So Minnesota House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, has made history; whether she wins or loses in the primary, whether she wins or loses in the general, she’s the first woman ever to earn a major party’s gubernatorial endorsement in the history of Minnesota.
Sadly, it’s 2010. But better late than never. Still, Anderson Kelliher’s joy at winning will undoubtedly be short-lived; former Minnesota House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul; former Sen. Mark Dayton, DFL-Minn.; and Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner all are set to challenge the DFL endorsee for the right to face Marty Seifert or Tom Emmer in November. Ole Savior could always jump in too, so I’m including him on the list, because I like saying “Ole Savior.”
With that said, it’s time to take a look at the four remaining candidates (and Ole too), and see where things stand on the ol’ power board.
1. House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis (LR: 4)
Many people have joked that the DFL endorsement isn’t really that important, myself included. And maybe it isn’t when it comes to winning general elections. But primaries are a different story. Looking back over the last 32 years — all the way back to the first Perpich administration — the DFL has gone with the endorsed candidate every year save one. And that year — 1998 — was the year that Mike Freeman lost to a man whose father literally created the DFL.
And so here we are in 2010, and while Kelliher faces one big name on the ballot — Dayton — her road is no more rocky than, say, John Marty’s in 1994, when he had to get past Mike Hatch and Tony Bouza. Add in the big plus that is the DFL machinery — which will undoubtedly back her to the hilt — and you’ve got a big head start for MAK.
Now, that’s a nice head start, but is it enough to hold off two well-financed challengers? That will depend on how Anderson Kelliher does over the next month or so in consolidating institutional support on the left. She will need to aggressively court union support, as the unions could help provide a ground game to an opponent that would be the equal of what the DFL can give Anderson Kelliher. And she will now have a minefield to negotiate in the legislature — and somehow, I don’t think the Republicans will be eager to give her a hand in making sure things run smoothly.
If Anderson Kelliher can get her ground game in gear, and if she can successfully court institutions on the left, she should have a very good shot at holding serve in August. But she will face stiff opposition, and she will have to mount a very good campaign to make it to November.
2. Former Sen. Mark Dayton, DFL-Minn. (LR: 2)
Dayton remains in second position, as he remains the most well-known candidate in the field, Anderson Kelliher or no.
“Dayton” isn’t quite the name in DFL politics that “Humphrey” is, but it’s not chopped liver, either. Dayton has won statewide races — something MAK, Entenza, and Gaertner have not. Moreover, he’s won a statewide primary against an endorsed candidate before, beating out Jerry Janezich in 2000 for U.S. Senate.
Dayton’s negatives are well-known at this point. He’s a bit flighty. He’s battled depression and substance abuse. He has a tendency to get elected to office, then get bored. But he’s been honest about his negatives, especially about his battle with depression and substance abuse, and voters are often willing to forgive personal foibles if a politician is honest and straightforward about them. And by getting the story out in January of this year, Dayton has neutralized the more overt attacks that could be launched against him.
Dayton’s positives are also well-known — he’s a genuinely decent guy who actually cares about policy and governing and whatnot. And he’s put together winning campaigns before. Can he do it again? Maybe. We’ll know soon.
3. Former State House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, DFL-St. Paul (LR: 3)
I’ve always had the sense that Entenza was more afraid of Rybak than Anderson Kelliher, and who knows? Maybe he was right. That said, for all the air game that he’s assembling, Entenza still has no ground game to speak of, and he remains the least-liked candidate in the race with a chance of winning.
Now, in a three-way race, having half the party dislike you is not necessarily the end of the world; you only have to get about 40 percent of the vote to win, after all. But having talked to a lot of DFLers, I can tell you that Entenza’s is the only name that really draws a strong negative response. (Not saying that Rybak supporters are thrilled about Anderson Kelliher winning; just that given a choice between Anderson Kelliher and Entenza, very few would choose Entenza.)
