This week Lt. Gov. Tina Flint Smith was appointed by Gov. Mark Dayton to fill the vacancy of unfunny comedian and nasty person Sen. Al Franken, who was forced to resign after a variety of women claimed he groped, kissed or fondled them against their will. Of course, there was that iconic photograph of him cupping the breasts of a sleeping woman, which launched a thousand memes. The Left is terrible at memes because it is fundamentally without a sense of humor. You may have noticed.
An interesting side discussion to this is the willingness of Democrats to sacrifice Franken in order to maximize their newly found “moral superiority,” whose ultimate target is President Trump. Good luck with that, but they have to grasp at something now that the Mueller “investigation” has imploded. Roy Moore’s loss in the Alabama senate race robs them of their greatest “whatabout” argument. Perhaps they’ll return to suggesting Barron Trump is autistic & the First Lady a prostitute. These are vicious, ugly people on display for all to see.
The immediate response from the MNGOP was not encouraging: a press release complaining that the move smacked of “House of Cards.” Smith likely would have still been appointed by Dayton even if her selection didn’t mean the president of the senate automatically became the new Lt. Gov., thereby risking Republican’s one vote majority. In the weeds process arguments are never substantive to the voting public, however, and this press release is merely the latest in a series of terrible messaging attempts by a party that doesn’t seem to be very good at politics.
The National Republican Senatorial Committee complained that Smith was an “insider.” Coming from that group the claim is laughable; it exists to promote and protect insiders. Again, this is a process argument that doesn’t cut through to Minnesota voters.
The MN Jobs Coalition launched Tina Smith Facts and while it’s a start the site at present isn’t at the level of what A Better Minnesota would do, who knows how to attack, fairly or not. I hope Republicans quickly switch from “insider” to “out of touch” as that both seems to be the case and can stick with voters. Defeating Smith, of course, will take much more than that.
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Smith has said she’ll run for reelection in 2018 and so Minnesota Republicans have the field set for them: two women, both embarrassingly cheerleaded by a local media whose high regard for themselves is limitless. The combination is daunting, especially because Minnesota Republicans have abandoned Senate races for some time now. Why is that?
The short answer is because it’s difficult, takes effort and victory is far from guaranteed. The political horizon of most Republican politics is short term and near. One baleful consequence of this, among many, is that they are woefully short of talent and strategy when events conspire to open up a Senate seat unexpectedly. Even without Franken resigning, Republicans have no appetite to actually fight to reclaim at least one of our Senate seats. Status quo mediocrity suits them fine, thank you, because the bulk of them are content with their elected office, lobbying position, staffer position, ineffective non-profit gig, vendor monopoly or are kept busy in some form pushing around Norm Coleman’s money, whose unforgivable loss to Franken in the first place should have banished him from Minnesota Republican politics for life.
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Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is frequently mentioned as a candidate for next year. His boosters on social media reveal an antiquated understanding of what politics have become since he was last in office. Mind you, for his second term he didn’t win so much as Mike Hatch lost, narrowly and at the last minute.
The idea seems to be that he was the last Republican to win statewide office and so is best poised to do so again. This is magical thinking, politics version. Pawlenty had a decidedly mixed record at the time while in office. In hindsight, the unavoidable but honest assessment is that his was a failed governorship. He has substantial baggage with which Democrats can bludgeon him, confident their allies in the media will amplify. He seems unable to throw a punch and if he did he’d throw like a girl.
He embodies the kind of self loathing Republican that Trump soundly defeated. Pawlenty preened and lectured against Trump, preferring establishment approval and favorable media coverage to actually getting anything accomplished for the Americans both parties left behind. He also bravely took after Roy Moore. Cost free posturing is his forte. Very recently he spoke around the Twin Cities as some sort of prophet about Artificial Intelligence. To be fair, he knows a great deal about artificial.
His adventures in capitalism after office is a target rich environment that surpasses his political record, which is saying something. Lobbyist for big banks and corporate open borders types, who don’t think twice about flooding America with an underclass which by merit have no right to be here but work on the cheap, Pawlenty is the apotheosis of a career politician who believes in nothing in particular except that which will advance him and his coterie of grifters. That some Minnesota Republicans seriously consider him as a formidable challenger to Smith is an indication of their obtuseness masquerading as discerning politicos.
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State Sen. Karin Housley is said to be the leading woman contender to challenge Smith. Such is the measure of our talent famine.™ Housley is unaccomplished except in the most banal, Minnesotan of ways.
She’s a perky blonde, a real estate agent (you know the type), married to a hockey coach and plays Fantasy football with the “girls just want to have fun” crowd when she’s not doing a “I am woman, hear me roar” shtick. If she’s read a book in the last decade she gives no evidence of it.
Still, I’m told by a politically independent friend of mine, that the argument in support of her is “electability,” that elusive trait which has undergone a transformation after Trump. This assessment revolves around her being a woman (a real one, not a “transgender” one), married to a (heterosexual cismale) hockey coach and some conservative bona fides that remain curiously unarticulated. Housley, to her eternal shame, did nothing in the senate last session to protect young Somali girls from the horror of female genital mutilation.
Smith is likely to defeat Housley easily, despite the tentativeness of the former’s appeal in rural areas. Smith has a full year of learning how to be a Senator and a good candidate. Her focus on rural areas and issues during that time is a given. Some Republicans on Twitter mocked Smith’s statewide name recognition of 12% but that’s 12% higher than Housley’s. Given that Democrats will be running an all women Senate ticket, can Republicans realistically afford not to run at least one? Doubtless somewhere a Republican staffer is saying “Hold my craft beer.”
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Historically, when voters have the unusual chance to vote for two US Senators in the same election, they choose them from the same party. Does anyone think Amy Klobuchar isn’t going to be reelected in a walk?
The cultural effect has already kicked in, with suggestions of how great a Saturday Night Live skit would be with Amy Poehler & Tina Fey because Amy and Tina, get it? I wouldn’t be surprised if Klobuchar & Smith showed up in person to participate. Just think what Esme Murphy, Lori Sturdevant and Patricia Lopez will say about it on Twitter. Squee.
There’s no doubt that the two women will run as something of a pair because doing so doesn’t hurt Klobuchar and could give added lift to Smith. Pawlenty would join Jim Newberger in giving Minnesotans an all male ticket. That’s a contrast which doesn’t spell success. Housley is untested as a statewide candidate with a thin record of accomplishments, easily framed by the DFL as essentially being what President Trump called New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand: a lightweight.
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There are real costs to a political party content to embroider around the edges, seeking only to survive in some form until the next election and with no clear, core convictions. Ask yourself: what do Minnesota Republicans believe? And why are they so unprepared to take advantage of an opportunity like this? Women haven’t fared especially well in the MNGOP and I wrote about that four years ago. So when the times call for a deep bench of strong conservative women, and a statewide political infrastructure to support them, we have instead the wife of the coach of the Sabres.
Housley’s campaign will be grossly underfunded but the real action for local Republican “insiders” will be getting jobs on it, or vendor contracts, because for them this is what it’s all about, not winning.
Not only have we seen this movie before, it’s on loop.
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In addition to Alpha News, John Gilmore is also a contributor to The Hill. He is the founder and executive director of Minnesota Media Monitor.™ He blogs at MinnesotaConservatives.org and is on Twitter under @Shabbosgoy. He can be reached at Wbua@nycunarjfza.pbz
Photo credit: Star Tribune