Election Analysis--Results--Statewide part 5--posted by Tony Garcia on 11/20/2006
Of the eight Congressional races only two had something that I believes warrants analysis.
In six of the Congressional races there were no surprises. Two of the Republicans won re-election easily. The three Democrat incumbents also won easily. The open Democrat seat was won easily. I am surprised by the large percentages for both Tammy Lee and Alan Fine in the 5th District. All in all of these 6 districts (2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 7th & 8th) there were no surprises whatsoever.
Why so many people (including myself) believed for a fraction of a moment that the 6th was "in play" is perplexing me now. It has been a solidly conservative district with a few pockets of strong Democrat support. Wetterling did not do well in the district in 2004 while she had the benefit of being a still grieving mother. In hindsight there was nothing Wetterling could have done to win the race.
The Democrats fell into an emotional trap when they endorsed Wetterling. Elwin Tinklenberg would have pulled moderates, could have pulled the fiscal conservative/socially liberal block and enough of the disaffected Republicans to win the district. The same block that sent Jim Knoblach to the state House or Jungbauer to the state Senate could easily have found enough in Tinklenberg to push him over the top.
While most of 2006 was marked with terribly run Republican campaigns, the 6th was marked by an incompetent Democrat campaign. There were many untrue labels the Wetterling camp could have tried sticking on Michele Bachmann and they could have stuck. A "liberal tax hike lover" was not among those. The person who thought trying to tie Bachmann to the Mark Foley scandal should have their Democrat membership card revoked. It is not a convincing line of argument to say, "Vote for me, vote for change, vote against the same old corruption in Congress" when your opponent is not a current member of Congress. This is before pointing out how misleading the "facts" that were uttered in those ads were.
The sad part is that regardless of who won the race between Bachmann or Wetterling the winner would have been rewarded for brazenly lying constantly about their opponent. Wetterling was also outmatched. Bachmann is the textbook incarnation of a typical politician...in every sense. She is able to get her machine rolling hard and fast. She is the best in the world of politics at lying to someone even though everyone knows she is lying and still making the person feel like they were not lied to. She is a Charismatic (take that as a negative or a positive). Wetterling, even if she had a competent and truthful campaign that showed a glimmer of understanding her positions had no chance of winning.
The only surprise in the 6th was that people thought it might have been close.
Tim Walz came out swinging at Gil Gutknecht about Iraq. Walz also came out firing about Gutknecht being to much like Bush. Gutknecht's reaction was what did him in...he ran away from those positions. If someone really wants to understand how Iraq was used in the elections they only need to look at the Minnesota's 1st District.
This was the most effective use of Iraq. Walz immediately pounded this as the main topic. And it scared Gutknecht off of it enough to leave him without anything to campaign on. Of all the candidates I heard interviewed Walz was the only one to tie every statement and position and response to Iraq. Not Bush, not Bush's policies and not the War on Terror...Iraq. Walz' theme was Iraq.
While other candidates used Iraq as one of many issues they still had other issues. "Change", "Social Programs", "Iraq"...those were from the other candidates. Walz' message was basically "Iraq needs to be changed. Social Programs cannot be addressed until Iraq is changed. Crime cannot be solved until Iraq is changed." Obviously this is exaggerating to demonstrate quickly how different the theme from Walz was compared to other Democrats. But the difference was Walz' campaign was about Iraq.
Gutknecht's efforts to distance himself from Iraq left the voters to wonder, "Hmm, if he is not for it now then it must be wrong. He helped start it so I will have to vote for the other guy." Simplistic, yes, but that is the effect running from one's record has.
I did not think Walz' strategy was going to work and so I was caught off guard by the results.
Coming Next: 2008 Elections