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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

The Challenge For Democrats in District 2

Category: Congressional Races
Posted: 04/10/12 01:21, Edited: 04/10/12 01:22

by Dave Mindeman

Over the course of the next week I hope to post some interviews I have been doing with the District 2 Congressional candidates.

But before we get to know them, what are they up against?

There has been a lot of talk about how District 2 has changed...for the bluer. And yes, that is somewhat true, but it is not as big an opportunity as it would seem. We basically trade one very red area for one very blue area and the theoretical margins involving DFL to GOP is closer to 50-50 than it ever has been.

That is the only good news.

Problems: Although we have 3 candidates stepping forward, they are getting in relatively late. I am sure the court redistricting timetable had a lot to do with that, but a Congressional campaign starting from scratch at this juncture will find themselves behind all year long.

Secondly, Congressman Kline is an old hand at this and is certainly what we could call an "entrenched" incumbent. He has had several terms to define himself the exact way he wants to be portrayed and a challenger will have a very difficult time changing that.

Thirdly, and most importantly, it's the money. Kline has a $1 million cash on hand war chest to begin with and almost limitless untapped resources that a Congressional Committee Chairman has at his or her beckon call. And, with corporate donations as part of the mix, the pot gets bigger and bigger.

Sorry to be painting such a bleak picture, but we have to be honest about what the district is up against. If one of these candidates is going to have a chance, the following must be in place as soon as possible:

1. An easily translatable message.
2. Professional fundraising resources.
3. A candidate willing to work harder than anyone has before.
4. A volunteer base that is loyal and expandable.
5. Can articulate good talking points on a wide variety of issues.
6. Willing to pound media for messaging and challenges to Kline.

Those are basic needs but also very hard challenges to pull together in a short time.

Over the course of this next week I hope to help you learn more about your 2nd District choices.

Endorsing convention is April 28th, so we don't have much time.
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Strategies for 2012 Are Complicated

Category: Congressional Races
Posted: 09/29/11 12:35

by Dave Mindeman

A couple of progressive blogs posed some interesting questions. MNPublius (Where should DFLers spend their money in 2012?) asks the relevant question as we prepare for 2012. And this post was in response to Eric Pusey at MN Progressive Project (Bachmann, Cravaack and Kline: against which villain should we spend our money)?

Those are key questions for the DFL moving into another crucial year.

The summation of these questions by the authors goes something like this....

Jeff Rosenberg (MN Publius)

That?s why our other priority must be retaking the legislature. If we don?t control the legislature, we?ll spend every election fighting off constitutional amendments. A failure to focus in this election will mean years of distraction and wasted money in the future. For that reason, failing to control the legislature now will make it more difficult to win Congressional races in the future.

Consider this election a tactical retreat. The DFL needs to shore up its strongholds and reform its lines. While it would be great to make gains in Congress by winning in CD2, CD3, or CD6, the win won?t be worth it if it allows the GOP to maintain control over the legislature or CD8.

Eric Pusey at MN Progressive Project asks a more open question...

Kline's district stretches from the Mississippi in the east to Carver County in the west. The south metro keeps getting bluer. Kline continues to win because of inertia and Carver county. If Kline's district were to gain precincts in West St. Paul and/or lose a few precincts out in the western counties and we can find a solid challenger, it becomes a blue district.

If Paulsen gains a few precincts from MN-05 and doesn't move westward, its a blue district. Once again a solid challenger could take this seat easily then.

If Bachmann's district shifts westward into a more conservative district, should we bother spending any money against her? Why not spread the wealth around?

If credible candidates appear in MN-02 and MN-03, why not split up the $6M amongst them and Cravaack's opponent? Or will MN-02 never get their act together, a strong candidate will never appear in MN-03 and we should just dump everything into defeating Cravaack?

What do y'all think?

If you look at the comments you can see that the answers are all over the board.

