Dayton v. Kennedy

Returning Senator Mark Dayton to the Ranks of the Idle Rich in 2006


Ready, Fire, Aim

To run or not to run, that is the question.

Minnesota’s political Hamlet, Gil Gutknecht appears in no hurry to answer that question, with his self-imposed March 1st date of decision potentially being pushed back to March 4th. If and when he announces, he might be surprised to find who may not join him.

Several memebers of the 1st Congressional leadership have apparently committment to the Kennedy campaign despite Gil's interest in the seat. Despite the lack of support in his own home district, the word in the 1st is that Gutknecht is running, such news having come from the mouth of House Speaker Steve Sviggum. Does Gutknecht believe he can secure the nomination? Does he believe that Kennedy doesn’t really have 2/3rds of the GOP leadership and representation on his side (as Kennedy has said)?

Gutknecht’s lack of name ID was certainly prevalent in last week’s Wetterling polling where the Congressman didn’t top 29% in any of the head-to-head match-ups with potential DFL candidates. Gilly’s name ID isn’t tremendously better within the Republican Party as activists outside his district don’t know who he is. Part of the reason is having the southern most congressional district, making it difficult to visit the Metro districts often, but Gutknecht hasn't committed the time to sending out feelers to the GOP base outside the 1st.

If Gutknecht is running (there’s a chance Gil won’t seek reelection--after all, he's bound by a 12 year pledge), he’ll be running without the level of support custom to statewide candidates. Simply put, for all of Gutknecht's positive political qualities, he has not laid the groundwork for a statewide campaign with GOP delegates and activists. That is not great foundation to build from if you’re seeking statewide office.

Rasmussen: Time for Rossi v. Cantwell Blog

2 1/2 months ago I made the case that 2004 Republican gubernatorial candidate Dino Rossi should resign himself to the fact that Washington state Dems like the undead more than Vincent Price -- and take on feckless incumbent Maria Cantwell.

Polling by Rasmussen confirms my instincts:

Election 2006: Washington

Rossi 47% Cantwell 44%

Election 2006 Senate


Rossi (R) 47%
Cantwell (D) 44%

Saturday February 26, 2005--Dino Rossi, the man who narrowly lost the race to be Washington's Governor last November, holds a slight lead over incumbent Senator Maria Cantwell in a hypothetical Election 2006 match-up.

Rossi attracts 47% of the vote to Cantwell's 44% in a survey of 500 Likely Voters conducted February 22, 2005. The margin of sampling error is +/- 4.5 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Rossi leads by 7 points among men and trails by 1 among women.

A Republican victory in the "Blue State" of Washington would go against the recent trend of Senate elections matching up with the state's Presidential preference.

In Election 2004, eight Senate seats switched from one party to the other. Six of the eight were Republican victories in Red States. One was a Democratic victory in the very Blue State of Illinois. The exception that proves the rule was Colorado where Democrat Ken Salazar narrowly defeated first time candidate Pete Coors.

Overall, Rossi is viewed favorably by 55% of Washington's voters. Cantwell is viewed favorably by 54%.

Political Potpourri

Item: First Ringer on Yecke's opening salvo of her CD-6 candidacy:

Cheri Pierson Yecke also stubbed her toe by printing campaign invitation cards to her formal kick-off event listing a website that currently has no information on it. Not a big deal? Normally that’s true, except Yecke doesn’t include directions to the event and recommends going to the website to find them. Ouch. The mistakes of a first-time candidate.

There's still time to recover, but Michele Bachmann has so far failed to make a corresponding gaffe. First there's this slick e-announcement followed by word that Bachmann will be bringing David Horowitz to town for a not-inexpensive fundraiser at the Minneapolis Club this Tuesday. I'm told you can contact the campaign at for more information. Best of all, she's on the enemies list of the biggots over at City Pages.

Item: Now that it's been on his blog for 48 hours, I feel TBFKADVK can coopt First Ringer's further ruminations about his time on the campaign trail with candidate Kennedy last week. Read here. Maybe we'll have to make First Ring our "subscription-only" site...

EXTRA CREDIT: Be the first person in the comments section to identify the "political potpourri" reference and win the admiration of TBFKADVK!


Count Deano Out

St. Senator and DFL Majority Leader Dean Johnson says count him out of any talk for U.S. Senate.

”Johnson says he's "99 percent sure" that he won't run in 2006 for Sen. Mark Dayton's seat. Dayton announced earlier in the month that he would not seek a second term.

Johnson, a DFL senator from Willmar, said in a radio interview with KWLM-AM that he's not even sure he'll run for reelection to the state Senate, but he's a bit interested in another job

He wouldn't say which one, but when asked specifically about running for governor he would only say that he needs time before making a decision.”

Johnson, the former GOP Minority Leader in the Senate until leaving the party in 2000, resurrected his career by becoming the man in charge of the DFL Senate in 2004 after a previous session which saw feeble DFL efforts to block the legislative agenda of the House GOP and newly elected Governor Tim Pawlenty. Johnson’s 2004 session effectively killed most of the major Republican-led bills that year and is credited by Republicans as partially responsible for the major GOP State House losses that year.

Despite the accomplishment, Johnson was not considered a serious contender for U.S. Senate nor is he considered the likely DFL nominee for Governor in Minnesota. But with the DFL’s attention becoming more and more focused on the Senate race and Attorney General Mike Hatch’s lack of commitment (thus far) in running for Governor, Johnson could conceivably still run for higher office in 2006. How much Johnson’s previous Republican past would haunt him for a potential endorsement would be interesting to watch.

"Thune-style blogging phenomenon"

We stumbled across this post on MyDD -- a top lefty blog -- discussing the influence of the South Dakota bloggers and their progeny:

BTW, I see a birth of a Thune-style blogging phenomenon arising in the upcoming 2006 Minnesota Senate race. Someone started a Dayton Vs. Kennedy blog a bit back -- though it's just a pro-kennedy blog now, since Dayton isn't running -- and it has all the feel of the same kind of phenomenon (I'm not being conspiratorial here, kudos to these guys doing whatever the hell they want to, including not disclosing ties, working extremely closely with Kennedy's campaign, etc.) one gets from the Thune bloggers. I don't want to do a forensic on that blog, but rest assured that it's on the radar of South Dakota blogger Jon Lauck and Time Magazine blogger of the year and Minnesota resident John Hinderaker of the Powerline blog.

Also, of all the establishment conservative journalist types, none gets the potential of blogging better than Hugh Hewitt. Check out his book, Blog, which fits nicely on a shelf next to We the Media and The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.

There's some really good ideas in it, and some interesting exploration of the potential impact of dark arts blogging. he gets into hypothetical scenarios where a blogger ostensibly supports a candidate, gains a large audience through his talents, and then "turns" on the candidate. I think this is something more relevant in a primary process than a general election, but it's a rich field, and no doubt will come down the road.

Where to start? First, I genuinely hope TBFKADVK is something approaching the "Thune-style blogging phenomenon in the upcoming 2006 Minnesota Senate race." That was my intent when I started DvK: replacing a silly Democrat incumbent with no sense about economics, national security or our founding documents, and replacing him with a conservative.

It was evident to anyone who cared to look that Mark Kennedy was the best vehicle for making that happen. For the umpteenth time, TBFKADVK is not affiliated with the Kennedy campaign. As the founder of this blog I can say I have never met Rep. Kennedy (or even seen him in the flesh) or anyone affiliated with his campaign. No manila envelopes have been slid across the table. I had not been involved with party politics for more than a decade prior to launching DvK late last September.

A week ago today we were graciously invited to join the campaign for the congressman's statewide announcement tour. My sense is that this was because of a recognition on behalf of the Kennedy campaign that they were not going to get any coverage, let alone the favorable sort, from any Metro area TV or print media and decided to employ what help they could from alternative media including blogs and talk radio. While having an unmistakable Kennedy-centric bent, TBFKADVK will call 'em as we see 'em. For instance, First Ringer was not shy about taking note of candidate Kennedy's stumbles on the issue of Social Security "privitization" last week. If we were on the payroll, you can bet any mentions of it would have been expunged like a Soviet-style purge. In revealing any early shortcomings we would hope to ultimately strengthen the candidacy. But again, that is not our decision to make.

