Franken and Dayton Approval Ratings: A Tale of Two Headlines

Two recent Star Tribune headlines brought good news and bad news  to Minnesota DFLers about their top-of-the-ticket candidates, Governor Mark Dayton and U.S. Senator Al Franken.

Dayton approval rating at its highest

Franken remains a divisive figure

Franken_poll_headline_PDF__1_page_Wow, that must mean that Dayton’s poll numbers are dwarfing poor Al Franken’s, right?

Nope.   The actual Minnesota Poll findings told a completely different story than the Star Tribune’s headlines.

A similar number of Minnesotans approved of the jobs Dayton and Franken are doing, 58% and 55% respectively.  About the same number of Minnesotans have a favorable attitude of Dayton and Franken, 36% and 38% respectively.

Both DFL candidates are looking relatively strong at this very early stage of the campaign season.  Both candidates’ approval ratings are above the 50% mark, which is often considered a key benchmark for incumbents.

Franken’s 55% approval rating would be the envy of many other Democratic Senate incumbents around the nation, such as Alaska Senator Mark Begich (41% approve), Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu (40% approve), North Carolina Senator Kay Hagan (36% approve), and Arkansas Senator Mark Prior (37% approve).  Likewise, Dayton’s 58% approval rating is higher than 19 other gubernatorial incumbents facing races in 2014.

It’s true that Senator Franken has extremely high approval ratings among DFLers (97% approve) and extremely low approval ratings among Republicans(15% approve), hence the “divisive figure” headline.  Dayton’s DFL approvers outnumbered his Republican approvers by a massive 4-to-1 margin, but the partisan gap for Dayton was not as large as the partisan gap for Franken.

That kind of large partisan divide is something you see in most political surveys these days.  It is a relevant subplot, but its hardly the most important finding to feature in the front page headline.

In the age of information overload, headlines matter, more than ever.  Headlines are the only thing that many busy news browsers see.  Browsers assume that headlines about a survey feature the most important “bottom line” finding of the survey. The Star Tribune is a very good newspaper, but this was not the Star Tribune at it’s finest.

- Loveland

Now Is The Winter of Our MNbamacare Discontent

So much political analysis is focused on the short-term:  “Which side won yesterday’s news cycle.” But unless it’s the day before an election, such short-term analyses aren’t particularly meaningful.

Hand_of_cards-2The more useful question to ask is this: “On the next Election Day, would I rather be playing the proponents’ or opponents’ hand?”     Applying that question to the issue of MNsure and Obamacare, I’d  much rather be playing the supporters’ hand.

Public relations-wise, MNsure has definitely “lost” many a news cycle over the last several months.  Security breaches, website crashes, protracted customer service waits, and data transfer blunders.  And as we all know, when the going got tough, the tough got going, to a Costa Rican beach, a particularly damaging episode.

These things all hurt, and I don’t mean to diminish them.  MNsure and Obamacare supporters have been dealt bad cards in recent days.  If you’re only focused on the short-term history, it looks like reform supporters might have a very bad political hand to play in the 2014 elections.

But forget about December 2013 for a moment, and consider how things will look like on November 4, 2014.

What GOP Will Be Proposing To Eliminate In 2014

By Election Day 2014, eliminating the reforms will be a more difficult sell, because by that time the reforms will have touched millions of lives in pretty significant ways.  Republican candidates will need to make the case “I will eliminate something that has…”

PAID MILLIONS IN REBATES.  Produced millions of dollars in rebates paid by insurance companies to thousands of Minnesotans and millions of Americans, thanks to an Obamacare provision authored by Minnesota’s U.S. Senator Al Franken.  The provision limits the proportion of premium dollars insurers can use for non-health care expenses, and requires that the difference be paid back in customer rebates.

HELPED THE MOST VULNERABLE MINNESOTANS.  Got 95,000 of Minnesota’s most vulnerable citizens efficiently covered in Medicaid, including about 12,000 uninsured Minnesotans whose medical expenses were being shifted to insured Minnesotans.

