Category: Congressional Races
Posted: 08/10/16 21:50
by Dave Mindeman
There is a bit of a narrative being run by some of the Washington press analysts that spins things in the 2nd Congressional District. This narrative revolves around the Lewis vs Craig contest. Amber Phillips, one of the writers for the Washington Post blog, "The Fix" summed things up
this way:The most recent example of this (incumbent not supporting the outsider candidate) played out Tuesday night in the primary for a swing seat in Minnesota's Twin Cities suburbs -- a fall race that could be one of the most competitive in the country.
A former talk radio host who has called young, single women "not-thinking," questioned the need to have fought the Civil War and said the "white population" has been "committing political suicide" and "cultural suicide" won the four-way primary in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District.
Roll Call compared Jason Lewis to a mini-Trump. Outgoing Rep. John Kline (R) hasn't endorsed him. Despite not raising much money, he beat out a business executive with plenty of establishment support and won with 46 percent of the vote.
OK, while this narrative is mostly correct on the facts (Lewis won with 49% of the vote and was the Party endorsee), there are some things that Phillips did not take into account.
First, the turnout in this primary was historically, excruciatingly low. In a 4 way contest for this GOP Congressional race, the total district wide vote was less than 24,000 voters. Lewis won with 11,642 votes. That leads to a couple of conclusions....one, the Party endorsement, weak as it has become, did carry him through this....despite very little money and despite virtually no media spending.
Secondly, it spoke volumes about how weak the rest of the field was. We heard all of this talk about how Kline's endorsement and fundraising prowess would make Darlene Miller a contender. Well, it didn't. Miller was a horrible candidate and Kline's influence has already been greatly diminished in activist circles. Kline never was much of a party player - he reeks of Washington establishment and as he moved into a leadership role in Washington, his local ties to the 2nd District Party faded away.
John Howe was never really serious about committing himself to the race. He dabbled on the margins, but left his personal money on the sidelines. He seemed to be looking for some kind of grass roots groundswell of support - it never happened because he never attempted to cultivate it. And as for Matt Erickson, all you can say is that he was so off the wall that all he really did is give Lewis some cover on the crazy.
What is interesting about the Washington Post take on this race is that the talking points about Lewis are already in the mainstream. The things he said during his radio days have reached the national press level. Darlene Miller made a feeble attempt to make that part of the local campaign, but despite all the Kline promise of fundraising, she never had the capacity to get her message any amplification.
But Angie Craig does get to benefit from that. She can make that message stick and we will have to see if Lewis can get enough money raised to make a defense that can rise about the noise.
Most of the national media that rates these races have moved the 2nd District into a leans Democrat column. Whether that is real or not remains to be seen, but Craig gets a head start on all of that. Jason Lewis will be very easy to tie to Donald Trump - and it looks like Trump will be a real drag on Minnesota candidates. Lewis isn't running away...he's trying to put a libertarian spin on what Trump says. Whether that can work or not remains to be determined.
This race has come a long way from last year. Angie Craig has done things in the right way. She has established and entrenched herself into the Democratic Party here, and she is establishing her own business type credentials while merging it with a labor and jobs message. She has raised enough money to make that message stick.
I'm not sure the Washington types have seen enough of the underlying dynamics to make realistic judgments of what is going on in the 2nd District, but they are pretty much getting to the same conclusion.
Angie Craig starts this race with the advantage.