RE: Lauck and Hinderacker

Jon Lauck knows who I am only by virtue of the fact I started pestering him late last summer begging for tips on how to start a similar blog in Minnesota. Eventually -- like the unjust judge -- he had to respond to my harassing emails. Since then he has been gracious enough to link SDP to TBFKADVK on a handful of occasions. I would love to have half the influence he did in South Dakota last year. Hinderacker has no clue who we are and with good reason -- our readership is a fraction of a tenth of one percent of Powerline's.

In early December, when Harry Reid announced a "15 member message will include press aides who will publicize Democratic activities to Internet news organizations and bloggers", I wrote: "In DemWorld, every member of the center-right blogosphere takes its marching orders from Messrs. Rove and Mehlman each morning and regurgitates the pap to the awaiting rabble in Jesusland." Apparently, that is still the thinking. Liberals like their blogging -- like their economics -- with a heavy dose of central planning. Conservatives do not.

No one dictates what is posted here contrary to the fevered conspiracy theories of folks like this. DvK was launched out of a desire to see the Constitution defended, the Social Security system solvent, taxes reformed and our cities mushroom cloud-free. End of story.

Doug Adds:

I think Gary states the case well here, but allow me to re-iterate from my own perspective.

I wouldn't have joined DvK (or whatever we'll be called eventually) if I thought it would be simply a campaign tool. I've done some volunteering for campaigns, and don't denigrate those who do. But that's not what this is about.

Should the race develop in an unexpected direction (like, say, a certain incumbent dropping out of the race), we'll adjust to fit our personal preferences, not the preferences of any particular campaign.

That being said, we're admittedly biased in this race. Every blogger here is a Republican and none of us are ashamed to say so. All of us want the Senate seat currently held by Mark Dayton to become a Republican seat in 2006. We also all currently believe Congressman Kennedy has the best chance to make that happen.

We have a bias. You know that before you read a word we say. But it's not an artificial, i.e paid for, bias. We're self-funded for reasons that are pretty basic. The cost of running this site is extremely low; every one of us is already passionate about politics; we all blog; and when it comes to the fundamentals of this race, we all agree.

If someone wants to shower us with money for doing this, go ahead. If we accept money, we'll disclose. But really, since no one has even offered us a dime, the silence on the matter of funding is kind of obvious, unless you want daily updates that read "There's still no one paying us for this blog."

FURTHER UPDATE: More thoughts on the subject from First Ring.

Yecke Officially Announces 6th District Bid

Press Release from Yecke for Congress this evening:

Former Education Commissioner Cheri Yecke

Announces Bid for Congress

Yecke pledges to take her conservative record of “getting things done” to Washington

for the people of the Sixth Congressional District

Anoka, MN – Surrounded by over 100 supporters at the Anoka American Legion, former Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke announced today that she is running for Congress in the Sixth Congressional District where the seat is being vacated by Congressman Mark Kennedy.

“When one door closes, another one always opens,” said Yecke. “I still have the desire to serve the people of Minnesota as a public servant. My conservative record of accomplishments and experience in both state and federal government will help me make an immediate impact in Washington for the families and taxpayers of the Sixth District.”

“I want to go to Washington to help hold the line on taxes and spending, work to defend life and traditional marriage, and stand with President Bush as he leads the War on Terror. My husband spent 20 years in the Marine Corps, and my son-in-law is a Marine who was recently deployed overseas to play his part in the war effort. I know firsthand the sacrifices our soldiers and military families make to keep our country safe and free. I will work to ensure that our troops receive all of the support they need to make the world a safer place for generations to come. And I will work to ensure that our veterans receive the help that a grateful nation should provide.”

Yecke is best known for her bold leadership on the issue of education reform. Before returning home to Minnesota, Yecke served under Governor George Allen on the State Board of Education in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and then under Governor Jim Gilmore as Deputy Secretary and then Secretary of Education for Virginia. She was then tapped by the Bush administration to serve in the U.S. Department of Education.

In each of her roles, Yecke has been a tireless advocate for citizen control of education policy, parental choice, and accountability to the taxpayers.

Although her tenure as Governor Tim Pawlenty’s point person on education lasted only 16 months, Yecke spearheaded some of the most sweeping education reforms in recent memory, including:

  • Scrapping the Profile of Learning and implementing new standards that are rigorous, knowledge-based, and that establish high academic expectations for our children.

  • Requiring public accountability from our schools through such things as annual school performance report cards that include an objective rating system for our schools.

  • Reorganizing the “Department of Children, Family and Learning” by shrinking bureaucracy, imposing efficiency, and leading the charge to rename the agency the Minnesota Department of Education.

Yecke, a Republican, is strongly committed to seeking and abiding by the endorsement of the delegates to the Sixth District Convention, which takes place in the spring of 2006.

Yecke was born and raised in St. Paul and attended grade school at St. Mark’s. She graduated from St. Agnes High School in 1973. She met her husband Dennis in high school and married shortly after he joined the U.S. Marine Corps. They have been married for 31 years.

Over the course of his 20-year career in the military, they were stationed in Hawaii, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Virginia, and Minnesota. During his overseas deployments, Yecke remained behind and raised their two daughters: Anastasia (28) and Tiffany (25). Tiffany was married last year to Captain Aaron Brooks, U.S.M.C.

Dr. Yecke currently serves as the Distinguished Senior Fellow for Education and Social Policy at Center of the American Experiment.

Minnesota’s Sixth Congressional District covers all of Benton, Sherburne and Wright Counties, and most of Anoka, Stearns and Washington Counties.

Beyond Good and Evil

From the man who heads the Klobuchar/Wetterling/Ciresi party:

"This is a struggle of good and evil. And we're the good."

But Howard, good and evil are such antiquated bourgeois constructs...


Kennedy Caravan Photos (Day 2 & 3)

'Check under the hood, Ma'am?' Kennedy spent day two pumping gas and washing windshields (and checking your oil if you slipped him a campaign contribution...). Done in his hometown, Kennedy received an almost all positive reception. Aaron, our driver for the day, stood outside the station waving his Kennedy sign to encourage people to enter. He received numerous positive honks and one "expletive deleted." Can't win 'em all, I guess.

At a VFW in Chaska, Kline calls Kennedy a "mentor" and "friend." Kennedy also gets grilled by Marcus Aurelius and the blogger formerly known as 'Jo' from The Attic.

The brains behind the operation? Press Secretary Heidi "Frickerson" Frederickson checks the map because the candidate refuses to stop and ask for directions. Despite the fact both Kennedy and Heidi are children of rural Minnesota, even they can find the area confusing at times. Actually, I think Heidi is checking the map for congressional district borders.

It's called dialing for dollars. Kennedy spent most of the time on the bus talking with senate district leaders and other supporters. This call is from Kennedy's conversation with Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) on Kennedy's roads bill.

My view for the majority of the three days.

Mmmm. Butterburgers. Not a bad advertisement for Kennedy's campaign. Kennedy also made a contribution to the American Heart Walk, signing a large red heart for the Culver's people to show his support for the cause. Kennedy is a rock star at these rural events and he's drawing crowds in these communities the equal of Norm Coleman's 2002 Senate kick-off tour.

6th CD hopeful Phil Krinkie chats with Mrs. Kennedy. Krinkie might have been confused for a stalker with Kennedy's campaign. He appeared at the Mermaid on Wednesday and then came in for Kennedy's speech Thursday in St. Cloud. In a further case of mistaken identity, Heidi thought Krinkie was a tall, good-looking blond gentleman. comment.

Many members of the audience in this St. Cloud ballroom were not sitting in chairs but standing in the back, a few having frequented the cash bar outside the room. The 6th District DFL Chair who was videotaping Kennedy is barely visible -- he's in the front row closest to Kennedy on the right side.

I think Kennedy can count on the NASCAR dads voting bloc.

The staff with Mrs. Kennedy as we're waiting for the candidate has he's being interviewed on the radio. The gentleman on the right is Kennedy's advance man, Lonny, who doubled as my roommate for the trip. Lonny thinks he snores like a chainsaw -- I tease him but he barely makes a noise.

I caught flak from the Kennedy campaign who said that this interview wasn't with 'Dave Lee' -- he's from WCCO. I was sure otherwise, but Heidi called to double check the host's name. Dave Lee. Maybe Heidi was just miffed I misspelled her name earlier.

Is any press worth this?

I think this is officially all the Republicans in Duluth. Seriously though, the GOP in this region is new but extremely organized and motivated. Issue-wise, the electorate is pretty conservative so there's room for growth. But it'll be a tough slog to overcome decades of entrenched DFL voting.