COVERED UNINSURED YOUNG ADULTS.  Covered 35,000 Minnesota young adults, who otherwise would have been uninsured and now are able to stay on their parents health policy until age 26.

MADE PRIVATE COVERAGE MORE FEASIBLE.  Offered lower costs in the marketplace to 382,595 Minnesotans who are uninsured or otherwise eligible for subsidies.

HELPED CONTROL HEALTH EXPENDITURES.  Contributed, along with state and health plan-driven reforms, to the slowest growth of health care expenditures since the state began tracking expenses in the mid 1990s, which will immensely help Minnesota’s future fiscal and economic outlook.

ELIMINATED CO-PAYS FOR PREVENTATIVE HEALTH SERVICES.  More than 1.4 million Minnesotans no longer have to shell out co-pays for preventative health care, because of an Obamacare requirement.  This includes things like flu shots, colonoscopies, mammograms and well-child check-ups.

DELIVERED LOWEST PREMIUMS IN THE NATION.  Created a simple-to-understand — though still not simple to use — apples-to-apples insurance marketplace that has prompted competitors to offer Minnesota consumers the lowest insurance premiums in the nation.

ENDED PRE-EXISTING CONDITION BANS.  Made it illegal for private insurance companies to deny coverage due to pre-existing health conditions, something that impacts many of the 2.3 million Minnesotans who have some type of pre-existing condition.

Presentation1Again, I don’t intend to sugar coat the current situation.  It’s been a rough few months for Obamacare and MNsure supporters.  The exchange website, call center, and management problems need to be improved as soon as possible.  Now most definitely is the winter of MNbamacare supporters’ discontent.

But come next fall,  Republican candidates, who offer no viable health care reform plan of their own, will have a very difficult time making the case for elimination of reforms that have been producing strong benefits for millions of Minnesotans.  “Elect me, to increase our rate of uninsurance again!”  “Elect me, to eliminate what you want to work better.”  “Elect me, to bring back pre-existing condition bans for your family!”

MNsure and Obamacare’s 2013 frailties aside, trying to take away those widespread benefits will be a very difficult political hand for the GOP to play in the 2014 elections.

- Loveland

Note:  This post was also republished in MinnPost, and featured in Politics in Minnesota’s Best of the Blogs.

Which MN Candidates Will Sign The Pull-The-Plug Pledge?

Pull_the_plugAs a general matter, I despise campaign pledges.  Candidates are continually badgered by interest groups to pledge in writing that they will always do X, or never do Y.

The Problem With Pledges

The problem with most pledges is the “always” or “never” parts of them.  The world changes, and policy positions therefore sometimes need to change with them.

  • Pledging to not increase taxes today may make sense at one point in history, but a few years later the circumstances may have changed dramatically.
  • Pledging to support a policy or project now may make sense, but not after surprising new information surfaces.
  • Pledging to tax millionaires may make sense at a time when they’re not paying their fair share, but not a few years later when circumstances may have changed.

So sometimes making policy shifts isn’t  a sign of weakness or dishonesty, as pledge enforcers often claim.  Sometimes, shifting is a sign of courage, vision and integrity.

That’s why I don’t like most campaign pledges.

Pull-the-Plug Pledge

But I came across a pledge the other day that fits our times, and has an infinite shelf life.  South Dakota congressional candidate Rick Weiland challenged all congressional candidates to sign this simple pledge:

“I hereby pledge that, if elected to represent you, I will never vote to shut down your government, or to place your government in default, in order to force it to act, or to prevent it from acting, on unrelated issues.” 

As a voter, I want to know where every Minnesota congressional candidate stands on this Pull-The-Plug Pledge.

Flat_line-2If there are candidates out there who think it is acceptable from them to pull the plug on the American people’s government and economy, that is their right.  But it’s also the right of the overwhelming 72% percent of Americans who oppose the Republicans’ current plug-pulling scheme to be forewarned of a congressional candidate’s position on that  issue, so that they can vote with their eyes wide open.

