Saturday, May 22, 2010

Hoping for a Carlson Crossover

Generally, Lieutenant Governor picks mean very little. They tend to provide balance for a ticket in terms of geography and gender. But there’s hardly an office in all the land that is less meaningful than Minnesota’s LG, except the inherent importance that comes from being a heartbeat away from occupying a Summit Avenue mansion.

But Margaret Anderson Kelliher’s pick of John Gunyou is meaningful. It continues a trend of expanding the duties of LG, though it was made clear that he would not be the Commissioner of Finance or Revenue. Gunyou’s selection is a nice general election move, but it’s also a smart choice for the primary. By declaring that “simplistic slogans” don’t hold the answer, that “we can neither tax our way out of the deficit, nor cut our way out,” Gunyou previewed what might be an effective plan for the primary and general elections – move to the middle early.

“Hey, that’s my move!”

In doing this, she seems to be fighting for the moderates that might otherwise give the IP candidacy of Tom Horner a serious look. Tom Horner almost sounded like he was talking about his own LG choice in his comments:
"I think John Gunyou is a terrific pick. He's an outstanding person who has been a great public servant and a very strong pick.”
Kelliher’s doing her best to steal all of Tom Horner’s lines, and all of his moves. And she has the “Tax the Rich” candidacy of Mark Dayton as her foil. The structural problem with Minnesota’s late primary is that it’s hard to pull off the usual move of tacking left (or right) for the primary, and then steering back toward the middle afterward. By choosing the moderate path now, she can start the process of distinguishing herself from right-wing ideologue Emmer and starve the Horner campaign of energy from a surge of disaffected moderates who might be attracted by his message of budgetary balance.

Arne Carlson himself didn't sound too enamored of Kelliher's budget handiwork a couple of days ago. Then again, he saved his harshest words for Governor Pawlenty. Perhaps the Gunyou selection could yield a Carlson endorsement later on down the road. Edit: If Carlson's Paul Revere Tour announced last week is any indication, this might be a stretch. Nonetheless, as he stated in his letter, "if other leaders want to join..."

"Carlson Republicans" in the DFL Primary?

Arne Carlson’s name was mentioned repeatedly at the Gunyou press conference – unsurprising, considering Gunyou’s service in the Carlson administration is one of the primary items on his resume. But it’s far from accidental that Arne’s name came up so many times. He may be persona non grata in the GOP, but "Carlson Republicans" are the holy grail for the DFL in its search for a Governor candidate that can win. They've been the basis for the DFL's success in legislative races in the western suburbs over the last 8 years.

Moderation might be a viable primary election strategy. As Kelliher said of Gunyou at the press conference he will “attract in people who might not otherwise vote in the August primary.”

Kelliher and Gunyou take questions from tommy scheck on Vimeo.

Unless there is a real swing toward the Savior/Elvis ticket, there’s not much reason for hard core Emmerians to come back from the lake to vote in the primary. The IP primary has never really attracted much interest, and Rob Hahn is hardly a serious challenger to Tom Horner. If John Gunyou helps MAK attract a couple of thousand disaffected suburban "Carlson Republicans" to show up in August and cast a ballot in the DFL primary, it might well represent the difference.

Kelliher worked hard to court progressive voters in the endorsement process and picked up the support of But the choice of Gunyou signals a change in her campaign’s messaging. It’s about the budget, it’s about expertise, it’s about balance. In other words, it’s Tom Horner’s lines. It’s a tricky balance, but if she can maintain the commitment of the progressive groups she picked up in the endorsement process and gain the support of some Carlson voters, she could close the gap on Dayton while positioning herself well for the November general election. Rarely do LG picks make a significant difference in a campaign. This one could be different.

Check back here for analysis comparing the Gunyou pick with the Dayton LG pick to be announced Monday.

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