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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Kennedy in the waning days

--posted by Tony Garcia on 10/31/2006

(H/T: Pete)

An interesting article from Tom Curry about the recent US Senate debate. There were a few observations that warrant highlighting and refutation.
In no opinion poll has Kennedy been ahead and some observers in Washington and here in Minnesota have written off any chance of him winning this Senate seat.

To a degree Kennedy blames the news media and its polling for his plight. “The polling by a lot of the media outlets is deliberately designed to discourage the base,” he argued. “You’ll see a lot of our real base would just be energized by seeing the media really trying to steal the election.” (emphasis added)
I do not know why this kind of comment would be made. Very few people put the entire media as deliberate actors in swaying elections. Most people who believe that there is a liberal bias believe it is the result of many, many factors but none of them supporting a cabal of intentionally altering their polling methods to "discourage the base".

Consider a number of factors that have "discourag[ed] the base" locally and nationally. Pawlenty abandoning the fiscal conservative (and strangely enough many of them are now just bending over and saying "thank you, sir") has put some of the base in "disillusionment". Immigration and the GOP's failure to do anything meaningful is another issue. Growing government and growing budgets and growing spending bills also have not helped.

From Kennedy's own doings, his endorsement of Joe Lieberman was not a "conservative" move but an "anti-Democrat" move. Those who pay attention close enough understand that. His platforms on his campaign website is not very settling to small government types as most of his planks are about what he wants to have the Federal Government do more of, fund more of and oversee.

The base is upset with the batch of candidates who are not "small government" candidates/incumbents but "government not as big as my opponent, but bigger than it is now" candidates/incumbents.

Beyond that, many of these attacks from the Kennedy camp are on very shaky merits, nevermind the "whining" these quotes project.

The aricle was not all bad for Kennedy.
With seemingly nothing to lose by being brutally frank, Kennedy has gone on TV with a somber, almost funereal, ad that says “We’ve made some mistakes in Iraq” but “leaving Iraq now will create a breeding ground for new attacks on America.”

Kennedy concludes the ad by saying he paid for it “even though I know it may not be what you want to hear.”
Even the liberal-leaning newspaper, the St. Paul Pioneer Press, in its endorsement of Klobuchar on Sunday, gave Kennedy credit for candor. “Even those opposed to the war must recognize his straight talk as admirable,” the paper’s editorial said. (underline added)
Quite honestly, there is much being made about this 'end game' strategy. However, it is not new. Take this passage from Curry's May 31, 2006 article.
“How you win the war on terror is going to be one of the top issues” in this race, Kennedy said. “Clearly there have been mistakes made in the war on terror. And there have been corrections made. But the real question is: what is your focus? Is your focus just impeaching the president and having partisan investigations? Or is your focus on how to win the war on terror, how do we keep America safe?” (underline added)
Compare the underlined portions from the two quotes. This message has been consistent.

Now a fair question is why wasn't the Kennedy campaign able to maintain this theme as their trumpeted theme? Instead it has been semantical games about what makes an attorney an attorney or trying to tie every word and action from Dayton (Amy's hero, as the Kennedy campaign, drones and the MNGOP use as if heros are a bad thing) to Klobuchar while insisting that the same is not fair to do between Kennedy and Bush. Instead of running a campaign of attacking with double standards and empty logic, Kennedy should have stuck to issues...his issues. Take a page from Pat Anderson's campaign...no negativity, pure candidate issues, qualifications and accomplishments. THAT would have put Kennedy in a better position in this election.
Why has Kennedy apparently not been able to gain ground on Klobuchar?

The candidates’ debate Sunday night offered some answers: Kennedy was never able to land a solid rhetorical punch on Klobuchar when it came to the issue of Iraq. He did not dramatize in flesh-and-blood terms what it would mean for Minnesota if al Qaida and other terrorist groups transformed Iraq into one giant permanent military base.
My debate coach and my radio "coaches" have all said something that Kennedy should have been told. 'No matter how strongly you feel, no matter how solid the logic or rationale, you do not win people to your side unless you answer their main questions, How does that affect me? and Why should I care?'

Preach Iraq all you want, and you may be right. I agree with Kennedy on Iraq and terrorism. But without the "dramatiz[ation] in flesh-and-blood terms what it would mean for Minnesota" to lose Iraq then the other arguements sound better to the average person. Politics is local...and you must find a way to localize terrorism's dangers (legitimately...not with hyperbole and exaggeration) or those topics will just be "too far away" for the average person to care.
...Klobuchar was skilled at sticking to a non-military message: the solution to Iraq’s turmoil would come by “working with other countries” and “bringing the world together to help this country take care of its civil war.” She did not say she’d vote to cut off funds for the Iraq deployment and did not say what date she’d seek for withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Read that passage again. What is her plan? What is her position? What would she vote for or against? What is her principle? Sadly, none of these questions are answered, and that is not unique to Klobuchar or Democrats. It is typical of every single debate with politicians with the very rare exception.

So, why does the empty discourse from Klobuchar win people over? Because Kennedy has not made his issues have local impact. ("If I win the election then Minnesota will benefit by...") Local impact almost always trumps national or international importance in the minds of the average person.

One final comment about the article.
Kennedy’s lack of traction may mean that this is a state that has reached its limit of conservative Republicanism.

Asked about [the possibility that Minnesota has reached its limit of conservative Republicanism], Pawlenty – who’s in his own difficult battle for re-election, [answered] that Minnesota “is not shifting back (to the Humphrey era). It’s not a Republican state; it’s more of a mainstream state that it used to be, it’s not like it was 30 years ago, robotically liberal… but in this year, with the difficulties in Washington, there’s a little more headwind for Republicans if you’re going to win in Minnesota.”
That, Tim, and what you have failed to do for the fiscal conservatives and the small government constituencies have also provided a "headwind for Republicans" in Minnesota.



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