest involved with each and every issue. And each time, the Coleman campaign has had to explain or try to change the subject. I am not sure how it could be done better than that.
More from Olson:According to the poll (Quinnipac), the top issues for Minnesotans are the economy, Iraq and health care. These are three issues that Democrats across the country are winning on, and issues Franken could win on if he is authentic and well-informed on the details of the issues.
"If he is authentic".... Franken IS authentic and well informed. That is not the problem -- the challenge for the Franken campaign is to get that message to cut through the clutter -- to get the voters to pay attention to what he is saying and not the distractions that Coleman is desperately putting out there day after day. Franken knows those are the issues that his campaign needs to emphasize and that is exactly what they are doing. All he can do is keep hammering away.
Then there is the important point:The Bush connection. Franken is trying, but he isn?t doing it in a way that contrasts himself with Coleman and Bush. And his ideas are just party-line thinking, not out-of-the box bold initiatives we would expect from a non-traditional candidate.
Franken has been making the Bush-Coleman connection from day one. One of his first commercials was a full contrast piece on the main issues we have been talking about. Out of the box? On the one hand, Olson thinks Franken should be addressing the issues that all the "other Democrats are winning on across the country", yet here he states that he should stay clear of "party-line thinking". That sounds like a muddled strategy to me.
Olson concludes with this:Franken?s campaign is definitely a long shot, but it?s not a lost cause. Yet. If Franken can raise money more cost-effectively, make Coleman react and become more authentic to voters, he could still pull it out. Maybe.
Olson's sage and "authentic" advice can't really fail. If Franken wins, he was "authentic" -- if he loses, well, he wasn't.