Posted: 08/17/08 13:22
by Dave Mindeman
OK, we are about to head into the critical portion of the 2008 campaign as the conventions and Labor Day are rapidly approaching. So, I'll give you my opinion and assessment of where we are right now -- (My opinion is not really worth a plugged nickel, but you can always move on to other things much more interesting when you wish to.)Presidential Election
Polls have been showing that Obama and McCain running nationally almost even of late. A significant improvement for McCain, but before the Obama supporters push the panic button, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. Obama has had a large amount of money to work with and it looks like he has invested it very wisely. He has solid ground operations in a lot of states. While McCain has concentrated his resources in known battleground states, Obama has expanded the battlefield into areas that McCain didn't think he would have to defend -- Virginia, Indiana, Montana, North Dakota. Some of the reddest of red states in the past.
Over the course of the next couple of weeks, McCain's position is likely to still improve. Since McCain is taking public financing, he has to spend everything in his "bank" prior to accepting the nomination....and he has a significant amount remaining. He will probably continue heavily on the negative attacks (because they have been working) and he may try to shore up some of those red states that have been wavering. McCain has chosen a national strategy and doesn't have an elaborate state network, so he will be dependent on TV and radio ads. After Labor Day however, he will again have to conserve resources.....as he is limited to spending the $84 million in public finance money. Obama, who again raised over $50 million in July can raise as much as he can and looks to have the advantage heading toward November.
So, the key to all of this is where the candidates stand after the Republican Convention. McCain needs a big bump -- if he is not ahead in the national polling (not just even) after the RNC, he is in big trouble. The fluctuations will probably have big swings in the next few weeks -- Obama up after Denver and McCain coming back after St. Paul. Where it all sits around September 10th will determine who has the bigger challenge.
Obama's ground game investment will also pay dividends on election day. Polling is a general perception of voter sentiment..but elections are won and lost by GOTV (Get Out The Vote). Established local networks are the key and again, Obama seems to have the advantage. Minnesota US Senate Race
This race is more difficult to assess. Franken and Coleman have both raised considerable amounts of money but how wisely it has been spent is more difficult to determine. To some extent, the national race will have an affect here. If Republicans are somewhat demoralized by a strong Obama campaign, it can affect turnout. Franken will probably not get all the same voters as Obama, but a strong turnout still helps him. This race will be very close unless one side or the other makes a huge mistake.
Neither side seems to have their base locked up. Although polls show Democrats and Republicans siding with their candidates in large numbers, there are still questions as to how solid that support really is. Franken has a lot of work to do after some effective Republican attacks on his past writings have made some Democrats nervous. Coleman has a Republican base that still doesn't fully trust him -- his latest unnecessary pronouncement about the Mark Olson endorsement could actually backfire on him as party delegates in a very Republican area get upset with perceived "meddling" in their own process.
There is also the Barkley effect. The Independence Party candidate will probably get a vote somewhere between 3 and 7%. Where that vote comes from is hard to tell. Will it be disaffected Democrats? or will it be disaffected Ron Paul supporters? The Ron Paul supporters are not happy with the State GOP and Coleman might get a little of the backlash. Paulites want smaller government and reduced spending -- a message Barkley seems to be embracing. And Coleman has been part of a spendthrift GOP majority that damaged the Republican brand. And of course, there are plenty of Democrats who perceive Franken as damaged goods. Their support may depend on how close Franken can stay to Coleman in the polls. If he looks to be losing near election day, disaffected Democrats could leave in droves and give Coleman a larger than expected win.
Too many variables to figure this one out.Minnesota Legislative Races
Presidential years are usually good to Democrats down the ticket as well. High turnout seems to help Democrats at every level. But this year, the Democrats have a lot of seats to defend. The Republican House caucus can't afford to lose any ground and it doesn't look like national politics will have as much effect on local races this time around.
There are two special elections in the Senate this year, to be held on the same day as the general election. One seat is Democratic and the other is Republican. If the Republicans can win both of those seats, they can break the DFL veto proof majority grip. Which makes the recent meddling by the caucus in the Mark Olson endorsement all the more odd. Democrats only need a split to maintain their status quo.
On the House side, a lot of attention will be paid to the districts of the Override Six. Could those races turn over to Democrats because of a divided local party? In general, House Democrats have a tall order to even maintain the large majority they have. Republicans have a number of closely contested districts that they can send resources to, if for no other reason then they have so few members left in their caucus to defend. Both sides have some vulnerable seats. Democrats will have to defend some south metro areas that usually vote red -- Apple Valley, Eagan, Northfield and Cannon Falls always have close races. Republicans are vulnerable in the other Eagan seat with Lynn Wardlow; and 37B is now open with the retirement of Dennis Ozment -- that race will be watched closely. Will the Rochester area continue its Democratic trending? Will the suburbs be the battleground again? Local issues will dominate... but it is pretty safe to say the Democrats will maintain their majority; the only question is -- how big will it be?
Up and down the ballot the races are about to heat up. It will be another interesting and unpredictable election season.