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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Michele Bachmann Taking A Card from Patty Wetterling

The Student for Bachmann suggests that it's all about the children.

The Student for Bachmann also posts the full text of a Roll Call article about the race between Elwyn Tinklenberg and Patty Wetterling.

In the 6th, a district that spans from the Twin Cities exurbs past St. Cloud, Tinklenberg is busy double-checking commitments while Republicans churn out news releases that gleefully note Wetterling's utterance last year that she cannot win in the 6th.

Wetterling had barely declared herself a Congressional candidate when the National Republican Congressional Committee reminded people that Wetterling "believes she can win a statewide race but that she'd lose another election in the Republican-leaning 6th district." The NRCC, further quoting an April St. Paul Pioneer Press story in which Wetterling said, "The numbers show me that ... I will not win."

As a first-time candidate last cycle, Wetterling garnered an impressive 46 percent of the 6th district vote against Rep. Mark Kennedy (R). But she opted for a Senate bid this year because polling revealed she would fare better statewide.

"She would have been far smarter to say 'this isn't a year I will run for public office' and step back, regroup," observed Barry Casselman, a political columnist based in Minnesota. "It seems almost like she's addicted to running."

Tinklenberg fumed that Wetterling went back on her commitment to him that she would not run.

Sarah Janecek, co-editor of the Politics in Minnesota newsletter, said that argument is "a bust." Even though Wetterling has sought to portray herself as an anti-politician, "people expect politicians to break promises about their own futures," Janecek said.

One promise Wetterling cannot break is the one she made to abide by the Democratic nominating process, Casselman said.

Both Tinklenberg and Wetterling said they would end their campaigns if they do not secure the party endorsement at the May 13 convention of district party leaders rather than push on to a September primary.

Wetterling "has to stick by it or she has no credibility," Casselman said.

So does Elwyn Tinklenberg. Does Tinklenberg intend to run in the primary?

Wetterling advisers say she took the plunge back into the House race because people asked her to.

"The reality of it is folks in the district came to Patty to do this, there was an overwhelming display of support for her," said Wetterling spokesman Corey Day. "Party activists and party leaders were really excited about her getting in the race."

From a national perspective, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee seems content to have two strong challengers, as long as a nominee is chosen in May and the fight doesn't drag on to the September primary.

"The Republican field of status quo politicians makes this seat competitive in and of itself," said Jennifer Paski, a DCCC spokeswoman. "But the great news for Minnesota Democrats is that they have a choice between two top-tier candidates who are committed to change in Washington."

Tinklenberg's camp is confident that he has the leg up, especially given that party caucuses begin next month.

"We think that we have a very firm hand with respect to the primary," said Bob Doyle, Tinklenberg’s consultant. "We've been out there for a year; we've lined up a tremendous amount of supporters. We have the unified AFL-CIO endorsement. We start out clearly at an advantage."

Is Bob Doyle a consultant from DC or Minnesota? The article doesn't say.

Tinklenberg can also boast that DCCC Chairman Rahm Emanuel (Ill.) and House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) have already hosted fundraisers for him while House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) have donated to his campaign. Janecek said none of that really matters considering it happened when he was the lone Democratic candidate in a targeted race.

"Elwyn was in the race for a while and a buzz did not develop about his candidacy," she said. National Democrats had boasted that Tinklenberg is a "good fit" for the Republican-leaning district. He supports gun rights and opposes abortion rights, while Wetterling is just the opposite.

Interesting that they leave out Tinklenberg's announced support of the Federal Bachmann Amendment. Has he changed his position on that issue?

None of that matters in nominating conventions, which are attended by party activists who tend to the extremes of their parties, Janecek said.

Wetterling was endorsed by EMILY’s List last cycle but in the Senate contest, the influential abortion-rights group sided with Klobuchar. That hurt Wetterling’s ability to raise money — Klobuchar ended 2005 with $1.7 million in the bank while Wetterling had around $200,000.
"She was having a hard time raising money and Amy Klobuchar's clinching national groups like EMILY’s List really hurt her campaign," Janecek said. "Now she has a shot at national money."
It was an open secret that EMILY's List leaders tried to coax Wetterling out of a Senate bid and back into the House race months ago.

"Clearly we’re very excited about her getting in in the 6th," said EMILY's List spokeswoman Ramona Oliver. "We've said all along that she would be a terrific candidate who can win that seat."

In the end Tinklenberg and Wetterling only have to convince the approximately 170 delegates who will determine their fate.

Opinions differ on who can best do that but one thing for certain is that Wetterling's movements rankled some Democrats, especially Tinklenberg.

"What everybody wants is a win," Doyle said. "Patty has said time and again on the record that she cannot win here and that was why she was running for the U.S. Senate and then when her Senate campaign ran aground — it seems a decision of personal expediency."

Patty Wetterling made a courtesy call to Elwyn Tinklenberg, and he reacted by having a public temper tantrum in the media. Tinklenberg could react by saying he is looking forward to debating Wetterling on the issues. People do change their minds. Most people understand this.