Frozen Lake Superior sung to the tune of "Turn the Page" (Seger version, not Metallica). Ladies and gentlemen of America, this is Duluth in winter. The city is actually quite beautiful and Kennedy seems to relish coming onto solid DFL turf.

UPDATE: The Conservative Loon adds his observations on the Kennedy kick-off tour and candidacy.

As does the Pequot Lakes Echo. Word on the street is that the 'Echo' (Wait a sec. I thought conservatives wanted a choice, not an echo.) will be doing a piece on Ringer's adventures. FWIW.

Mark Kennedy, Prophet

As First Ringer noted from the campaign trail yesterday:

Kennedy slightly grouses that she’ll (Wetterling) probably get better coverage from the Star Tribune than his actual announcement---a below-the-fold article in the Metro section.

From today's front page of the Strib:

Patty Wetterling, a well-known children's advocate who lost last fall to Republican Mark Kennedy in the Sixth, announced an exploratory candidacy for the seat that will be vacated by Sen. Mark Dayton, D-Minn. Kennedy has already entered that race. Wetterling was thought by some to have a lock on another Sixth District DFL nomination, a move she hasn't yet ruled out. But in a statement Friday, she said Dayton's decision not to seek reelection caught her off-guard and prompted her to consider a Senate bid.

"In the upcoming weeks I will form an exploratory committee to further look into this option," she said. "My focus, as always, is to determine where I can best advocate for children and families."

Then again, I think we all could have predicted that...

Day Three: “The Heart of the Lion’s Den”

Campaigns are about one major thing---pacing. Mark Kennedy’s learned it, I have not. After a night of drinking with staff and attempting to write (which don’t go together well, in case you wondered), I looked like I might have been the one campaigning all week, not the Congressman.

Bike Paths and Back Page Ads

Kennedy was up early, doing his job in the St. Cloud area awarding grants and other sources of funding to the area. Returning to the Holiday Inn, he razes me about not joining him for these ”official events.” There’s no time to standing around making fun of me, we’ve got an RV to catch to hit Duluth before noon---”we’re going right into the heart of the lion’s den,” Kennedy remarks with a glint in his eye. Kennedy seems to relish going to Duluth either because most Republicans are tanned for their pelts or because he likes remarking on 8th Congressional Rep. Jim Oberstar supporting more bike paths in the 8th as we travel along a bumpy and broken 35W North. Kennedy is attending a Duluth Chamber of Commerce lunch and is concerned his standard speech isn’t appropriate for the audience. He and Heidi concluded the crowd will be mostly Republicans and therefore they’re safe with a few changes.

As we ride, Eugene Kennedy shows his son the back of today’s USA Today with an ad on Social Security by the AARP. It’s another scare ad and Kennedy sighs with a look of minor frustration. Kennedy’s mother spends the drive looking for news articles to give her son---as she has several times already this trip. The drive is long and Kennedy spends a small portion of it on a radio interview for a Christian station---a fact he forgets before he goes on the air. The interview goes more like the standard political ones he’s already had in many small radio markets across the state. After he hangs up, with almost no discussion of values issues, Kennedy is surprised to learn the station’s format.

Pin Cushion

Kennedy’s energy has returned to him this morning and he’s using it on me. He pokes fun at my other blog name, jokingly asking if it had something to do with the Lord of the Rings. He says he likes the name, ”it has a good ring to it,” he says, his smile barely concealed. I’m tempted to tell him not to quit his day job, but I guess he’s already in the middle of a very expensive job hunt. But before that search is over, he’s still got a job to do and does it in the RV, talking with Rep. Adam Smith (D-Washington) about Kennedy’s transportation bill. The two joke and laugh and as he finishes, Kennedy turns to the rest of the RV saying, ”it’s always helpful to have the father of modern economics on your side.” If you don’t get the joke, here’s some help. Not that you deserve it---didn’t you learn history in school?

Scrolling the Polling

The biggest news of day comes as we await word of Patty Wetterling’s decision. Contrary to yesterday’s news of her not seeking any office, Heidi was told by the 6th District Chair that Wetterling would seek the Senate. A poll conducted by her campaign comes out and seems to prove that statement, although Heidi can’t help but wonder why Wetterling is “announcing” in an email after 12:00pm on a Friday. Flipping through the numbers on his blackberry, Kennedy scans to see how close the numbers come to his campaign’s impression. The poll threw in four DFLers: Wetterling, Klobuchar, Ciresi and Rep. Betty McCollum and three GOPers, Kennedy, Grams and Gutknecht. The numbers, published in National Journal’s The Hotline, were as follows:

Wetterling 47% - Grams 40%
Wetterling 47% - Kennedy 38%
Wetterling 47% - Gutknecht 29%
Klobuchar 40% - Kennedy 39%
Kennedy 42% - Ciresi 36%
Kennedy 38% - McCollum 36%

The Hotline article, ”Patty Takes the Cake” showed Wetterling and Kennedy’s negatives to be equal at 25%, but with Kennedy’s positives at 33% to her 51%. Kennedy isn’t convinced her positive numbers aren’t much more than name ID: ”In reality, our positives aren’t that far apart.” While Wetterling leads Kennedy by 9% among independents, Kennedy leads all other potential DFL opponents among independents, noted prominently by The Hotline. Heidi calls the paper to see what the scope is and learns little more.

Sickening. News.

We arrive at the Kitchi Gammi club in downtown Duluth amid blowing snow. The club is suit and tie so poor Lonney, the campaign’s faithful advance man, can’t enter in his sweater and jeans. With 30+ people in attendance, Kennedy gives a relaxed version of his stump speech and then the group settles down to lunch. Heidi and I sit next to Charlie Bell, the former Republican mayoral candidate in Duluth, who actually managed to make it to the primary. Bell’s uncle was former 3rd Congressional Congressman Clark McGregor. A popular congressman, McGregor challenged Hubert Humphrey in a campaign that, while ultimately unsuccessful (no surprise to McGregor or his nephew), earned McGregor the role as campaign chair of President Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign. Bell told of his uncle’s advice to Nixon after discovering Watergate: ”Apologize. Apologize, tell them everything and the American people will forgive you. Try and hide it and it will destroy you.” Truer words have not been spoken.

Over lunch we discover the Kennedy streak of opponents never seeking office again has been broken, sort of. Wetterling has formed an exploratory committee for Senate. Kennedy slightly grouses that she’ll probably get better coverage from the Star Tribune than his actual announcement---a below the fold article in the Metro section. The conversation begins on the many positives of Wetterling’s entrance: the whole DFL field is stuck in neutral and looking more and more divided on a choice of candidate. All the talk is interesting, but the several days of not taking care of myself have finally caught up. I’ve got a fever and a terrific headache. Kennedy has been teasing me for days about keeping up with them so I put on a brave face, but I’m feeling sick.

Sketch Comedy

The Congressman barely changes out of his suit and tie when we arrive at a Perkins in Duluth. The view, right on Lake Superior, is tremendous. Eugene has tweaked his ankle leaving the RV before and gingerly walks inside as the snow flurries fly around us. The lake looks more like a river with the frozen islands dotting the surface---it would be perfectly beautiful if not for the temperature. But the chilly weather is a fittingly welcome for a Republican to Duluth. The actual reception inside is far warmer. Kennedy believes the reason for the DFL control in the Iron Range is the lack of any Republican voices:

”You ask the people up here: Are you pro-life? Absolutely. Are you pro-second amendment? Don’t take my gun out of my hands. How do you feel about the government? Stay out of my life. How are you going to vote in November? Democrat.”

But there are signs things are changing, the attendees note. ”For the first time, people put out Republican signs in Duluth…and they weren’t stolen,” said an attendee. ”The DFL is in trouble up here,” he says. Some of the attendees want Rod Grams to run against Oberstar, a nice thought but probably unlikely. Much of the conversation is turned towards how Republicans can make a difference in Duluth politics. One attendee says they need more blogs to turn the battle and Kennedy introduces me to the crowd, using my ”bloggerist” joke, already quoted by the National Journal. ”Is that right?”, he jokes. ”We’re making this up as we go,” I reply.

