Dayton v. Kennedy

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

2/11/2005

Past as Prologue

Are there parallels between the 2000 Republican presidential nominating contest and the 2006 Minnesota Republican race for U.S. Senate? Indulge me.

While Gil Gutknecht and Rod Grams have been making noise about contesting Kennedy for the Republican nomination, Kennedy has been on strict radio silence for months. Sound familiar?

In 1999 then-Governor Bush hardly ventured off his Texas bass boat. The folks who ultimately decide these things -- the fundraisers, strategists and activists -- were making meccas to Crawford to see if they could be part of the emerging Bush juggernaut. Few headlines were generated outside the pages of NR and the Weekly Standard. I suspect we will see much the same when Congressman Kennedy announces -- as soon as tomorrow.

By contrast, "maverick" Senator John McCain was busy talking to his natural constituency: the national press corp. Why? He is a favorite because of his willingness to take positions that contrast with conservative orthodoxy.

Allow me to present Rep. Gutknecht as the John McCain of the 2006 Republican Senate contest -- not because of his ability to appeal to independent voters, but for his willingness to flirt with positions his conservative mind knows to be disastrous. For example: co-sponsoring drug reimportation legislation with Socialist congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Expect him to conduct his campaign through newsprint and the airwaves much like McCain.

From 1988-1992 there was little that genuine conservatives could be excited about in the first Bush Administration. One exception was the consistent voice of J. Danforth Quayle on cultural issues. Though mocked at the time for his "Murphy Brown speech", both the right and left have since acknowledged the need for stable, intact families. Even so, everyone would acknowledge his lack of stature doomed any presidential aspirations. Lest we forget, Quayle was actually seen in the first-tier of Republican candidates as late as the summer of 1999 but ultimately his "damaged goods" reputation caused the money to dry up. And his malapropisms were, of course, legendary.

Indulge me with former-Senator Rod Grams as the Dan Quayle of this Senate nominating contest. While he did some things that will always endear himself to the conservative faithful, his first time on the public stage proved so underwhelming that he can scarcely be trusted with a second shot at an open seat. Republicans must remember that we have a once-a-generation chance to fundamentally reform the tax, entitlement and regulatory structure of the federal government and taking a chance with someone who could not fend off Mark Dayton four years ago can hardly be entrusted to successfully contest a race that will be markedly more difficult sans-Dayton.

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