Friday, October 31, 2008


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Well, it has happened again. Forum Communications, a Fargo based company that owns 22 MN newspapers has endorsed Coleman and McCain. Sadly, these endorsements are only evidence of the rising irrelevance of the current corporate structure/strategy/ethos of print media. Get a load of what passes for editorial logic in the age of media conglomerations:

John McCain is not the perfect presidential candidate.
But he’s a better choice than Barack Obama.
-Forum Communication endorsement as printed in the Stillwater Courier, October 22, 2008


Let’s deconstruct Forum’s arguments for endorsing these candidates. The following is a bullet point list of the main issues given for each.


* Embodies traditional conservative values
* Streak of independence
* Experience
* Obama has socialistic platform with unlimited government control
* Obama would plunge the country into an economic hole
* Obama not jingoistic enough
* McCain will be a check to a Democratically controlled Congress


* Coleman will be better able to work across the aisle
* Franken is hard-edged liberal
* He was there for MN when the 35W bridge collapsed
* He voted in favor of the bailout
* He is not a Bushie; He voted against ANWR drilling and the farm bill
* Franken will shame the state like Ventura did

Any level of thought past the purely partisan would show that all of these arguments are red herrings. Forum Communications is simply giving credit to McCain and Coleman for having the tools to get us out of the situation they put us in.

The entire argument for endorsement is a farce. Are we not already in an economic hole? Did Coleman go above and beyond by securing Federal funding for the 35W bridge or was he just doing his job?

Not to say that Obama is entirely blameless nor has all of the answers, but to call him a socialist when Coleman and McCain presided over and supported the greatest period of government expansion since FDR is an insult to their readers. Moreover, they both recently pushed for the US government to take equity stakes in private companies as a part of the economic bailout. If that isn’t socialism, then I have an efficient private health insurance plan to sell ya.

There are many reasons Forum had to endorse Coleman and Franken. And I understand it’s a scary time for print media and they are looking for a predictable hand at the till. Sadly, however, I don’t think any of these reasons are based on coherent logic or sense of progress. The Forum Communications endorsements were based on short-sighted fear.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


Taking a page from the Democratic playbook of the mid-1990s, the Republican National Senatorial Committee has enlisted the help of some stars from that era to urge Minnesotans not to vote for Franken.

Maybe this video was meant to be funny or ironic. It is neither. Minnesota is so much more than ice fishing and the Vikings. It’s also about drinking like Wisconsinites and testing the boundaries of what qualifies as proper public attire.

The coasts tend to view Minnesotans as Jack Pine Savages. This ad treats us as such. Having Cliff Claven tell me who to vote for will not work. Everybody knows he was always full of bull shit anyway. Now, if they got Woody, that would be a different story.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Former GOP Senator joins the “Flight to Quality”

Politico and Talking Points Memo reported today that former South Dakota Republican Senator Larry Pressler voted by absentee for Obama.

It will be interesting to see what effect, if any, this will have on the vote outcome in So Dak. I travelled there last week, and outside of a scattershot of yard signs in and around the rapidly expanding Sioux Falls, there was scant evidence of any non-GOP support between there and Mitchell. SoDak is going to go Red, but things like this would suggest that it will be, as in North Dakota, much narrower than local pols are used to.

It seems in this case Prairie Populism, as much as anything, drove this vote.

Former Sen. Larry Pressler (R-S.D.), who was the first Vietnam veteran to serve in the United States Senate, is the latest Republican to back Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, Politico learned Sunday.

Pressler, who said that in addition to casting an absentee ballot for Obama he’d donated $500 to the Illinois senator’s campaign, cited the Democrat’s response to the financial crisis as the primary reason for his decision.

“I just got the feeling that Obama will be able to handle this financial crisis better, and I like his financial team of [former Treasury Secretary Robert] Rubin and [former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul] Volcker better,” he said. By contrast, John McCain’s “handling of the financial crisis made me feel nervous.”

