Well, the Minnesota Senate race is starting to heat up, and the two major candidates have now hit the airwaves with introductory advertisements. Amy Klobuchar, the DFL candidate, has come out of the gate with two ads touting two separate, non-impressive accomplishments. The first ad discussed her role in putting a corrupt appellate judge in jail for stealing from a mentally incompetent person for whom the judge served as conservator, while the second ad touted her efforts to extend hospital time for new mothers from 24 hours after birth to 48 hours after birth. Both ads sound real good, until you think about what she’s actually saying. In the case of the judge, it wasn’t exactly a profile in courage for Klobuchar’s office to prosecute the case. The evidence was overwhelming and the judge did not mount a vigorous defense. Any district attorney would have done exactly what Klobuchar did. In the second case, Klobuchar talked about her own experience after her daughter was born. Her daughter ended up having to spend time in the neo-natal intensive care unit (NICU) before she could go home, but Klobuchar was required by her insurance company to be discharged from the hospital 24 hours after she gave birth. As it happens, my family was similarly situated – my son was born a month early (but healthy) and my wife had been on bed rest for a month prior to a bout of pre-term labor that required her hospitalization for five days the month before my son was born. You can argue that mothers should have an extra day in the hospital to recover, but the implication of the ad is that Klobuchar’s newborn daughter was somehow imperiled by limiting Klobuchar’s hospital stay. That is not how it works, of course: once the child is born, it becomes a separate patient and no insurance carrier forces a child out of the NICU, no matter what the expenses turn out to be. Klobuchar’s slogan for the campaign is “Without fear or favor.” Based on the ads she’s run so far, she seems to be bragging about her bravery in prosecuting a judge who was caught red-handed, and she seems to believe she was entitled to a favor (another night of hospital care) because her child was in the NICU. Is that too harsh an assessment? I don’t think so.
Then there’s Mark Kennedy, whose opening ad is simply bizarre. He again reintroduces us to his family, who have authentic Meen-uh-SOH-tuh accents and who prattle on about how Kennedy had to share a bedroom with three brothers, who are shown sitting on a bunk bed with the candidate. Then the family assures voters that Kennedy is not a party guy, showing Kennedy wearing a party hat in grainy footage. Then various family members praise him for being an accountant. As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up. I don’t know how any of this helps to make Kennedy’s case. Kennedy has defeated three separate DFLers in the past three elections, but Klobuchar is not boring (like David Minge) nor a petulant limousine liberal (like Janet Robert) or a well-meaning novice (like Patty Wetterling). He won’t win unless he figures out Klobuchar’s weakness and exploits it remorselessly. Here’s a hint for Mr. Kennedy – she’s a lightweight. Problem is, based on the opening ad, it would be easy to conclude that Kennedy is a lightweight, too.