Yes, Americans and their policymakers must always be able to make their government a different size and shape as future circumstances dictate.  This pledge doesn’t prevent them from having such flexibility. It simply says it’s not acceptable to completely pull the plug on the American economy and government.

So, Tim Walz, Mike Benson, John Kline, Mike Obermuller, Paula Overby, Betty McCollum, Keith Ellison, Erik Paulsen, Tom Emmer, Rhonda Sivarajah, Phil Krinkie, John Pederson, Judy Adams, Collin Pederson, Rick Nolan, Stewart Mills III, Monti Moreno, Chris Dahlberg, Mike McFadden, Julianne Ortman, Jim Abeler, and Al Franken, will you sign the Pull-The-Plug Pledge?

- Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured in Politics in Minnesota‘s Best of the Blogs.

Franken Challenger Bachmannesque On Announcement Day

We have a fresh new face on the political scene!  Lazard Middle Market co-CEO Mike McFadden announced yesterday that he is running against freshman incumbent Al Franken to represent Minnesota in the U.S. Senate.

In day one of the post-Bachmann era, the Republicans are finally ready to leave behind Bachmann’s record-setting number of disgraceful Pants-on-Fire ratings from the non-partisan fact-checking organization, PolitiFact.

Surely a guy who does financial asset management for a living will be especially accurate when it comes to fiscal policy.  Indeed, yesterday CEO Mike came out with his HP 12C finance calculator a blazin.’ Continue reading

How In the World Did Minnesota GOPers Screw Up Their Golden Opportunity?

I have a prediction, though not a particularly prescient one.  Minnesota Republicans will say they lost the election because of bad candidates.  Mitt Romney, Kurt Bills, and the Tea Party-supported freshmen legislators were all just bad candidates, they will say.

“Victory has a thousand fathers, and defeat is an orphan,” as John F. Kennedy observed, and in the coming days a lot of Republican candidates will be orphaned.

But for their own good, Republican leaders need to objectively ponder this question:  Bad candidates, or bad policies? Continue reading

Brodkorb Says Gay Marriage Opponents Are Being Used As Political Pawns. Photo ID Supporters Too?

Michael Brodkorb, former top political strategist for Minnesota Republicans, recently made it perfectly clear that the Republican-proposed gay marriage ban amendment was motivated by politics, not principles.

As WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler reported:

 In an interview with WCCO, Mr. Brodkorb Continue reading

Bills’ Minnesota Currency Proposal: Change We Can Believe In?

U.S. Senator Amy Kloubachar’s virtually invisible campaign opponent Kurt Bills borrows many of his policy ideas from his mentor, libertarian presidential candidate Ron Paul.  One of the least discussed of Bills’ proposals is his call for Minnesota to consider issuing its own currency.

Like Congressman Paul, Mr. Bills backs a national return to the gold standard.  In addition, Bills has sponsored state legislation to study whether Minnesota should adopt an alternative currency.  Bills’ bill (H.F. 1664):

“A joint legislative committee is established to study the adoption of an alternative currency by and for the state of Minnesota and its citizens, in response to the abdication by the United States Congress of its constitutional duty to regulate the value of its money, which it has failed to do through the Federal Reserve System.”

Financial experts are not so sure about Mr. Bills’ state currency idea.  For instance David Parsley, a professor of economics and finance at Vanderbilt University was quoted by CNN saying:

“Having 50 Feds” could debase the U.S. dollar and even potentially lead the country into default.  The single currency in the United States is working just fine.  I have no idea why anyone would want to destroy something so successful — unless they actually wanted to destroy the country.”

Despite the naysayers, the prospect of having a cool new state currency raises many creative possibilities for Minnesotans.

Name.  For instance, what would we call the new Minnesota currency?

MinneDollar quickly comes to mind, but that seems much too obvious.  Plus, if the dollar collapses, as Mr. Bills foresees, “MinneDollar” wouldn’t inspire much confidence, now would it?