So, how do we weigh in here? I guess it becomes a question of whether the DFL can walk and chew gum at the same time. There are a number of avenues and all of them should be addressed but I guess it becomes a matter of priorities.

Here's some of the relevant points:

1) The ballot questions will carry themselves. Groups are forming that will be devoted to the ballot questions in their own right. We can and should support these groups but the DFL needs to worry about its own races. I am in no way diminishing their importance...in fact, they are crucial to meeting Democratic goals, but resources need to be spread around.

2) Second District focus should be legislative. Kline is pretty close to a sure thing in the 2nd. He has a powerful position and he continues to have nearly unlimited sources of financing. Democratic challengers have difficulty raising money in this district. No network is in place or being worked on. Frankly, Shelley Madore, even though she challenged the endorsement, ran one of the best message campaigns the district has ever seen. The only problem with it was there was no monetary way to amplify it.
The district is getting somewhat "bluer" but a building strategy is in order. There are several legislative races that can be turned to help with taking the legislature. They should get priority and build on winning candidates to take the district back when Kline is either more vulnerable or retired.

3) Third District should focus on several fronts. The third needs to simply work on a strong get out the vote campaign. In a Presidential year (and the money that goes with it), the 3rd District needs to mine its Democratic and independent votes. This district should be strong against Constitutional amendments and if the Obama campaign gets back in gear, they should be solid for the President. A number of legislative races can be turned as well. As for Paulsen...that will be a little more difficult, but if the DFL candidate can mount a credible campaign and turnout is high, even he could fall. Voter turnout is the key to all of it.

4) 8th District is best chance for Congressional gain. Cravaack is obviously the best chance for a DFL turnover. It is somewhat unfortunate that Tarryl Clark decided to make the "carpetbag" move and challenge for the DFL nomination. This district is not hurting for credible DFL challengers. But, whoever, the nominee is, there should be solid DCCC support and plenty of district volunteers. They do need a candidate who can prove to be a money raiser. Cravaack will get GOP and corporate support. Clark's only chance as a nominee here would be to prove that her money raising last cycle was not just an anti-Bachmann deluge. On the legislative front, there are selective districts to work hard with but money priority will have to be against Cravaack.

5) The Bachmann Question. The DFL has been burned so often with Bachmann emphasis, that the feelings this year are to just ignore her district and utilize resources elsewhere. As I have pointed out, I think that would be a mistake. Bachmann is depleting her considerable monetary resources and if she decides to come back to her "second" favorite state, it will be as a severely wounded Congressional candidate. Her national donor base will be moving on to other, greener pastures. And her district base may not be enough to make it happen again. If a DFL candidate could demonstrate early fundraising capability (and that means right now), the chance to defeat Bachmann once and for all would be tempting for national Democratic fundraisers. But in order to do that, a candidate must show an ability to attract local money. Money begets money in fundraising. Now, it is possible that Bachmann might get some help by the conservative turnout on the Marriage Discrimination Amendment voting, but that works both ways....turnout for both sides will be heavy. There are legislative opportunities in the 6th as well...and they should not be ignored. The DFLers in the legislature need every seat possible and that is why the DFL must tie all of it together.
And let's not forget that the 6th could, in reality, become an open seat. After tasting the national stage, Bachmann could very well decide to take the lucrative TV contract and turn herself into a national "Glenn Beck" figure. Of course, that would make the establishment of a DFL candidate NOW, even more important.


There is a lot of uncertainty about 2012. Obama, at the moment, looks like a weakened candidate. But even in his current weakened state, he still polls better than all of the Republican possibilities.

It will be hard to work against massive corporate funding. I hope that there will be heavy hitters on the Democratic side as well to offset some of this, because if the Democrats don't make real progress in 2012, we could have a long way to come back.

Concentrating resources on legislative races only (although I do understand the reasoning) is too narrow a focus to make the money utilized work most efficiently. State wide races are the best way to maximize turnout. Legislative campaigns will need to find ways to tag along with them. The ballot questions will bring in outside money and will stimulate turnout....it is important that local campaigns find ways to latch onto that turnout.

