Not just the facts: National chatter on MN-01 race


Is a lack of fact-checking a measure of lack of interest? Minnesota’s Republicans are atwitter this morning about Cook’s Political Reports changing its rating of MN-01 from “Solid D” to “Likely D”.

Look more closely, though, and Cook’s list of Republican candidates in the Overview section takes on a fabulist air:

Frank McKinzie, retired gunnery sgt. (1)

Brian Davis, physician, ’08 nominee (3)

Randy Demmer, st. Rep. (3)

Carol Molnau, Lt. Gov. (3)

Julie Rosen, st. Sen. (3)

Only McKinzie and Demmer are in the race, while declared candidate Allen Quist–who has been working the district for nearly two month–is missing in action.

Two other items about the post — Thanksgiving rushlet of Republicans hopping into the contest for their party’s endorsement make Bluestem wonder.

Sharp-eyed friend and Walz supporter Max Halperin left a comment about the CQ Politics “Eye on 2010” post “Walz Draws A Crowd For Minn. House Seat,” regarding this blopper:

The former high school teacher and political outsider [Walz] surprised observers with his open seat in win in 2006. The southern Minnesota district has traditionally been a partisan battleground, narrowly favoring Republican incumbent George W. Bush for president in 2004 and Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.

In reality, the upstart Walz defeated six-term incumbent Gil Gutknecht in 2006.

National Review Online’s Campaign Spot Jim Geraghty does little better in posting about Demmer’s entry into the race yesterday with Another Minnesota Republican Tosses His Hat Into the Ring, by posting an unnamed reader’s email:

Last month, I mentioned that in Minnesota, former gubernatorial candidate Allen Quist was running for the House of Representatives. One reader up there indicated Quist’s style was not his cup of tea, and far from a shoo-in in a district Obama carried by four percent:

This is a man who held an open casket funeral for a miscarriage. He’s a Swedish Republican Alan Greyson [sic] and a parody of conservatism whose political high point was wrestling away the GOP endorsement for governor from RINO Arne Carlson in 1994.
I don’t have another dog in this fight – in fact I don’t think there is another Republican actually running for the seat right now – but Allen Quist is the antithesis of what conservatives should want and need to beat Rep. Tim Walz here in MN.

The reader’s account of the “open casket for a miscarriage” reinvents circumstances in Quist’s personal life. No miscarriage, but rather a detail from the funeral for the Nicollet County Republican’s first wife. Dane Smith told the story in a 1994 Star-Tribune article:

The depth of his conviction on the abortion issue is illustrated in the most traumatic moment in his life. On a winter morning in 1986, Quist’s first wife, Diane, 6 1/2 months pregnant with their 10th child, was on her way to a friend’s house when her car slid off the road and rammed into a drainage ditch. She was killed, along with the unborn child.

Legislators who went to the funeral said they were shocked to see the fetus in the open casket with Diane. It’s a well-traveled anecdote, often used to advance the notion that Quist is weird. He says he felt it was an appropriate and “psychologically healthy” way for the family to grieve its double loss. (“Call him humble or call him weird, he’s giving Carlson a run for governor,” Star Tribune, April 10, 1994, via Nexis, Dec. 2, 2009)

Moreover, Quist is both Norwegian and Swedish, according to the 1994 Smith article, but Bluestem* will let the conservative stalwart duke that one out for himself.

Calling Quist a “parody of conservatism” is probably news to the many conservatives who supported him in 1994 or belong to Edwatch.  And to his wife’s employer, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, whom Quist and First Distict Tea Party Patriots recently joined on the steps of the U.S Capitol, along with the GOP House Leadership. That doesn’t appear to be a parody of contemporary conservative Republicanism, but its leadership and its core.

The St. Peter Republican has long aligned himself with emblematic conservatives. In a 1994 column, “Who is Allen Quist, and why is he making Arne Carlson miserable?,” columnist Doug Grow noted:

So who is this guy, and why is he making Arne Carlson so miserable?

Such moderate Independent-Republicans as Tom Horner, a longtime party operative, say Quist is the sort of extremist who “will lead the party off a cliff.”

In speeches, Quist often sums himself up this way: “If you know what Rush Limbaugh stands for, you know what I stand for.”

Comparing himself to the conservative, bombastic talk-radio host is his No. 1 applause line, Quist says. . . .(“Who is Allen Quist, and why is he making Arne Carlson miserable?, Star Tribune, March 27, 1994, via Nexis, Dec. 2, 2009) 

If anything, the National Review swipe reflects the rumors we’ve heard of panic among more moderate Republicans about the Quist bid. Indeed, Demmer is in the process of being re-branded as a conservative Republican, adopting the same talking point that Quist took up straight out of the gate a month before.

One of the criticisms Demmer’s campaign met with coming into its first-ballot loss at the 2008 First District GOP convention was that he was not sufficiently conservative, as measured by metrics such as the Minnesota Legislative Evaluation Assembly annual reports.

The list of objectionable votes by Demmer posted in a 2008 comment at Residual Forces that suggests Demmer’s outrage at legislative relief that proposes vehicles such insurance exchanges, rather than the free market, is a rather recent emotion.

Indeed, more research might reveal which Republican contender is a parody and which a panderer to the Tea Bagger zeitgeist.

*Sorensen is a Danish name.