Alternatively, perhaps Minnesota’s dollar could be called “ “The Viking,” to symbolize our ability to dust ourselves off after humiliating defeats, and come back for more humiliating defeats, without ever seeing the epic futility of it all.  Very Minnesotan.

Or, the corporatist Republicans controlling the Legislature might prefer to sell off the naming rights of the new Minnesota currency for a price, to someone like Twin Cities Federal (TCF) Bank, which  already owns the naming rights to a largely taxpayer-funded stadium, and is run by a former GOP Party Chairman.  Yes, Minnesota’s equivalent to “the dollar” could be called “The TCF.”

Finally, there is always “The Gopher.” What better name to carry on Minnesota’s rich tradition of picking really humiliating names to represent our state?  Plus, “Golden Gopher?”  Gold standard?  Get it?

Faces.  After we name our new currency, we, of course, need to put a good face on it.

America’s first President, George Washington, preferred faceless money.  He was staunchly opposed to putting President’s images on U.S. currency.  Modest George thought doing so was too self-aggrandizing, elitist and monarchical.  In other words, George was a socialist.

However, something tells me that the likes of Jesse Ventura and Tim Pawlenty wouldn’t let modesty get in the way of monetary immortality for themselves.  So we’ll let those former Governors fight it out to determine whose face is on our new Minnesota currency.

Why did I leave current Governor Mark Dayton off my list?  Ah shucks, Modest Mark doesn’t need that.  (Owning most of the new currency is good enough for him.)

Motto.  After our currency has a name and a face, it would need a motto, something akin to the saying on U.S. currency, “In God We Trust.”

If we go with selling off the naming rights, as contemplated above, I guess we’d need the new currency motto to be “Your convenience bank.”  Stop whining, it will grow on you.

“In Ron Paul We Trust” also could work, since Mr. Paul is the brainchild of all this, and because he is treated like a deity by his adoring followers.

But given the Minnesota Republicans’ obsession with proving they are tighter with the Almighty than everyone else, the GOP-controlled Legislature would probably make the motto something more like “In God We Trust, Unlike the Godless Liberals.” Bam.  On-message.

The more I think about it, though, the more I think my vote for the new Minnesota currency name goes to “The Loon.” I know it’s hackneyed.  But loons are graceful creatures with a gorgeous call that is closely associated with Minnesota’s iconic lakes.   Loons are our State Bird.  “Common Loons” are both beautiful and “common,” just like the great people of Minnesota.

Besides, “The Loon” perfectly captures the merits of the Mr. Bills’ idea.

- Loveland

Note:  This post was also featured in the Politics in Minnesota Morning Report “Best of the Blogs” feature, as well as a “best of the best” in Minnpost’s Blog Cabin feature.

Film Premier: Bills’ Choice

Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills apparently has produced a movie trailer to promote his forthcoming short “film,” Staring at the Future.

In an oh so artsy black-and-white trailer for the film, Bills, doing a pretty fair Rod Sterling imitation, warns viewers:

 “The right choice will lead to growth and family. The wrong choice:  Despair.”

But the full film won’t be released until tonight at 9 p.m., leaving us hanging in agonizing suspense to guess what Bills’ Choice is about.  What a tease!

 

It would be way too tedious and predictable for Bills’ film to be another detail-free sermon about debt reduction.  He’s already been doing that for months.

So maybe Bills’ film will  finally offer some details about his policy agenda.  Maybe we’ll find out what “Bills’ Choice” actually is for Minnesotans.

  • The choice of whether to enact Congressman Ryan’s family-cutting, growth-killing austerity budget?
  • The choice of whether to enact the heroin and prostitution legalization proposals of Ron Paul, Bills’ choice for President?
  • The choice of whether to invest in pro-family, pro-growth education, health care and infrastructure improvements, investments that polls show most Americans are choosing?

In real life, these are the choices Bills’ campaign poses to Minnesotans.  So will art imitate life?

- Loveland