2012 is going to be a challenge. Progressives need to be fully engaged to make the gains that are desperately needed. We have to maximize monetary resources by putting it in places that can give more. But, bottom line, we will need to increase monetary support in general. We have to pay now or we will get locked into a big money donor vise that will make future progress all but impossible.
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MN Congressional District Musings

Category: Congressional Races
Posted: 06/03/11 15:02

by Dave Mindeman


When it comes to the 2012 Congressional races, its Medicare. It is the first campaign theme, it is the essence of campaign mailings, it is your first game, your middle game, and its your end game.

In Minnesota, we have 4 Republican Congressional Districts. They are Medicare districts...they are all Medicare districts. The time to prepare, the time to get in....is NOW.

The Congressional lines are going to be drawn by the courts. We do not know the final borders, but there won't be any crazy gerrymandering going on, so the essence of the districts will probably stay pretty much the same with expansion or contraction based on population. So, it behooves the Democrats in Minnesota to move forward with things as they are and make the adjustment later. DO NOT WAIT FOR THE COURTS.

SECOND DISTRICT: (John Kline) Dan Powers has already announced a DFL run. Powers is not going to strike fear in the heart of Mr. Committee Chairman Kline, but Dan will probably have a clearer shot at keeping the Democrats together this time around. And as for Dan Powers the candidate, there is nothing wrong with him that $1.5 to $2 million in the campaign coffers, wouldn't cure. On the issues, he is fine. And with Medicare as his ally, he can make some noise.

EIGHTH DISTRICT: I doubt there will be any trouble getting a Democratic field to challenge Chip Cravaack. Tarryl Clark is willing to move to take him on. Duluth City Councilman Jeff Anderson has thrown his hat in the ring as well. And I doubt that will end the field. Democrats have a good chance at retaking this seat. They just need to raise the money and stay on message. Medicare.

THIRD DISTRICT: Erik Paulsen voted against Medicare. That is a campaign. Who's willing to do it? I am a bit chagrined that we don't have candidates clamoring all over themselves here. This is a winnable race. Sure, Paulsen has been doing a lot of the constituent service things necessary, but for gosh sakes, its Medicare! Jim Meffert should take another swing at it or one of the legislators should start things up. Somebody...anybody. This is the time.

SIXTH DISTRICT: I expect the conventional thinking is that Michele Bachmann can't be beaten here unless the district is totally changed. Well, let's go over the variables. The Sixth is the district that will probably see the most physical change in the redistricting process. Any new area that comes in will be less likely to accept the Bachmann antics as "normal".

Bigger than that is Bachmann's probable Presidential run. Her ego just can't hold her back. And if Bachmann thinks that press scrutiny has been intense before.....wow. Every single one of those gaffes is going to make the NY Times and the Washington Post. The catering of Iowa social conservatives will be doubly evaluated by independents all over the country.

The poor little 6th District of Minnesota will be neglected for the next 6 to 8 months at least. Is there a Democrat out there willing to step into the void?

And consider this. Although I have always been of the opinion that Michele Bachmann, as a Presidential candidate, will implode at just about any point, she will still command a substantial following that the other candidates can't ignore. It is entirely possible that the Tea Party, et al, will carry enough weight that the eventual nominee will have to be accountable to them. And what might that mean? A potential Bachmann Vice Presidential candidacy? After all, who will the Tea Party most coalesce around? Jim DeMint? He won't help a ticket being from South Carolina. Mike Huckabee? Sure, but he won't give up a TV gig for a VP slot. Tim Pawlenty? He doesn't yet have Tea Party bona fides. Sarah Palin? Been there, disastered that.

And if Bachmann should happen to get that VP slot, where are the Democrats in a now open seat?

Not saying it will happen....just for your consideration.
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