With recent polls showing Mike Hatch in a virtual dead-heat with Gov. Tim Pawlenty, DFLers are probably not going to argue with the attorney general’s election campaign, but there are serious questions about Hatch’s commitment to the party after he refused to have DFL sample ballots printed for the primary, apparently because his choice for attorney general, Lori Swanson, was not on the ticket.
The DFL-endorsed AG candidate, Steve Kelley, reportedly was not pleased with Hatch’s work on behalf of Swanson, which clearly had an effect on Kelley’s disappointing primary performance. But DFL loyalists remain true to Hatch nonetheless—a fact I’d suggest is mostly due to the party’s long absence from the governor’s office. Indeed, according to one insider in the Becky Lourey campaign, those loyalists dispatched “a lot of very ugly mail” to Lourey, taking her to task for not supporting the DFL’s endorsed candidate.
Given Hatch’s lack of party loyalty over the years, the double standard he and his supporters are practicing is particularly ironic. And it could end up hurting him in the November election. A Lourey campaign source told me that a lot of Minneapolis progressives are looking elsewhere for someone to support for governor. “I think Mike Hatch is going to have trouble with progressives,” he said.
That may be good news for the Green Party’s Ken Pentel and bad news for those “lesser of the two evils” voters who are keen to see Pawlenty retire to the private sector where he belongs. With the race looking to be extremely tight, Hatch can’t afford to have progressives siphoned from his base of support—especially with Independence Party hopeful Peter Hutchinson already grabbing some moderate DFLers.
There’s plenty of time for Hatch to mend those fences, of course, but it’s an open question whether he’s capable of such contrition. My guess is that he’s banking on a weak Pentel run (a fair assumption, given Pentel’s lack of energy and optimism this time around) and a surplus of anti-Pawlenty sentiment to get him over the top in November.
Then the question becomes: Can he govern a DFL-dominated legislature after having so blatantly dismissed party protocol during the campaign?