PPP survey, August 2015.
PPP survey, August 2015.
But yesterday, when Senator Coleman announced to his followers via Twitter that he has decided not to run for Governor in 2014, his political obituary got the political equivalent of crickets in the Star Tribune — three column inches on the very back page of the Local section, imbedded in the weather coverage. Continue reading
Minnesota Senator Al Franken doesn’t have a high profile challenger yet in the 2014 U.S. Senate race. People don’t seem to be flocking to run against Franken at a time when a January 2013 Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey is finding that Senator Franken is leading former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman by 6 points, Congressman John Kline by 8 points, Congressman Erik Paulsen by 11 points and Congresswoman Michele Bachman by 14 points.
Despite these findings, 45% of Minnesota Republicans want to nominate Bachmann to oppose Franken. I would be in Blogger Heaven if a Franken-Bachmann race came to be, but I find it difficult to imagine that I, or Franken, could possibly be so lucky.
Given that the conventional candidates like Coleman looks to be taking a pass at the Senate race, maybe it’s time for the Minnesota GOP brain trust to get unconventional. These are some of the match-ups that I personally day dream about: Continue reading
So, Norm Coleman won’t rule out a run for Minnesota Governor. Well, let’s see, what has Norm been doing to ingratiate himself with Minnesota voters since he lost to Al Franken in 2008? He:
2) Became a Super PAC (Congressional Leadership Fund) political hit man doing the dirty work for a group of Tea Party-controlled House members sporting a 9% approval rating, an all-time historic low.
Americans spend something like $5 billion per year on Halloween. Dressing up in costumers has become an increasingly popular form of escapism for stressed out adults. In fact, some retail outlets now report that more costumes are sold to adults than children.
This led us to wonder what our favorite Minnesota Republican politicians are dressing up as this year? Wry Wing Politics did a little investigative reporting:
Kurt Bills. The rarely spotted U.S. Senate candidate challenging popular Senator Amy Kloubachar is reportedly going as Waldo, of the Where’s Waldo puzzle books. Mr. Bills is out there in one of Minnesota’s 87 counties. Can YOU find him?
Mary Franson. The state legislator who infamously attempted to draw a parallel between not giving families in need Food Stamps and not feeding wild animals, is dressing up as a wild game hunter.
Michelle Bachman. The Member of Congress who maintains that we need to “wean” Minnesotans off of popular programs such as Social Security and Medicare, is going as a, um, weaner.
Michael Brodkorb. Brodkorb is the Minnesota Senate staffer who admitted to having an affair with a married Senate leader, and is threatening to commit mass politicide by naming others at the State Capitol who Brodkorb says also had extramarital affairs. Mr. Brodkorb is dressing up as the personification of death, The Grim Reaper. Will anyone answer the door when he comes knocking?
Allen Quist. Allen Quist is a former state legislator, current congressional candidate and ever creative Creationist who edits a website that says that dinosaurs lived alongside human beings as recently as the 12th Century. To educate more Minnesota children about this little known scientific fact, Mr. Quist is dressing up as Pope Innnocent III’s papal pet “Barney.”
Kurt Zellers. The Minnesota House Speaker who created confusion at the Capitol last year when he announced that he was going to oppose the Vikings Stadium bill, but hoped that it would pass, is dressing up as comic book figure Two-Face.
Tim Pawlenty. Former Presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty is dressing up as, get this, a banking lobbyist. Eeeek! For a nation that has suffered mightily since the banksters’ wreckless practices caused a financial meltdown, it doesn’t get much scarier than this.
Norm Coleman. Former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman is going scary too. He is dressing up as a slimey leader of a corporate Super PAC. This costume is all the rage this year with little Republicans. With millions of Americans hiding from the political pollution brought to us by Super PACs like Coleman’s, the Super PAC Man is the new Freddy Krueger.
What a fright! Then, six days after Halloween, Minnesota voters will face the same question posed on October 31: Trick or treat?
Minnesota’s top DFLers got good news from a recent Public Policy Polling survey. They are receiving public support that dwarfs Minnesota’s leading Republicans. The approval rating for Senator Al Franken stands at 49% and the approval rating for Governor Mark Dayton is at 48%, while the favorability ratings for former Governor Tim Pawlenty (40%), former U.S. Senator Norm Coleman (35%), and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (29%) are much lower.
Moreover, Franken would handily defeat any of the three top Republicans if the election were held today. Franken would defeat Bachmann by 12 points, Pawlenty by 7 points, and Norm Coleman, who Franken barely defeated two years ago, by 7 points.
Why are top DFLers polling so much stronger than top Republicans? Some might theorize that these DFLers are simply more talented and charismatic politicians, and that explains the gap.