The former senator added that he hoped the next president would help place restraints on executive pay, and said: “I don’t think [McCain] will take action in that area, or he’s as likely to.”

Pressler was out of the Senate before I really started paying attention, but he seems to fit the mold of a Chuck Hagel. Unless I missed it, Hagel hasn’t suggested who his vote will be for this election. He has certainly given ample indication that he wouldn’t be a surprising swing to Obama.

-J. Oak

More Polls, Please!!

New shit has come to light…man. - The Dude

There have been seven new polls since our last post on MN’s Senate Race. People apparently have a lot of money to spend on these things. Anyway, instead of me telling you about them, just look at the pictures (after the jump).

Notice anything? Franken is trending higher. Looking at the graph of candidate’s spread advantage (the difference between poll numbers) Franken is trending an easy five points ahead. Many pundits (make spitting sound here) pick the state as a moderate Franken victory. I would get behind that, but now that we see the mighty Star-Tribune backing Coleman we will see what effect, if any, that has. I suspect little to none.

The polling methodology is missing cell phone only households and individuals with limited voter histories. In short, poll numbers are missing the youth which, as a group, are less likely to be swayed by mainstream media.

If pollsters want to maintain relevance in a world of web 2.0 they must devise ways of accounting for increasingly active young voters. Uncovering the political sway of this perennially ignored voting bloc is the key to getting at more accurate data. More importantly however, it would bring increased gravitas to a generation that is proving itself as one that values pragmatism over partisan affiliation. Something, I would say, this country (and state) really needs.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Star Trib Endorses Coleman for Senate - The Reason?

What happened at the old fountainhead of Yellow journalism, liberal bias - the old Red Star as conservatives liked to call the Minneapolis Star Tribune

Apparently it was his ability to stick his moistened finger in the air and check the direction of the wind that captured the Editorial Board’s collective heart:

Coleman didn’t begin his Senate service as an agent of bipartisanship. But that’s the note on which he wound up his six-year term and which he has sounded repeatedly in his reelection campaign. We like the trend we’ve seen and believe Coleman is capable of taking it further.

Aaron at MN Publius suggests a mildly conspiratorial, though certainly not implausible, reason for the endorsement:

The CEO of Avista Capital Partners, Thompson Dean, not only owns the Star Tribune, but is also on the board. His contributions indicate he only sends to Republicans, including to Rudy Giuliani’s PAC. Coleman is the only Senate candidate to receive money from Giuliani’s PAC this cycle.

Thompson Dean also fundraises for John McCain.

This, mixed with their right-wing editorial positions this cycle and knowing that their primary investments are in oil companies and health care firms, who could possibly be surprised by a Coleman endorsement?

Money - or the promise of making more of it - is certainly a reliable predictor of behavior. MN Publius has catalogued a significant number of out-of-character Editorial positions the Star Trib has taken in the past year, which, in addition to personnel changes on the Editorial board, provide several indicators that this may be a permanent shift to the center-right by the traditionally liberal newspaper.

I don’t disagree with MN Publius - newspapers are a dying medium, and the Star Trib’s continued existence depends on making a fundamental reorganization of its business model. Avista Capital Partners wouldn’t have come onto the scene in the past year if they didn’t have a plan to do so. The only question that remains is what the Star Tribune will look like, as a media outlet, when this transformation is complete. I think we can expect to see the Star Trib follow the PiPress’s lead in trimming the page size to Tabloid-size, more Katherine Kersten, AP wire news, an overall look akin to USA Today and less original reporting like what can be found at MinnPost.

- J. Oak

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

If not for the coffee, then come for the bellwether??

Could North Dakota be the new Missouri?

Maybe this is an outlier poll, and I don’t mean to step on the toes of the professional Poll Smokers on this site, and maybe its sample size is all wrong or someone is reading the compass backwards, but this appears to be a significant poll giving the State of North Dakota to Sen. Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential Campaign.

