Saturday, June 26, 2010

Thoughts on the Minnesota DFL Gubernatorial Race

The race to the August 10 Minnesota primary is less than 50 days but more than an eternity away. While there are many primary contests on August 10, the eyes are really on the DFL gubernatorial primary featuring party-endorsed Margaret Anderson-Kelliher, Mark Dayton, and Matt Entenza. By saying the primary is less than 50 days is to note how little time there is to roll out ads, mobilize supporters, raise money, and secure name recognition, 50 days is also an eternity when it comes how polls can shift and fortunes to change politically in such a brief period of time. Fifty days is a long time politically, especially this year.

Where does the DFL gubernatorial primary stand? In some ways, the primary has already started–the absentee ballots are being mailed now. But recent polls confirm that Dayton is still in the lead. However the biggest surpriser was Entenza–dramatically increasing in the polls to the mid 20s, with stronger support among independents compared to his rivals. Entenza’s rise in the polls seems to have come at the expense of Kelliher, who now seems weaker than she did a few weeks ago. Entenza’s rise seems less due to Robyn Robinson who gave him a 24 bump in the polls, but more due to an extensive television campaign and a heavy mail program. His constant barrage of ads seems to be working to give him name recognition, forcing Dayton also to hear the airwaves with his first ad. The good news for Entenza and Dayton is that the ads seem to be working to garner attention and help in the polls the bad news for Kelliher is that lacking money, she is being hurt by her absence from television.

The Horserace
But Entenza is also doing something very smart. I live in Entenza’s old legislative district and have received about six mailings so far. I have been told he is not just hitting up his old district but doing mailings across the state in critical areas. Neither Dayton nor Kelliher are doing this. This target marketing makes sense. When, according to my estimates, it will take only about 90-95,000 votes to win the primary, heavily targeting and mobilizing among markets where one has high degrees of support makes sense. Entenza seems to be smart in understanding the niche approach to running that the other candidates do not seem to be showing. Whether this will pay off remains to be seen, of course.
As I have argued before, the issues determining victory for August 10 are connected to several issues. Name recognition, money, connection to organized interests, and actual delivery of voters on August 10 are the variables that will affect success. In a primary with low turnout, moving small numbers of people will be key to success and the above four factors will be decisive.

What do you think?
Entenza and Dayton have now been running ads for a few weeks. I think Dayton’s first ad was excellent in terms of being inspiring, telling a good story, and having a good message to appeal to many constituents. Entenza’s BP environmental ad was also good in terms of capitalizing on a recent issue. However, I am curious to see what you think about the ads? Do you like them? Are they working? How do you think the candidates are doing? Please share your thoughts. I would love to have a conversation here.

My apologies for an extended hiatus from the blog. Between travels to Moscow, Russia, home remodeling projects, and finishing another book the blog was the casualty. More frequent blogs will again return.

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