Comparing the DFL Primary Candidates – Pro and Con


OK…it’s been a while since I posted here, so let’s stir things up a bit. We’ll bypass the candidate press releases and delve a little deeper past the spin machine. Many of you have made up your mind for that August 10th primary date, but who emerges from that primary is going to carry the hopes of every Minnesota Democrat. So lets examine things from the outside looking in. What will the general electorate of Minnesota get from the DFL candidate and just as importantly, what kind of Republican attacks can we expect?


Mark continues to poll well when matched up with Emmer and Horner.   That’s a very good thing.  He also has a significant primary advantage — he polls very well with seniors.   Seniors vote and the August 10th winner will be all about turnout.  Mark is a solid progressive…his vocalization of bringing fairness back to our tax system resonates with Democrats and probably a good portion of independents (depending on how it is structured).  Dayton has experience.  He has been through these types of wars many times and his success rate has been very good.  Moneywise, Dayton will probably self-finance a large portion of his campaign — although the Dayton money is probably not as deep as it once was and his fundraising abilities will still come into play.

There is always a but….  Mark’s final years in the Senate were not his best political performance and the Republicans will be more than willing to point that out.   When he closed his office early in response to “outside threats”, it was not understood or well received by Minnesota constituents.  The Republican attacks on this point will be hard and relentless.  Mark has given his explanations but I have to admit that they seem a little weak.   I understand that he wanted to keep his staff out of harm’s way, but why was his the only office that took such measures?  Mark will need a stronger counter argument.  There is a danger that the GOP will be able to make the race a referendum on Mark and not a focus on the state’s problems.  I’m not saying that this is a certainty — but Mark needs to use all of his political skills to make sure that does not happen.


Entenza has been trailing the other two candidates in polling so far, but I have the feeling that gap will be closed as we move closer to the primary date.  Matt has been planning this campaign for some time and has accumulated some notable staff people — people who know what they are doing.   Entenza also has very deep pockets –VERY DEEP.   That is a significant advantage for both the primary and the general election.   Entenza will be able to adapt the message when he needs to and can counter negative media quickly and concisely.   The campaign message has focused on the environment — a good message to be sure, but in the current budgetary crisis, the voter focus has given the environment a back seat for now.  Still, a green economy and a healthy economy are certainly not mutually exclusive.  That is the message challenge that will permeate an Entenza campaign.  Entenza is already up and running with campaign ads, which means that his promise to spend whatever it takes is coming to fruition.

On the other hand….. the selection of Robyne Robinson as his Lt. Governor was a curious choice.  Robinson will, of course, be very media savvy, but she will have a selling job on her seriousness about current issues.   She probably has more name recognition than Entenza does and that could complicate his own ability to sell himself  to the voters.   Along with the Robinson selection came a shake-up in staff.  Bridget Cusick stepped down as communications director during the media frenzy with Robinson…. and although Cusick has assured everyone that this was in the works, it seems like the transition had to be complicated by timing it with the Lt. Governor announcement. 

And although Entenza has deep resources, those resources come from health care money.  His spouse, Lois Quam, was a United Health Care executive for many years and received a healthy stipend for her services.  With health care in general being a high profile issue for this cycle, the Republicans are certain to find a way to put as negative a light on that as possible.  Quam is no neophyte politically, so I assume they are prepared.


Kelliher is the endorsed candidate….and with that, she acquires the resources of the DFL Party (such as they are) heading into the primary.  She has also been acquiring a lot of union support and that will be significant (although it didn’t help Bill Halter in Arkansas).   Kelliher’s political savvy and that of her staff was demonstrated quite well in Duluth.  The ability to win in a large field of candidates speaks well of her organizational ability.   She came off of a fairly mediocre legislative session, but she did get things accomplished on time (well almost) in spite of a very negative environment.  There were some solid accomplishments that came out of the session but everything was overshadowed by the budget stalemate.  Her main message task will be to convince the voters that she can get things done and in manner that unifies the state.  That may be a tall order with Pawlenty still around.  She also has the historical theme of being the first woman nominated for Governor by a major party and could be the first woman governor in state history.  Her campaign will certainly not be able to make a big deal of that issue, but as we get closer to November and she is the DFL primary winner, that will be in the backs of the minds of Minnesota women.

Looking at the other side of this, Kelliher will have her job as Speaker becoming a two edged sword.  Democrats still believe that Pawlenty won too much and Republicans think she tried to spend too much.  It will be difficult to sell a centrist message with all sides pulling her record in all directions.  She has been doing an excellent job of providing a biography that it is not just big city liberal.   Outstate voters can still identify with her farm background, but the Republicans will be doing everything they can to blunt that message.   And although Emmer is not much of a counter to a Metro candidacy, the spin will focus on Kelliher’s city representation.   Taxes will be the Republican attack on Kelliher.  I am sure the GOP will let us know every single tax proposal that came out of the legislature, even though nothing ever passed.   Watch them add it all together, without talking about the final results.

So the choice is one of those three.  One of these three people has to be the next governor.   The importance of this can’t be overstated.

Do not take your August 10th vote lightly.




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