I think Spot has gotten to the nub of it:
Having the money to have access to the airwaves obviously helped Mark Dayton. But it wouldn’t have mattered at all if he didn’t have a message that resonated with DFL voters.
That’s very important to understand, because I absolutely believe Dayton wan his party’s endorsement because he spoke to the voters who would decide it: DFL voters. His ads focused on issues – support for seniors, support for schools – and remained resolutely on-point. He expressed a worldview that struck a chord with Democratic voters. My mom voted for Dayton, and told me flatly that Dayton “stood for what she believed,” and that she appreciated that.
I know I keep harping on it, but I truly believe Kelliher lost the nomination when she decided to target Matt Entenza for his opposition to No Child Left Behind. NCLB has been a disaster, under both Bush and Obama. And nobody knows this more than teachers and parents. I’m quite willing to pay more in taxes so that my daughter’s teachers can focus on teaching her to think, rather than teaching her how to take high-stakes tests.
Kelliher’s attack on Entenza ultimately hurt her a lot more than it hurt Entenza. My mom’s a public school principal, and spent decades as a public school teacher. Kelliher was endorsed by Education Minnesota, and my mom was very willing to vote for her, before she came out in favor of NCLB. Once she did, however, my mom was done with her. How many more educators and parents throughout the state did just as my mom did? How many more educators and parents said, “Well, if she’s going to support that, I can’t support her?” 4,000? I think so.
Kelliher lost because she was trying to run a general election campaign. Dayton wasn’t – he was focused on the primary. And he presented himself as a defender of DFL values. Ultimately, as a Democrat, I want to be represented by a Democrat on the ballot. I voted for Kelliher – but I seriously considered Dayton for the same reason that my parents ultimately voted for him. If Kelliher was willing to compromise on NCLB, what other issues was she willing to back down on in the name of a balanced approach?
Dayton, for good or ill, is standing for a mainstream DFL agenda. I can respect that. And I understand why he won. Quite frankly, he deserved to. And if the best the GOP can do is to rehash Dayton’s admittedly uneven senate career – a career that Dayton has admitted coincided with a relapse into alcoholism – well, I think he’ll deserve to win in November, too.