Birth of a Catch Phrase

The day is official over but more waits when the campaign drops me off at my car in Mounds View. Kennedy and his mother and father need a ride to meet Debbie Kennedy for dinner. While driving, Kennedy gives an interview with Hugh Hewitt and Kennedy talks up the blogs, again mentioning me and the ”bloggerist” term. Now that it’s been told to Hugh, everybody will be using it. Had I thought it would catch on, I’d have patented it and charged a nickel for everytime it’s used. While waiting for Debbie Kennedy, the Congressman and I trade Churchill quotes and discuss what exactly blogs are to Eugene. It’s a far cry from merely Wednesday morning when I mostly babbled incoherent baloney to Kennedy’s questions to me. Spending three days with a man and his family can change that.

Credit Where Credit’s Due

I’ve gotten a lot of undeserved credit on this trip. While getting more attention from respected media outlets in the last three days than I probably would have gotten in a lifetime of blogging is fantastic, the real credit needs to go to Gary. This is his baby, his brainchild, his absolute passion. One of the real thrills of this campaign among an uncountable number of thrills was having Gary talk to Mark Kennedy on the drive back from Duluth. I know the two will talk again many times before this campaign finishes, but Gary deserves more respect and credit than he’s received these last few days. I thank him immensely. (Editors note: The smartest thing I ever did with this blog is bringing First Ringer and Doug on board. Thanks, Ringer, but this is your day. "There is no limit to what you can accomplish as long as you don't care who gets the credit." --Ronald W. Reagan)

A complete review is forthcoming, but for the moment, I’m looking forward to sleeping in.


Day Two: Part Deux

With the news of Patty Wetterling apparently not running for anything, the Kennedy campaign moves on to Madison, Minnesota where one local recently lost his life in Iraq along with two other Minnesotans, a fact obviously noted by Kennedy. Continuing on the campaign’s ”It’s A Small World After All” theme, one of Kennedy’s nephews knew the Madison soldier and went to high school with him. Kennedy’s sister also teaches in Madison.

Children of the Corn

But the day of ”surprises galore” has more in store for Kennedy. At the Alexandria Perkins, Kennedy meets a 20+ person crowd packed into a small room. 3 of the 20 are school children who have obviously been coached by someone---and from their questions, mostly likely their teachers. They criticize privatization of Social Security and Kennedy forcefully states, ”no one supports privatization,” explaining his answer that he hates the term because what it has come to be defined as (basically playing roulette with seniors’ money) isn’t what it should be and isn’t what he’s willing to explore. Still, it’s an answer that might have his staff’s hair on edge. One child asks questions him about his voting record with the ACLU. Kennedy’s pithy response is ”the ACLU is the enemy of some of my friends.” The remark gets laughs except from another child who immediately asks if he’s an ”enemy of education” because of his 17% voting record with the NEA. Kennedy tells the kid to broaden his research of such topics but the kid strays further into brat territory by then immediately asking if Kennedy supports ”deficit spending.” At this point, Frank Sinatra, should be smacking around Laurence Harvey ala The Manchurian Candidate (you know, the good version), but Kennedy simply calls the question for what it is, use of ”angry dialogue.” I tell Kennedy on the bus, ”I think we’ve found your opponent” at which point I realize I should stick to taking notes.

Concerns of Hippies and Harvests

On the bus we discover that the 6th District DFL has sent out an email looking for protesters to tonight’s big event in St. Cloud. Kennedy and staff discuss what to do and quickly begin making phone calls to counteract any public scene but they’re not sure what to expect.

Down a country back road in Lowry we find our next destination---a farm for a quick meeting with local farmers. Given the falling temps, we met inside the location’s garage, filled with racecars and other NASCAR gear. With an intimate crowd of around 15, Kennedy admits that it’s getting harder to pass farm bills because fewer and fewer congressmen represent primarily rural districts. Only ¼ of the Congress comes from farm districts. Kennedy is again treated to tough questions but again some members of his audience don’t love his answer, but the difference between an event in rural Minnesota and suburban Minnesota becomes evident afterwards. Many of those who asked the toughest questions of Kennedy are shaking hands, smiling and joking with him one-on-one. There are no hard feelings, in part because they generally support Kennedy. The rural reaction to Kennedy’s campaign is tremendous. He’s been drawing crowds as if he’s campaign in February of 2006 not 2005. Why? Because the rural residents identify with Kennedy---one local mayor says he’s supporting Kennedy because of his farming background. Rural Minnesota, be it Republican or Democrat, is feeling isolated and forgotten by the increasing suburban focused state representatives. Kennedy is quickly becoming their statewide champion.

Bambi Be Damned

Terribly behind schedule, we barrel towards St. Cloud. Kennedy is concerned about the protesters still; worried that violence might occur if they are in the same room. He doesn’t want a bigger scene. In our haste, our National Guard driver Aaron (soon to be leaving for Iraq) reveals he hasn’t slept in more than 24 hours, causing horrified faces to emerge on all those within earshot. And Aaron’s alertness is put to the test when a herd of 8 deer cross the RV’s path. Heidi, talking on the phone at the time, blurts out ”we’re about to hit a deer” just as we nearly clip Bambi’s tale. Fear not. No deer were hit.

Supporters and Successors

St. Cloud, at last. And only a half-hour late. ”I hate being late” Kennedy keeps muttering. We round the corner at the Holiday Inn half-expecting to find throngs of angry protesters wielding torches and pitchforks. There’s nobody. Check that, there are more than 40 supporters and many Young Republicans who give Kennedy a standing ovation as he enters the room, welcomed by his brother David who continues yesterday’s intro as Mark’s ”younger and better looking younger brother.” As Kennedy begins his stump speech, which he’s given probably two-dozen times, he halts. The audience hesitates with him. Did he forget his place? Is there something is his throat? Did a groupie flash him? No, apparently the Chair of the 6th District DFL has brought his video camera to the front row to document Kennedy’s speech. Kennedy politely shakes his hand, and continues his speech---about two rows past them giving the DFL Chair a wonderful video of Kennedy’s back. The DFL Chair asks about Social Security, reminding the Congressman and the audience that Kennedy was part of a group who sent a letter to Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan urging him to support individual accounts. Kennedy responses, ”I don’t support privatization.” I wince. Kennedy goes on, as before, to explain what he means. What part of that exchange will appear in a DFL commercial?

The St. Cloud event has also brought out Kennedy’s hopeful successors. Phil Krinkie talks up Mark’s wife Debbie while Jim Knobloch shakes hands as well. Knobloch is being supported by Kennedy’s former Chief of Staff Pat Fiske, which Knobloch is more than happy to tell anyone he can. While Krinkie and Knobloch are fresh to campaign, an exhausted Kennedy attends the Minnesota Waterfowl Association and shakes hands. He speaks very briefly (”they didn’t come here to hear me talk”) and stays just long enough for a rabid supporter to tell him, ”Congressman, give ‘em hell!”

A Good End To A Long Day

The day ends with one more surprise. As Kennedy and I walk into the Holiday Inn, the Congressman fighting a scratchy throat, we meet a member of the hotel’s cleaning staff who walks up to Kennedy. The two begin talking, Kennedy’s health secondary to satisfying the beaming smile on this young man’s face. It turns out the young man knows Kennedy’s eldest son. Their conversation finished, we turn towards our hotel rooms. Kennedy looks at me and says, ”Small world” with a dash of disbelief.

Mark Kennedy Appearence on Hugh Hewitt Show

Congressman and 2006 Senate Candidate Mark Kennedy appeared on the Hugh Hewitt show this evening to discuss his upcoming Senate race.

Upon questioning, Kennedy stated his belief that his campaign would need to raise around fifteen million dollars to win the race.

The issue of Bush's judicial appointees being blocked in the Senate by fillibuster was also raised. Kennedy stated that the Democrat use of a fillibuster in these cases was de facto changing the Constitution, which requires only a simple majority vote for Senate confirmation to the bench.

Kennedy also stated enthusiasm for Minnesota bloggers suppporting his race, and even plugged our own First Ringer who has joined him on the campaign trail for the past three days (though he stumbled over the current name of this blog - big surprise).

Hugh Hewitt stated his intention to have Kennedy on his show many times between now and the 2006 race, and encouraged his listeners to visit Kennedy's website and donate to the campaign. Hewitt was a major supporter of John Thune in his race against former Senator Tom Daschle in the 2004 elections, and seems to be gearing up to support Congressman Mark Kennedy in a similar way this time around.

At Least It's a Red State Show

CNNMoney reports today that Country Music Television is hiring a full-time blogger to write a "Dukes of Hazzard" blog.

The job may seem onerous to some, however: watching "The Dukes of Hazzard" reruns five nights a week.