Entenza is going to get ads up next week, which he can do; he’s got the money. But he’s going to have to do more than just run pretty ads. He’s going to have to actually get out and do some shoe-leather politicking. If he can swing some union support, maybe he can squeeze out a win. But right now, he lacks the institutional support of Anderson Kelliher, and the name recognition of Dayton. He has a lot of money to spend, but likely not much more than Dayton. And far from being seen as a plucky underdog, he’s seen as a guy who’s trying to use family wealth to buy the nomination (which applies to Dayton too, but people know Dayton much better than they know Entenza).
He’s going to have to find a way to neutralize the advantages his opponents have, or this is going to be a costly, unsuccessful run.
4. Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner (LR: 11)
MY TAKE: Susan Gaertner won’t be getting the DFL nomination. She won’t come close to getting the DFL nomination. She won’t come within 1,000 miles of getting the DFL nomination. Anderson Kelliher has party support, Dayton has money and a well-known name, Entenza has money and a lot of drive, and Gaertner has a campaign that has been mostly defined by hastily-put-together emails detailing her thoughts on daily events.
Look, I’m not going to discourage people from posting their hastily-scribbled takes on current events. That’s what I do. But I’m not making my blog the centerpiece of a gubernatorial run. Unless Gaertner has a secret campaign operation that she’s been waiting to spring on the state, she’s got no hope of victory in August.
5. Oleveuse Scorpio Savior (LR: 8)
Ole Savior had both Elvis and Cher impersonators working the floor for him yesterday. Or were they really Elvis and Cher?
No, they were impersonators. But still, Ole Savior!
Falling Out: R.T. Rybak (1), Paul Thissen (5), Tom Rukavina (6), Tom Bakk (7), John Marty (9), Steve Kelley (10),
1. State Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall (LR: 2)
Seifert won his party’s straw poll, and for whatever reason, I have a feeling he’s going to come out with a win at a sharply divided Republican convention.
That would be good for the state. Oh, Marty’s a pretty standard wingnut, but he’s just a standard-issue one, like Tim Pawlenty or John Kline. He’s nowhere near the weapons-grade wingnuttery of Tom Emmer, who would be a disaster as governor. (Yes, I know, Gov. Timmy has been a disaster, and Seifert probably would be too. But Emmer would be more disasterish.)
If Seifert wins, it will be a triumph of a good ground game and a less-bombastic campaign. Of course, that’s the reason Seifert might not win — because he is nowhere near as bombastic as his opponent for the nomination.
2. State Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano (LR: 1)
Emmer is bombastic, ill-tempered, rash, and fairly amusing if he’s a state legislator in the minority of a legislative body. He would be an utter failure as governor. Emmer has yet to show any sign that he has any ability to alter his mode, which is usually set for all-out attack.
That means he would be a failure as a governor, yes. But it doesn’t mean he’d be a failure as a candidate. In many ways, Emmer captures the tea party zeitgeist —angry, loud, not backing down an inch to the dark forces of Muslim Socialist Immigration that are destroying our nation. And in a close fight for the Republican endorsement, that could be enough to put him over the top. Certainly, while he is a slight underdog going into the convention, he’s far from a long-shot.
3. Former Champlin Mayor Bill Haas (LR: 4)
Allegedly he’s still running, I guess. Has no shot whatsoever.
4. Leslie Davis (LR: 5)
Does anyone understand this? Anyone?
Falling Out: David Hann (3), Phil Herwig (6)
1. Tom Horner (LR: NR)
I forgot former Republican activist and IP candidate Tom Horner when I put together my last power rankings. I don’t feel that bad. I’m not going to be the only one. That said, with Joe Repya dropping out, he’s probably got the nomination sewn up.
2. Robbob Hahn (LR: 3)
Has actually put together a campaign that is going absolutely nowhere. But I like the name “Robbob.”
Falling out: Joe Repya (1), John Uldrich (2)