Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Dog That Isn't Barking

Either I'm just a crappy prognosticator or something else is going on in the DFL primary for governor.

One of the astounding things about the race thus far is that Matt Entenza has spent millions of dollars running for governor but has refused, thus far, to use any of that money to attack the frontrunner, Mark Dayton. Based on all the available evidence, Entenza continues to trail Dayton with the election only a week away.

Why would a candidate spend millions on a campaign and not do the obvious thing necessary to win? Eric Black at MinnPost wonders the same thing:

It’s almost too late to start. The one who has the money and, one might say, the motive, to go negative would be Entenza. But Entenza’s spokester Jeremy Drucker told me flatly last night: “You’re not going to see anything like that from us. From the very beginning, it’s been off the table because Matt wouldn’t let us do that.”

In recent weeks, and again in last night's debate, Entenza has made a virtue of his decision not to attack his opponents, saying the public is sick of "squabbling" politicians.

That's counter-intuitive, to say the least. Why would anyone spend millions on a campaign and get nothing out of the effort? And why would Lois Quam, Entenza's wife, let Entenza spend down a large part of the couple's personal fortune to run for governor and then not do everything necessary to win?

Black hazards a few guesses:

There are a couple of possible explanations. Drucker, who assured me that Entenza would not unleash a nastygram against his opponents in the final week, said the Entenza has said all along that the top priority is to elect a DFL governor this year. Entenza would like that to be himself, but he will risk helping Emmer by attacking his DFL primary opponent. All three have said all year that whoever gets the nomination will have unified party support.

It's also true that whichever DFLer started the intraparty attacks would get a lot of pushback from DFLers who, likewise, are desperate to win this year.

Lastly, attack ads are dangerous in a more than two-person race because voters often punish both the attackee and the attacker. The danger is that if A attacks B, the beneficiary will be C.
C in this case would be Margaret Anderson Kelliher. So does this analysis make sense to you? Or is there something else afoot?


First Ringer said...

Entenza certainly has the means to attack, but he may be concerned that doing so will lead to endless process stories in the media about his hasty 2006 withdrawal from the AG's race.

Entenza's mining expedition on Hatch in 2005/06 forced him to quit the AG's race on the last day of the filing deadline. A return to form would have DFL leaders and media types proclaiming "there he goes again", likely undoing anything gained by the mud-slinging.

Mr. D said...

All true, FR, but it still doesn't explain why he'd spend millions on a campaign that he can't win. I think there's something else afoot.

Night Writer said...

For no good reason, here's "Dogs Were Barking" by Gogol Bordello: