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Monday, November 13, 2006

Mike Hatch Loses Votes in the Urban Core

St Paul Pioneer Press

If you want to know where Mike Hatch lost the gubernatorial election, go to the Macalester-Groveland neighborhood in St. Paul. While a Democratic wave was rising across the nation and Minnesota, it left the DFL standard-bearer high and dry here.

A Pioneer Press analysis of election returns found a telling combination along Summit and Randolph avenues: Hatch won handily, but got less voter support there than any other statewide Democratic contender in the last two elections ? even relative unknowns such as state auditor victor Rebecca Otto.

At the same time, Independence Party contender Peter Hutchinson had a remarkable finish in the neighborhood, taking as much as 15 percent of the vote in some precincts. It wasn't much in the grand scheme of a 2 million-vote election, but the shift struck the geographic heart of the DFL.

Think of it this way: To win statewide office, Democrats need a combined margin of victory of at least 150,000 votes in Hennepin and Ramsey counties. John Kerry did it in 2004. U.S. Senate winner Amy Klobuchar and most of the DFL ticket did it this year.

But for Hatch, who performed comparably with other DFLers in much of the rest of state, the Twin Cities landslide didn't go all the way down the mountain. It stopped more than 60,000 votes short. And it looks like it stopped at Hutchinson.

Shawn Towle isn't too happy, and blames state DFL chair Brian Melendez:

In 1990, many DFLers felt Hatch helped to undermine the reelection of Governor Rudy Perpich (DFL) by softening his messages in the DFL Primary and ultimately making him vulnerable to the eventual victor Arne Carlson (R). In 1994, DFL party activists felt Hatch "got in bed with the MCCL (the anti-abortion group Minnesota Citizen's Concerned for Life)" to deny then Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman (DFL) the endorsement over state Senator John Marty (DFL-54, Roseville). Further, in the DFL Primary Hatch came ever-so close to defeating Marty the far more liberal candidate in the race. Therefore, Hatch’s sixteen year history of alienating the DFL base may have been the ultimate reason for the downfall this time through.

We concur with the Nelson and Sylvester logic in their article and will also discuss the unintended consequences that may have led to this outcome. Placing emphasis on the St. Paul communities of Highland and Merriam Park or making an individual possibly responsible is a simple factor. Those communities were either represented by or adjoin the district represented by House Minority Leader Matt Entenza (DFL-64A, St. Paul). The well documented conflict between Hatch and Entenza may have had some residual effect. As did we believe in St. Louis Park where Hatch's DFL endorsement opponent and DFL endorsed candidate for Attorney General Steve Kelley (D) resides.

We checked the results in Entenza's (64A) and Kelley’s (44) legislative districts and found our assumptions to hold true. We created a spreadsheet to show the specifics. There was quite a distance between Hatch and Klobuchar votes with the average margin around 25%. As we looked deeper into the numbers we tried to access what the Democratic base vote was and since Lori Swanson (D) was closely affiliated with Hatch we singled out the other two Constitutional races. This shows Hatch underperforming the average of the Ritchie and Otto vote by between 1 and 3 percent in nearly every precinct. To view the spreadsheet click here:

Hatch's inability to cultivate support from the base of the DFL Party put him at odds throughout the election and we feel quite comfortable in placing blame at the feet of the DFL Party. In our minds the purpose of a political party is not to become a platform or a soap box for issue discussion it is to get people elected to office. The heavy emphasis on issues helps to engage people in an ideological dialogue and generate enthusiasm – which then provides the manpower for a campaign.

Because nearly every electoral position was up this election there were demands for human capital from the various campaigns and people were are picking and choosing which candidate they would like and want to work for. Hatch’s demeanor, especially as seen by DFL Party activists was not all that warm and embracing. Basically, the reason why people voted for Governor Tim Pawlenty (R) is because he is someone you would like to have a beer with and Hatch is the kind of person you want to have your back in a bar fight. There was also an organizational obstruction that even people who wanted to volunteer for the Hatch campaign were unable to get through to the campaign office or receive any direction due to of the barebones operation that Hatch had in place.

This is where the DFL Party and the combined campaign needed to step in. Now we are not trying to imply that DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez (D) is culpable in forgetting about the Governor’s race – some of the best commercials against Pawlenty this election were the paid for by the DFL with Melendez's name boldly displayed. But the day-to-day ground operations were in the hands of another individual and all together that is the DFL Party Executive Director and United Democratic Fund Director.

DFL Party Executive Director Andy O’Leary is a recent transplant to Minnesota. He hailed most recently from a stint in New York with the 21st Century Democrats, but prior to that he was in Indiana where he worked closely with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC). As the United Democratic Fund Director his close ties to the DSCC were a significant benefit to the Klobuchar effort and hence the overbalanced focus on the U.S. Senate race.

Mike Hatch didn't do the retail campaigning necessary to win this thing, and didn't make the effort to mend fences with those he alienated in the past. Brian Melendez and the DFL were promoting Hatch's campaign. DFL base volunteers were not buying.

It's not the DFL's fault that the Hatch campaign chose to invest nothing in ground operations. A campaign for governor needs to have an office that is a hub for volunteers as well as a press shop. Hatch chose the TV ad only route and avoid retail politics. Pawlenty did both.

Mike Hatch defeated Mike Hatch. The real story here is that Tim Pawlenty was barely able to defeat a very weak candidate.

Both governor candidates did nothing to excite base voters.