In an era of extreme partisan polarization, DFL Governor Mark Dayton and Republican former Governor Arne Carlson have teamed up in an interesting bipartisan effort to defeat the highly partisan voter restriction constitutional amendment.
While I admire the integrity of both men, let’s just say these are not two of the more perky pitchmen you’ll ever hear. Minnesota has been host to the filming of Grumpy Old Men, Grumpier Old Men, and, now, Grumpiest Old Men.
For his part, Carlson has long been the Oscar the Grouch of Minnesota politics, perpetually fussing about all things fiscal. The former State Auditor never met a spreadsheet that hasn’t made him sputter. Governor Carlson was never mistaken for The Happy Warrior during his time in office. No, he was known by both friend and foe as “Governor Grumpy,” and the nickname was well-earned.
Similarly, the anhedonic Governor Dayton has established himself as the Eyeore of the left, leading Minnesotans forward earnestly and droopily. While the Grinch’s heart was two sizes too small, Dayton’s heart may well be two sizes too big, because he oozes agony over the constant stream of bad news for under-priveleged people flowing out of the GOP-controlled Legislature. When the world weary Dayton appears on the TV with more bad budget news to report, I hide the sharp objects in our house.
You might think that an ad featuring this non-dynamic duo engaged in an epic grimace-off could be too depressing to be effective, even for emotionally flat Minnesotans.
But it seems to work, because what Dayton and Carlson lack in charisma they make up in political good will. Dayton’s approval rating is running around 50% these days, which is about 30-points stronger than the GOP-controlled Legislature that dreamed up this amendment. Carlson left office with an approval rating in the 70′s, about thirty points higher than his Republican successor Tim Pawlenty. Clearly, dour sells in Minnesota.
Recent polls are finding that the voter restriction amendment probably will pass, which will be an embarrassment and a tragedy for a state that has historically led the nation in encouraging voting. But support levels for the amendment have decreased significantly in recent weeks, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed. If anyone can cast a dark cloud over this shameful voter restriction proposal, maybe it’s Governors Glum and Glummer.
Note: This also appeared in Politics in Minnesota’s “Best of the Blogs” feature.