Viacom's Country Music Television channel is running help wanted ads for this position -- Vice President, CMT Dukes of Hazzard Institute. That's right. That's what the ads say, noting the pay is $100,000 for the duration of a one-year contract.

The vice president will have to watch Dukes of Hazzard every weeknight on Country Music Television, know all the words to The Dukes of Hazzard theme song and write the Dukes of Hazzard on-line blog for, Country Music Television's Web site.

The corresponding pay for blogging a U.S. Senate race? Nada (South Dakota bloggers aside).

*Sigh* Well, if Kennedy wins it means there may be some Social Security left for my 30-something ass.

Good News and Bad News

First the good news. From Hugh Hewitt today:

At the same time that the GOP leadership in the Congress gets a message to press hard, the Dems should also get the sort of message that they notice: Get ready to send a contribution to Minnesota Congressman Mark Kennedy, the leading GOP contender and almost certain nominee for the seat currently held by retiring Democrat Mark Dayton,
And now the bad news:

... as soon as he opens a web-site for his campaign.
Don't tell me the guy who literally wrote the book on blogs is waiting for this news to be reported in the Star Tribune.

For the record, the Mark Kennedy Senate Campaign site is already up, and fully capable of accepting your donations this very moment. Got a little spare change? Feel free to give it a test drive. Tell 'em Hugh sent you. Sort of.

Yecke to Officially Announce on Sunday

I suppose I ought to follow up my earlier post about Cheri Pierson Yecke announcing she's running for the Republican nomination for Minnesota's 6th District Congressional seat with the official news (like the earlier report, this also comes via Craig Westover):


Contact: Chris Tiedeman FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
612-834-1919 mobile

Cheri Pierson Yecke to Announce Her
Intentions Regarding the 6th Congressional District Race to Succeed Mark Kennedy

Where: Anoka American Legion, 400 West Main Street, Anoka
(Click here for map)

When: Sunday, February 27th, 2:00pm

Questions: If you have questions or need directions, please visit our Web site at or call 612-834-1919

[Note: Web site is apparently still under construction -- CW]

Reporters and photographers are encouraged to cover this event.

Wetterling Forms Exploratory Committee

24 Hours after Mike Erlandson said Patty Wetterling would not be a candidate for any federal office in 2006, Wetterling announces the formation of an exploratory committee for U.S. Senate.

Black Blog Ops...

Here's Why We Need More Than 55

The next time you forget why we need Mark Kennedy to replace Mark Dayton read today's WaPo (via The Corner)

Schumer told reporters that Senate Democrats see no reason to back Myers and other nominees who were turned back last year "unless there's new and dramatic information. . . . I think the president nominating them [again] is, sort of, a poke in the eye." Of the nominees sent back by Bush, Schumer said, "I think [Myers] would have the easiest chance of all of them, and I don't think he has the votes yet, either."

Liberal groups also signaled no letup in their campaign against conservative judges. "Rather than starting a new Congress with judicial nominees commanding bipartisan support, they immediately renew the judicial wars with polarizing nominees who were blocked in the previous Congress," said Ralph G. Neas, head of People for the American Way.

Speaking of which, Hugh Hewitt reads the same pap and decides it's time to do something about it:

The good and wonderful news is that this political struggle is not a civil war, but it is a political show-down of the highest order and the greatest stakes. No blood will be shed or violence done, thank God, but like the dramatic confrontation of 1964, the Congress must force a radical minority to reconcile to the majoritarian choices of a majority of Americans.

I think it is important to message Senator Frist that it is time to bring this confrontation to a head, and to generally force every issue on which the last election turned, including tort reform, energy exploration, the marriage amendment, but especially judges. At the same time that the GOP leadership in the Congress gets a message to press hard, the Dems should also get the sort of message that they notice: Get ready to send a contribution to Minnesota Congressman Mark Kennedy, the leading GOP contender and almost certain nominee for the seat currently held by retiring Democrat Mark Dayton, as soon as he opens a web-site for his campaign. When you do, e-mail a note to Senator Reid and Senator Leahy that you will be digging deep this cycle in order to render the filibuster question moot (and copy the vulnerable Democratic senators in Nebraska, Florida, Michigan, Washington State and New Mexico).

Kennedy is one step ahead of you, Hugh.

P.S. Grant!!

Pure Coincidence

You don't suppose this new addition to the blogosphere has anything to do with this, do ya?

Hat tip: Mitch via Flash.

(Insert Flashing Red Light Here)

A long-time reader from D.C. (not connected to either the Kennedy or Gutknecht camps) is telling the TBFKADVK tipline that Gil Gutknecht will announce on March 1st that he will not run for U.S. Senate and will endorse Mark Kennedy.

Gutknecht's plans for seeking reelection to the House were unknown.



Day Two: Surprises Galore!

Sorry for the lack of photoblogging folks---out of range to send anything. A flood of fuzzy picture phone pics await on Friday (plus some good old fashioned regular photos to be developed).


Mark Kennedy's pronouncement yesterday to press secretary Heidi Frederickson (Editor's Note: I think Heidi will appreciate me changing her name from "Frickerson" to Frederickson) seemed intent on coming true: "I think you're trying to kill me."

Morning at the Kennedy Compound began for Congressman and Mrs. Kennedy with a faulty cell phone alarm clock, waking them at 3:30am. Kennedy rose for good not much later, taking radio phone calls at 6:10 and 6:20 for WCCO and a local radio station. With not much time to chat, Kennedy rushed to the gas station where he worked as a boy (and babysat the current owner). He spent the morning reliving his youth pumping gas, washing windows and checking people's oil. As volunteers waved signs to welcome people in, onlookers were astonished to see a sitting Congressman offer to put their gas. Heidi Frederickson remarked, "We should do this again---in June."

Back on the bus, Debbie Kennedy staves off lack of sleep and the boredom of the road with knitting while husband continues on a breakneck pace with phone calls. "We may not get much sleep," Kennedy says, "but we have a lot of fun." On board, Kennedy suggests the name that will finally settle the DvK nightmare: Kennedy v. BYOD: Bring Your Own Democrat. (Editor's Note: we will throw it in the mix.)


Stopping at a Culver's in Brainerd, the Congressman and company are welcomed by a flashing sign with Kennedy's name on it and 20+ people in attendence. News media have followed including a reporter/slash blogger who knows DvK and The First Ring. Conservative Loon gives me his card and goes on to report Kennedy's speech. I'm quickly becoming the second-most introduced person at these events---and many people know DvK. One woman grabs me and says, "I don't care how much bad press you people [bloggers] get---you're great! You're all great!" Not all are convinced. "A log? A grog?", one woman asks. Obviously the work of the blogosphere isn't done yet. (Editor's Note: blogger groupies? I gotta take some PTO.)

Kennedy is introduced by his brother David, the "younger, more attractive brother", David jokes. As Kennedy goes into his stump speech for the first time, it's clear he's improved even from yesterday. He's crisper and more lively. And he knows his material even better. He refers to the violence in Iraq like plane crashes: "you never hear about the safe landings." And he answers many values questions---gay marriage, partial birth abortion and TV programming.


Kennedy and Debbie sit on for a radio interview on KSKK 94.7 in quaint downtown Wadena. "You're talking to a friendly," the host Dave Lee tells Kennedy. Lee loves Kennedy's common sense talk and Kennedy talks about the nation of Jordan's young population and how without an outlet for unemployment, terrorism in that country will grow. Lee mentions Rod Grams stopping by the office and said that Grams "spoke highly" of Kennedy and called him "a good friend." If only all opponents were like this. Kennedy returns the honor by speaking well of Grams.

Another radio station later (just down the street from KSKK), Kennedy enters the Boondocks Cafe to meet and greet voters. Mostly the blue haired crowd, the reception is warm until Kennedy meets a woman who strongly disagrees with his "junk lawsuit" comment, a staple of his stump speech. She's lost a relative in what could have fallen under Kennedy's junk lawsuit guidelines. She's obviously upset but Kennedy talks with her long enough to get her to acknowledge he's "a nice man."


The unofficial theme of the campaign, "It's A Small World After All" comes into play in Detroit Lakes with the local newspaper. The editor lives in Debbie's parents old farm. Kennedy, Debbie and the editor begin swapping rural tales and stories of small towns from Minnesota to both Dakotas. Back on the bus, Heidi shows her mettle by gentle helping Kennedy reshape and refine his speech. Less Teddy Roosevelt references, less on education, more on background. And like all campaigns, they're concerned about the message on Social Security. NPR and MPR "are competing to see which one can get me on Social Security first," Kennedy jokes.