But in terms of being articulate media magnates, the top three Republicans are more accomplished than the top two DFLers. Former comedian and talk show host Franken is obviously capable of being articulate and grabbing the spotlight. But the fact is, Franken has been very low key since becoming a U.S. Senator two years ago. Dayton is an earnest but awkward communicator, and is easily the most low-key of the bunch. At the same time, Pawlenty, Coleman and Bachmann are very articulate leaders who regularly get themselves on national news programs. But despite the charisma gap, Franken and Dayton are much more popular with Minnesotans.
If political talent and charisma don’t explain why top DFL politicians are more popular than top GOP politicians, another theory might be that ideology is behind the gap. That is, maybe Minnesota is becoming a more progressive state these days.
However, that doesn’t bear out in PPP’s polling on state legislative races.
When asked who they are inclined to support in a state legislative race in their district, Minnesotans are split, with the generic DFL candidate chosen by 47% of the respondents and the generic GOP candidate chosen by 44% of the respondents, a 3% margin that falls within the 3.4% margin of cerror.
So, what explains the difference between the strong performance of top of the ticket DFLers and the mediocre performance of the DFLers in the state legislature?
It’s far from the only explanation, but one big factor is messaging. The messaging of Franken and Dayton is clear and consistent, and it is proving to be compelling with Minnesotans. On the other hand, DFL legislative candidates are offering up a cacophony of scattershot messages that each individual candidate crafts on their own to appeal to their respective districts.
I’ve argued that legislative candidates should unite under a common statewide campaign theme along the lines of “replace the worst legislature ever,” to make the election into a referendum on the unpopular GOP-controlled Legislature. After all “worst ever” is the verdict Minnesotans have given the current GOP-controlled Legislature, with a 19% approval rating, which appears to be the lowest level ever recorded. That kind of sticky, unifying campaign umbrella would convert the the legislators’ confusing cacophony into the kind of consistent messaging that is benefiting top-of-the-ticket DFLers.
Whether caused by messaging or something else, the gap between the performance of the upper echelon DFLers and the DFLers in the State Legislature is striking. DFL legislative candidates would be wise to study the approaches of Franken and Dayton, and replicate them.
Note: This post was also featured in Politics in Minnesota’s “Best of the Blogs” feature.
When Al Franken announced in 2007 that he was running for the Minnesota U.S. Senate seat then held by Norm Coleman, I was worried whether he could sell in the land of Minnesota Nice. Like others, I had an image of what I expected to see in Senator Al Franken. I expected to see a wise-cracking, fire-breathing, attention-seeking political hack who was constantly making mild mannered Minnesotans roll their eyes during an endless tour of contentious cable TV and talk radio appearances.
In other words, I expected Senator Al to be a lot like the Al that appeared on Air America Radio, and in books with titles like “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.” I expected him to be, well, Michele Bachmann. And Bachmann doesn’t sell statewide.
Last night, I was reminded once again how wrong I was. During MSNBC coverage of the Democratic Convention, host Rachel Maddow, Al’s former Air America Radio colleague, became positively giddy when the network secured a very brief, non-substantive interview with Franken. Maddow repeatedly noted that Franken doesn’t give interviews to national media outlets, even to liberal outlets, even to outlets populated by his pleading friends and former colleagues. As Senator, Franken apparently has gone cold turkey on cable.
Moreover, what Franken said last night in the MSNBC interview was telling. He repeatedly tried to put the national spotlight on his fellow Minnesotans, not just himself. And frankly, he was only mildly funny, and pretty boring.
I have to imagine this is all by design. Underexposed by design. Locally focused by design. Only mildly humorous by design. Dispassionate by design. Franken and his team have successfully navigated the evolution of Firebrand Comedian Franken, a national figure, to Thoughtful Senator Franken, a Minnesota figure.
And in Minnesota, it’s working. Here is what a recent Public Policy Polling survey found about Franken’s political strength at home:
Al Franken’s proven to be a stronger than might have been expected Senator. 50% of voters approve of him to 36% who disapprove. Democrats have ended up being pretty universally happy with him (85/4) and he’s strong with independents as well (48/33).
Franken leads hypothetical contests with Minnesota’s three leading Republicans. He has a 51-41 advantage over Norm Coleman, a 52-41 one over Tim Pawlenty, and a 57-35 advantage on Michele Bachmann. It’s impossible to say what the political climate will look like in 2014, but at least for now Franken finds himself in a strong position.
In 2008, Franken defeated Norm Coleman, now a Super PACman, by the slimmest of margins. Now, polls show he would defeat Coleman handily, as well as the state’s other leading Republicans.
The lesson? Al is minding his Minnesota manners, and it matters to Minnesotans.
Note: This post was also featured in the Politics in Minnesota Morning Report “Best of the Blogs” feature