Three DFL gov candidates: Three different strategies

June 29, 2010 by barbara

(A cross-post written by one of my most trusted liberal thinkers and analysts concerning the MN political landscape. Bottom line: Who's gonna live in the big house and how are they going to get there? barbara)

by Dave Mindeman

So we have a primary coming up in about 6 weeks. So let's talk a bit about the DFL side of the ledger. All signs point to an interesting race with 3 different sets of strategy....and a lot of it is dictated by the new August primary date.

September primaries were held at a time when voters would generally start to pay attention. The State Fair just ended and the kids were back at school. The cabins were close to be closed up for the year and summer vacations were completed.

All bets are off with August.

As I watch things unfold, here is what I perceive as the strategies of each of the three campaigns.....

Mark Dayton

Dayton is really a very methodical politician. He has had a long term plan to be Governor of Minnesota and he has been sticking to it. He avoided a crowded scrum for the endorsement by saying very early on that he would not seek it. And he realized early on that to be the candidate you have to win the primary first. Read on!

That seems like an obvious statement but sometimes politicians can't establish a focus on primary or general when both are going to be heavily contested. Mark clearly is focused for the time being on winning a primary.

That strategy deals with a low turnout primary by focusing on key constituency groups and voters that can be counted on to turn out. Dayton tacked left very early with his Tax the Rich mantra. He has courted the progressive core of the party from the beginning. He also has been seeking support from the anti-war left and most importantly from Minnesota's reliable voting seniors. And in addition, he chose an Iron Range legislator (Yvonne Prettner-Solon) as his Lt. Governor candidate. A very traditional strategic use of the selection.

This is a good primary strategy but could complicate his general election messaging. It will be difficult to move to a more centrist policy message after a tough primary battle... especially when Tom Horner has planted his flag squarely in the middle. If Dayton only had to deal with Tom Emmer, the strategy would be much simpler.

Dayton is experienced enough to stick to the plan. Each step needs to be accomplished before you can move to the next.

Matt Entenza

Entenza is set on a much broader strategy. His campaign incorporates many bits and pieces that can attract a wide range of potential voters. He consistently emphasizes his green energy and green jobs policy. He chose as his running mate a popular and well known African-American celebrity. And he emphasizes his early outstate life and roots.

He has used a saturation type media campaign involving heavy TV and radio along with widespread mailings. Normally, this would be considered a very bad waste of limited resources. But, surprise, resources are't limited. Entenza is willing to invest heavily in every vote he can muster. He hopes to win by broadening his campaign statewide. He has resources that can reach the far flung areas and seek out votes everywhere in the state.

It is a very non-traditional type primary campaign, but when dealing with several unknowns, this will be a test for this type of strategy. Can it work in a mid-summer primary?

Margaret Anderson Kelliher

Kelliher is hoping that traditional DFL groups will turn out heavy for their endorsed candidate. And she hopes to do so without heavy monetary investments.

She is strategically backed by Labor groups and they will be tested as to how well they can turn out their vote for an August date. She has support of women's groups and the hope is that her gender can be a factor for pulling in undecided votes among women.

She has been looking ahead as well. She has already tried to position herself to the center moving into the general election. The selection of John Gunyou as her Lt. Governor conveys a seriousness about tackling budget issues. Although Minnesota Health Plan advocates assure me that her position on single payer is still solid, some of her language might be trying to negate any GOP attacks that may come on the topic. She qualifies her stance on tax issues....and defends her compromises with Pawlenty to get the budget passed on time.

That is probably a wise strategy if you are confident about winning the primary, but there is little evidence to point to Kelliher as a front runner.

Her limited resources may get overwhelmed by the larger cash boxes of her opponents. She needs the DFL organization to work.


Three different strategies. Three workable strategies. And three strategies that could win.

Although Dayton has lead in most polls and is the probable front runner at the moment, this is really anybody's ball game. We do not know who the August voter is yet; and we do not know what will motivate them to come to the polls.

Each of the 3 plans has merits and each depends on an assumption that is slightly different from the others.

We are in unknown territory and the end game is still in doubt.

Cross-posted from mnpACT!

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