From the fire into the Fryn' Pan in Moorhead. 30 or more people await Kennedy including a TV crew from WDAY 6, the local ABC station. At the event, Kennedy strongly declares "Social Security will never be privatized," bringing a mixture of relieved and confused looks. Kennedy goes to say he feels the term is a "scare tactic" designed to go after people's fears. Personal accounts may be involved, but it will never become a total private program.


On the bus, the campaign receives it's biggest surprise. Patty Wetterling is going to announce she's not running for anything tomorrow. Nothing. Nada. Zip. The news begins a debate on who Kennedy's toughest opponent would be, Klobuchar or Ciresi. Kennedy goes into detail instead of the usual "not worried about my opponents" line, but doesn't seem overly concerned about either of them. He's used to getting an early start. He did in the same in his first congressional campaign in 2000, getting started in June of 1999. By the end of the campaign, "people actually thought I was running for reelection." And Kennedy is confident it will happen again. The campaign revels in one tradition: no one who has run against them has run for office again. If Wetterling's announcement news is accurate, that will hold true for the time being. (Editor's Note: It's straight from DFL Chair Mike Erlandson's mouth.)

The hour is getting late and there's another big day ahead for the Kennedy campaign and company. More details on the rest of Day Two tomorrow as well as pictures, Day Three news and a complete wrap-up this weekend. Stay tuned!

--Posted by The First Ringer

Klobuchar Files

Hat tip to MNDemsX on the Hennepin County Attorney's plans.

Day One: On "The Busy K"

At some point between Eugene Kennedy's grand piano playing (the key to a winning campaign, he says) and stopping an entire U.S. Senate campaign to see a relative practicing for the opening of a local play, it hits you. You're not a part of a campaign, but a family vacation.

That's the atmosphere on the Kennedy RV on day three of Congressman Mark Kennedy's statewide campaign kick-off. Sure, it's a family vacation hallmarked by speeches given almost every hour and a constant barrage of phone calls, aggressive reporters and the usuals of politics. Still, the Kennedy campaign is a family affair and by the time a three-term congressman is showing you the room he and three brothers slept in growing up (a trademark of his stump speech), you'd have to be cynic of biblical propositions not to feel some pain of regret how politics dehumanizes candidates.

The day begins at the Mermaid in Mounds View to a 50+ person crowd at 7:30 on a Wednesday morning. Kennedy begins his stump speech, essentially the same as his announcement speech focusing on "replacing Washington values with Minnesota values." The audience is eager to meet Kennedy, some of them very unaware of his background and history. As the day wears on you realize a fair number (although perhaps not a majority) are seriously interested in what Kennedy has to say and are not turning out simply because they already support him. Having seen other statewide campaigns make similar tours, Kennedy's standard presentation differs from most in his willingess to answer questions in group form. While other candidate take questions one on one (often to potential problems), Kennedy seems to enjoy answering questions from his audiences.

Kennedy's campaign is eager to give away old "Kennedy for Congress" coffee mugs---collecter items they say. Morning coffee also reveals the DFL rumor of Governor Tim Pawlenty supporting Kennedy's potential party rival Gil Gutknecht to be absurd---Pawlenty, Coleman and Kline will be hosting a Kennedy St. Patrick's Day event (but the campaign claims they have not received Pawlenty's endorsement). More support from activists follow as Kennedy burns those cell phone minutes dialing for delegates in between locations.

A 22 degree outdoor event in Stillwater follows. The difficultly? The frigid temp and a snow-filled park. The perks? A picture-perfect backdrop and some press. Kennedy tells his audience they should get a "gold star" for coming out in this weather. Afterwards, Kennedy might have wished he could have given the reporters a time-out. In the warmth of the RV, one of the three reporters, an agressive sort from MPR, goes after Kennedy, nearly scolding him for starting his campaign so early. It "floors" him, the reporter says, to see anyone start running so soon. Kennedy calmly reminds his press audience that the winning campaigns of 2004 were the ones that got started in January or February two years out. The standard charges follow: Is Kennedy worried about being "in lockstep" with the administration? Can Kennedy do his job and run for Senate? And of course, Social Security. Does Kennedy favor private accounts or not? (say that question again about four times and you'll get the idea of what it was like). Kennedy wisely moves the question away from personal accounts to general reform, knowing the term "privatization" currently has been scandalized.

Next is St. Paul and the GOP Senate caucus where Kennedy is surrounded like a rock star. Senators practically get in line to meet with him and shake his hand as Senator Brian LeClair acts as Kennedy's escort to this ball. The Congressman's machine-like determination to meet and greet every senator puts him behind schedule but likely just made him the GOP nominee. While in LeClair's office, Kennedy calls in for a phone interview with MPR on the deaths of the three Minnesotans killed in Iraq, one of whom was a classmate of his nephews. "These men will be treated as heroes for generations to come," Kennedy says. MPR suggests the deaths will lessen support for war, a comment that clearly doesn't sit well with the Congressman.

After a stop in Bloomington at Schwan's frozen foods customer service HQ, it's off to Chaska and a public endorsement by Rep. John Kline. Kline calls Kennedy a "friend and mentor", even joking about the early days of the 2002 election when neither was sure who was going to run in what district. And bloggers outnumbered local press. 4 bloggers arrived, including yours truly, versus one local reporter. Jo and Mark of Jo's Attic (or now, merely the Attic) were joined by Billy from Cyber Ecology. Not only are the bloggers seemingly taking over, but I was shocked how many people knew of DvK or The First Ring---and didn't meet the description of the sites with pleasant smiles or furrowed brows.

Without a moment to collect ourselves, we're off to the "Busy K", or the Kennedy compound in Watertown. Picking up Kennedy's wife, Debbie, and dropping off a volunteer, we're then on to Little Falls and a packed room in Perkins (later bringing the observation, "could Amy Klobuchar get that many people from Little Falls to show up?", suggesting the campaign is hearing their full on speculation about potential DFL opponents). Then it's on to the home of Kennedy's parents for an evening of family history, piano playing and an endless supply of family photos.

It's getting late (although you'll be reading this as posted sometime tomorrow morning) and we're off again at 7:15 to pump gas at the station where Kennedy first worked. More from the road soon! And many thanks to Eugene Kennedy for helping get internet access to allow for this post to be posted!

--Posted by First Ringer

TBFKADVK in National Journal

Courtesy of SDP we discover this morning that The Hotline makes note of TBFKADVK's photoblogging of Rep. Kennedy's kick-off tour yesterday with extensive quotes from First Ringer:

From yesterday's edition of The Hotline:

The Blog "First Ring" writes: "yours truly is joining" the Kennedy camp kick-off tour today "as an invited journalist, blogger, er... bloggerist?" The First Ring and TBFKADVK (The Blog Formerly Known As Dayton V. Kennedy) "certainly won't be the last to take this step, but we may be the first. Candidates have discovered the perks of the blogosphere and have invited us to the table in much the same form as journalists have followed them on the campaign trail for generations."
"Expect posting here to be light for the next three days -- I will be (according to plan) recording and photoblogging the campaign trail over at the site eventually to be renamed a symbol" National Journal (2/22).

Hey, Lauck, what do you mean 'Kennedy Using Blogs for Minneota '06 Race'?


Yecke to Announce Bid for 6th District

Craig Westover reports tonight:

Former Education Commissioner Cheri Pierson Yecke will make her anticipated annoncement for Congress this coming Sunday, February 27 at a press conference at American Legion Post 102 at 400 West Main Street, Anoka.

Yecke joins GOP state Sen. Michele Bachman of Stillwater, state Rep. Jim Knobloch and former U.S. Air Force pilot Jay Esmay in the race for the seat being vacated by Republican Mark Kennedy, who is seeking the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Democrat Mark Dayton.
I couldn't yet confirm a source for this information. But hang tight, I'm looking.

UPDATE: Multiple independent confirmations of this, none of whom care to be attributed. But let's raise the confidence level on this to high.

-posted by Doug

Theodore H. White Never Did This...

Teddy White, author of the Making of the President series could never do what First Ringer is doing today. Here *breathless pause* are the first pictures from the Kennedy caravan...

Here is the Mermaid in Mounds View where a tipster got wind this morning that Gov. Pawlenty would be helping host a St. Patrick's Day party for Kennedy. Can you say, "The families have spoken"? How is Tom Prichard and the Minnesota Family Council going to react to that topless Mermaid, Ringer?

