Tuesday, November 15, 2005

As goes St. Cloud, so goes the nation 

At least if you believe Annette Meeks, arguing today that the Democrats shouldn't take too much heart in the 2005 elections. Reform candidates win:
Here in Minnesota, we also had a challenger who talked about reform, local control and holding the line on taxes. He won, too.

Republican State Sen. Dave Kleis defeated St. Cloud Mayor (and DFLer) John Ellenbecker by garnering 54 percent of the vote. This was the first time in 25 years that St. Cloud has rejected a sitting mayor.

Kleis ran on a campaign theme that stressed fiscal responsibility, government reform and public safety. Ellenbecker spent much of his term criticizing Republicans in control of Minnesota state government.
Way-ell, that's a bit of a stretch. John Ellenbecker had a reputation of being "pugnacious", like the criminal defense attorneys you see on TV (criminal law being his profession.) That behavior has a short shelf life. Even opponents call Kleis "a nice guy". But a nice guy has to have a base of support, and that base creates the partisanship that the local paper decried yesterday. They painted Ellenbecker as a partisan, and he lost.

How do you translate that into national lessons? Marty Andrade thinks it's not about reform and moderation of positions but about voter fatigue and getting out the base:
Voters are fatigued and are skeptical of both parties. Pawlenty has sold out his base in an effort to get swing votes. [Gerry] Daly has warned that the swing votes are not going to get to the polls in '06 due to the fatigue. Pawlenty has already had issues with the base of the GOP during the State Central, where he endorsed Ron Eibenstiener for MNGOP Chair and the base went with Ron Carey. The elections in '06 will be status quo only is both party bases vote. If one base stays home, it will mean victory to the other.

It appears that in Minnesota, Tim Pawlenty has signed the end of his administration by abandoning the values that got him elected. In '06 the graven image of politics is going to be the moderate voters, when push comes to shove they will stay home and declare anathema anyone who pursued them.
Perhaps what Pawlenty would take from the Kleis victory is that sounding partisan sounds bad to the moderates; what he should take from the Miers flapdoodle is that you ignore your base at great peril.