Kennedy shares his thoughts with folks in a hotel ballroom...

Here the Congressman visits with a once and future constituent...

Riding shotgun...

At least it ain't green...

A favorable omen to the Congressman's "Morning in Minnesota" theme?

I'll leave it up to First Ringer to flesh out the details of the day's events later but we wanted to give you a first look. Time to invest in a better picture phone, Ringer.

BTW, props to Noodles of People's Republic of Minnesota for help with posting the photos!!

Pawlenty to Appear for Kennedy on St. Paddy's?

An anonymous emailer to TBFKADVK advised us as to a flier he was handed at a Kennedy event this morning at the Mermaid in Mounds View.

From the TBFKADVK tipline:

According to the flyer the program will include special guests Senator Norm Coleman, Congressman John Kline, and Governor Tim Pawlenty! The event is $50 per person, and apparently (according to the flyer) being organized by Mark Kennedy 06 (seems to clearly be a fundraiser for the Kennedy campaign).

This seems contradictory to the notion that Gov. Pawlenty is backing Gil Gutnecht.


Minnesota Congressional Scorecard (Poor Man's Version)

National Journal came out yesterday with their annual congressional rankings for House and Senate -- and TBFKADVK doesn't have a subscription. Donations are welcome.

Having said that, You're in the Right Place blog has assembled a scoring system of their own that aggregates several congressional scoring systems into one:

Shortly after the 2004 election cycle ended and the make-up of the new Congress was decided, I began to ponder a meaningful way to rate the various Senators and House Members. After searching for information about the voting records of the various members of Congress over the years, I found what seemed to me to be the three most cited sources for rating them: One on the right - The American Conservatives Union; one on the left - Americans for Democratic Action; and one independent - The National Journal. I next came up with a mathematical formula that combined the three into what I felt was a fair and accurate measure of a given politician's voting record.

The formula I used for computing the scores was as follows:

American Conservatives Union (ACU) Lifetime Rating [thru 2003] {see here}
[Note: It has since been updated to include 2004!]

+ National Journal Composite Conservative (NJCC) Score [2003 only] {see here; via Project Vote Smart}

- Americans for Democratic Action (ADA) Rating [2003 only] {see here and here}

Or, to express it more simply: (ACU + NJCC) - ADA = RPI*
[*the Right Place Index]

The higher the score, the more conservative a given member of Congress is.

The lower the score, the more liberal a given member of Congress is.

Large negative numbers are bad. Very bad. If a Senator or Representative should register a -70 or below on the scale (which means averaging 10/10/90 (ACU/NJCC/ADA) or worse), I would feel quite confident in labeling them as being on the left-wing fringe. Even -40 or below (averaging 20/20/80 or worse) is pretty far out there.

Democrats who are close to a 0 RPI (35/35/70) can actually be considered to be quite reasonable much of the time and are not to be disregarded as completely partisan liberal hacks. True moderates of either party would, by definition, be somewhere in the general area of a 50 RPI (50/50/50).

Any Republican managing a 110 or better (70/70/30) gets at least a passing grade as far as I am concerned, but let us be very careful about condemning those with lower grades. A moderate Republican is far, far better for the country than any liberal Democrat who might replace them if we on the right deign to punish them by sitting out an election to "teach them a lesson."

Furthermore, 140 and up (80/80/20) generally makes one a true conservative. Anyone with a 170 or higher (90/90/10) rates as a solid conservative on practically every issue.

So how did Minnesota fare? More significantly, how did Mark Kennedy and Gil Gutknecht fare? Both with commendable scores but for the record, that's Kennedy off your starboard bow...


176 (90/91/5) Mark Kennedy (R) MN-06
167 (84/88/5) John Kline (R) MN-02
146 (94/67/15) Gil Gutknecht (R) MN-01
146 (85/76/15) Norm Coleman (R) MN Sen 2008
95 (69/51/25) Jim Ramstad (R) MN-03
22 (45/47/70) Collin Peterson (D) MN-07
-51 (10/24/85) James Oberstar (D) MN-08
-54 (9/12/75) Mark Dayton (D) MN Sen 2006
-70 (5/20/95) Martin Olav Sabo (D) MN-05
-85 (7/8/100) Betty McCollum (D) MN-04


Black Helicopters

Is Governor Tim Pawlenty backing Gutknecht?

Via our DFL friends over at Checks and Balances and fresh off the rumor mill floor comes word that Pawlenty is privately encouraging Gutknecht’s run for the Republican endorsement:

”We understand there are a number of Republican officeholders and party activists that feel Congressman Mark Kennedy (R-MN6) is not the best candidate U.S. Senate for the GOP in 2006. While many Republicans acknowledge Kennedy’s stalwart support for the Republican agenda as a Congressman, they question his abilities to be a featured candidate statewide.

We understand one of the people to hold this view is Governor Pawlenty. Though he will not say so publicly we understand he is encouraging Gutknecht to run for the Senate privately. With U.S. Senator Norm Coleman quickly endorsing the candidacy of Kennedy and Pawlenty siding with Gutknecht it looks like an endorsement fight is brewing. This is another example of how the Republican Party is falling into two camps, the pro-Pawlenty faction and the pro-Coleman faction. By our assessment the Pawlenty faction is far more powerful and closely aligned with the rank and file delegates. If it comes to a head-to-head contest between the influences of Pawlenty versus that of Coleman, the Coleman faction will not likely appreciate the result.”

Another example? Let’s start with one and work our way up, shall we?

Whether Pawlenty holds such a view or not is immaterial to the suggestion that Pawlenty’s “camp” will follow suit and back Gutknecht. About the only way that is going to happen is if Pawlenty publicly endorses Gutknecht and with the Governor up for reelection in 2006---and having to share the ticket with the eventual endorsement winner---that’s about as likely as James Lileks entering the Senate race. If Pawlenty is “endorsing” Gutknecht at all, it’s in his silence on the matter. He’s not going to get mud on his hands intervening in the Senate campaign unless he deeply dislikes/mistrusts/hates Mark Kennedy. And if he feels that way, I don’t think you’d need a website to tell you.

For more Kennedy/Gutknecht analysis, check out Knife Fights and Ripple Effects over at The First Ring. See you on the campaign trail starting tomorrow!

--Posted by First Ringer

Gutknecht to Announce

plans by March 1st.

Spending the week in Europe before launching a candidacy for one of the most competitive Senate races of '06 suggests he may be backing away from the precipice.

Minnesota 'Leans Dem Retention'

Or so says Daily Kos, the premier web destination for today's upwardly-mobile Marxist. Kos assures us that "Minnesota's short flirtation with the GOP, following Wellstone's death, appears to be over." The laughs don't end with Minnesota so scan the whole piece here.

Now that their favorite lunatic is running the asylum, you don't suppose Kos is taking money from the DSCC, do ya?


Fear and Loathing in Bemidji

In the spirit of the dearly departed Hunter S. Thompson, The blog formerly known as Dayton v. Kennedy will hit the campaign trail this week for a bit of Q&A and possible photoblogging with the candidate still known as Mark Kennedy. That's right, our own First Ringer will be one of a handful of folks traveling with Congressman Kennedy as he kicks off his statewide Senate Announcement Tour. Ringer will join the tour mid-week.

This will also mark the first contact between members of this blog and the Kennedy campaign so Ringer will be commenting not only on the candidate's delivery and reception, but also on the state of the well-organized but nascent campaign. While readers will not be surprised to know we believe Rep. Kennedy to be the best vehicle for capturing the seat for the Republicans, he will give an objective measure of the week's goings-on. Stay tuned.


Lest We Forget

For all the talk about Kennedy, Klobuchar, Gutknecht, Ciresi, Grams or anyone else, remember we still have 625 more days with Senator Mark Dayton (and that’s just until November 7th).

Dayton has weighed in recently on newly appointed National Intelligence Director John Negroponte, releasing the following statement:

“I voted against Ambassador Negroponte’s previous nomination because of his former public record. I will consider this nomination based upon that record, which now includes his service as Ambassador to Iraq, and his qualifications for this new position, which is critically important to our national security. I will not decide whether or not to support his nomination, until I have completed that review.”

So Dayton thought Negroponte’s record was insufficient, ill qualified, or for whatever reason, not appropriate to be the Ambassador to Iraq. Now with Negroponte’s further promotion since his days at the United Nations, Dayton has said he will re-review the record that he felt disqualified Negroponte for such advancement but will not automatically make the same conclusion.


Maybe my priorities are screwed up, but I think Director of National Intelligence is a little more important a position than Ambassador to any country. If Dayton feels Negroponte isn’t qualified to be either, fine (although why being the Ambassador to the UN makes one unqualified to repeat the role in Iraq I don’t understand). But then why is Dayton hedging on his vote? ”I will not decide whether or not to support his nomination, until I have completed that review.” He admits he reviewed Negroponte before and found him wanting. Why is a second review necessary? Is Dayton suggesting that Negroponte’s work in Iraq impressed him enough to warrant a second look? Or is Dayton simply playing games with Negroponte’s nomination, pretending to be giving him a fair personal review?

--Posted by First Ringer

While the Cat's Away...

I return to Minnesota to find a dramatically different political landscape. Gil Gutknecht seems intent on simultaneously running to the right of Kennedy on Social Security reform (to the right only in the sense that Kennedy has been remarkably cautions on the subject for several months) and also showing he can be an effective general election candidate by appealing to seniors.

Will it be effective? I wouldn't bet on it but it proves he is serious about making the race.

Meanwhile, Amy Klobuchar begins consolidating support among DFL activists -- the folks who ultimately choose who gets on the ballot. The same folks on the Republican side are firmly in Kennedy's camp making him the presumptive favorite.

But then you knew that thanks to Ringer and Doug. My thanks go out these guys for their yeoman's work on TBFKADVK in my absence. With their help we will continue to make this the premier destination (still have vacationspeak on the brain) for covering the 2006 U.S. Senate race in Minnesota from a Kennedy-centric point of view.

Not Running? Not So Fast

For all the talk that Rep. Gil Gutknecht wasn’t interested in running against Mark Kennedy, preferring to focus on his Pharmaceutical Market Access bill, Sunday’s Star Tribune suggests otherwise.

In an op-ed piece, the normal invisible Congressman from the First District makes a scene about Social Security reform, backing the President’s partial privatization plan to the hilt. In Gilly’s usual folksy way, he argues for a return of bipartisan support of Bush’s initiative, as there was for Clinton’s late 1990s focus on the program, before Congress plays the role of the iceberg to Social Security’s Titanic:

"We must act now across party lines to make Social Security as strong for our children as it has been for our parents."

So said President Bill Clinton during a radio address in 1998. Clinton recognized the same problem then that President George W. Bush recognizes today.

Some argue that we should wait until this is truly a crisis before attempting to solve this problem. I take a different view. Imagine an ocean liner headed for an iceberg 5 miles away. A course correction 5 miles out would hardly be noticed by the passengers, and the ship would pass by the iceberg with room to spare. However, if the ship waits until the iceberg is 50 yards away, and the captain then decides to alter course, a drastic turn of the rudder would knock passengers off their feet. The sooner we fix this, the less extreme the changes that will have to be made.”

Gutknecht is obviously setting himself up as the health care candidate of the 2006 race, trying to snag general election moderates and seniors with his prescription drug reimportation legislation and Republican delegates and younger voters with his support for Social Security reform. Despite his occasional wanderings off the Republican reservation, Gutknecht shows that he knows he has to get the GOP endorsement before he starts to worry about November as he finishes his piece with a shot at Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV):

”In 1999, five years before he was elected Senate minority leader, Democrat Harry Reid of Nevada stated on Fox News Sunday that "most of us have no problem with taking a small amount of the Social Security proceeds and putting it into the private sector."

Most Americans agree. We must work together on a bipartisan basis to reform Social Security so that it continues to meet the needs of today's seniors as well as providing fairness for our children.”

--Posted by First Ringer


Another Senate Prospect Declines to Run

Ok, this time it's not at all surprising, but it is extremely amusing.

James Lileks' Backfence column today notes:

Well, I'm not running for Senate, either. Not that anyone asked. But I want to get that out of the way, since everyone seems to be grabbing a few minutes of spotlight time by lifting their hems and showing a flash of political ankle. It's not that I wouldn't be a great senator. I would. I have more qualifications than Al Franken, inasmuch as I -- what's the phrase I'm looking for? Right: I live in the state I'd like to represent. And unlike Jesse the V, who's also made senatorial rumblings, I am not apt to show up on the Senate floor looking like I based my facial hair on "Pirates of the Caribbean." But I do not want to be a senator. Ever.

-posted by Doug

The Drumbeat Grows

Another day, another sign that Amy Klobuchar is the DFL frontrunner.

On Friday night’s Almanac, the show’s political panel seemed in near lockstep agreement that Klobuchar was the favorite of the party activists and insiders. Ted Mondale, former State Senator and son of the former Vice-President, described that the sentiment in the DFL was to avoid a messy September primary and settle on a candidate quickly. No Mike Ciresi. No Steven Kelley. No Tom Rukavina. Just Klobuchar.

Taxpayers League President David Strom called Mondale’s strategy the ”nightmare scenario for Republicans” who obviously would prefer to see the DFL form a circular firing squad all the way until September. Strom described Klobuchar as ”a Democrat Republicans like to like” while Mondale defended criticisms that selecting Klobuchar this early was too much insider politics for Minnesota. ”She has the right profile, being a prosecutor….I think it’s her time and that may not be fair to everyone but politics isn’t fair.” Mondale said ”everyone” he knows is supporting her. Renowned Republican pundit Sarah Janacek wondered how the DFL would be so easily able to sort out a U.S. Senate candidate with Mike Ciresi’s millions once again backing his campaign.

Panelist Ember Reichgott Junge, another former DFL state Senator, backed Klobuchar as well, as she had a week earlier on Minnesota’s other political forum, At Issue. Ember’s attitude may signal that the 2006 DFL ticket be nicknamed the Estrogen Brigade, as she not only lauded Klobuchar but said the best possible candidate against incumbent Governor Tim Pawlenty would be a woman. As talk of an all-female top of the ticket for the DFL continues into 2006, remember you read it here first about the DFL’s Judi Dutcher syndrome.

The DFL is still grounding sour grapes about choosing veteran state Senator Roger Moe over GOP turned DFL Auditor Judi Dutcher in the race for Governor in 2002. Activists obviously hope to make that correction by endorsing Klobuchar for Senate. And who knows, they might be able to endorse Dutcher for Governor and have a ticket entirely compromised of daughters of famous Minnesotan sports/sports-related figures (Dutcher’s father coached the men’s basketball team at the University of Minnesota).

Keep the theme going. Clemette Haskins for Secretary of State 2006!

--Posted by First Ringer



The political flurries of early February have come and gone to be replaced by…eh, well, nothing. Can’t somebody else announce they’re running for Senate? C’mon, you’re going to have to sooner or later.

In the meantime, two of America’s foremost prognosticators have weighed in on Minnesota’s U.S. Senate race. Unfortunately, they haven’t weighed in very far.

Charlie Cook of the Cook Political Report has Dayton’s open seat listed as one of the few toss-up races. And Larry Sabato of the sometimes entertaining Crystal Ball has listed the Gopher State as ”Leaning Democratic”, although it’s hard to tell if his view was made before or after Sen. Dayton’s announcement.

--Posted by First Ringer

And Don’t Let the Door Hit You…

Mark Kennedy agrees---Syria’s ambassador has to go.

Following Syria’s “alliance” with Iran and the nation’s possible connection in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the victim of a deadly car bomb attack, Kennedy believes the time has come to serve diplomatic ties with Syria:

"I fully support the administration's decision to withdraw our ambassador from Syria. This sends a strong signal to those, like Syria, who actively support terrorists, and fight against peoples democratic rights. We are committed to the cause of spreading freedom, and will continue to assist those around the world as committed to this as we are, and will continue to assist those around the world who share in our goal of a world where every man, woman, and child is secure in their God-given liberty.”

What’s this? No more American Secretary’s of State waiting on Syrian tarmacs to be lectured by members of the Assad family? No more promises made by Bashar Assad to American officials that are immediately broken? My God, what will Foggy Bottoms think?

Kennedy and the Bush administration’s response: who cares? The administration briefly attempted the carrot with Syria and is now brandishing the stick. Kennedy obviously understands the necessity to stand firm against Syria, especially when the regime of the boy dictator is lashing out. While it would have been nice for the Congressman to elaborate on his views on Syria, Kennedy proves, to abuse an old quote from Margaret Thatcher, he’s ”not one for turning.”

--Posted by First Ringer