While there certainly isn’t an overabundance of Presidential polling on North Dakota, it isn’t the first time Obama came out on top:

“The last publicly reported North Dakota presidential poll, taken Sept. 16-17, showed McCain led Obama 53 percent to 40 percent, the latest in a string of surveys this year showing the Republican was ahead in North Dakota. But an early poll, in February, surprised many politicos when Obama was shown leading 46 percent to 42 percent.”

But this is important primarily for what it says about a state that hasn’t gone Democratice since Lyndon Johnson in 1964 (over Goldwater), and has only gone Democratic three times since 1916, when it helped Woodrow Wilson squeak past a Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes and being big fans of term limits NoDak voted for FDR in ‘32 and ‘36 but not in ‘40 or ‘44. (***The Charles Evans Hughes candidacy really strikes me as bizarre and totally implausible today - SCOTUS Justices have personalities that only legal junkies and wonks can appreicate - I could however imagine a fiesty Ruth Bader Ginsburg appearing at an endorsing convention in the Midwest and discussing the difference between herself and a pit bull.)

While the conventional wisdom suggests that this poll likely overstates support for Obama in NoDak, it certainly underscores the problems McCain is having here, and elsewhere, sollidifying his base. Here, more than self-identified “Independent Republicans”, or “WeakRepublicans”, 17% of “Strong Republicans” identified themselves as likely Obama Voters. For their part, 73% of “Strong Republicans” identified as McCain voters, with 10% of “Strong Republicans” as Undecided. This is a BIG problem for McCain.

I think its fair to say that 4 years ago a campaign surrogate the level of “The Todd” (or First Dude or whatever) would not be heading to Moorhead, MN to stump 3 weeks before election day. This would be one of the largest cities (a whopping 32k individuals) in Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District, who can boast the Bluest of Blue Dogs Rep. Collin Peterson (D), and an otherwise reliably Republican Congressional District that voted for Bush over Kerry in ‘04, 55 to 43%, and Bush over Gore in 2000, roughly 55 to 41%.

“Todd Palin, the self-described “First Dude” of Alaska, is a familiar figure among snowmobile buffs and other outdoorsy types, said Tom Steward, the St. Paul-based regional communications director for the John McCain-Sarah Palin campaign.”

Clearly, the Palin-McCain campaign is trying to replicate previous success with local Joe’s Six Pack: “Steward said Palin was a hit at September’s Hay Days Grass Drags, a Forest Lake, Minn., event marking the kickoff of the snowmobile racing season. “Hundreds of people flocked to him because they know him as a champion snowmobile racer and an outdoors guy,” Stewart said.”

Good Luck, Todd; by the way, we don’t call them “snowmachines” in the Red River Valley, FYI.

Link: “Obama Leads in ND,”
Link: “Palin’s Husband to Visit Moorhead,”

-Jeffrey Oak

The Most Competitive Senate Race in the Country is Right Here (with graphs)

With only a few weeks left until the election, many of the races are hotter and nastier than Tila Tequila’s MySpace page. In Minnesota, the premier showdown is the Senate race between Norm Coleman, Al Franken, and Dean Barkley.

Although Coleman is the incumbent and has generally enjoyed comfortable approval ratings over the last six years, his Republican brand and association with the Bush Administration are heavy weights on his campaign.

Al Franken comes to the race with high name recognition and a large war chest. However, his campaign has been plagued by staff turnover, criticisms of his failure to pay taxes in 19 states, and his racy satirical background.

Dean Barkley, the Independence Party candidate, served a short stint as MN Senator in 02-03 when Jesse Ventura appointed him after the death of Paul Wellstone. Barkley, the veritable dark horse in this campaign, does have the real potential to play spoiler for either Coleman or Franken.

From the latter part of 2007, public opinion polls have been released tracking the electability of both candidates. In total, 35 polls have been taken from February 2007 to October 2008. Can these polls tell us anything about the possible outcome of the election in November? In a run of the mill race, these polls usually show the general sway of the electorate. But this isn’t your daddy’s senate race. The economy is crap and Beverly Hills Chiuahua spent multiple weeks as the highest grossing movie in the US. Quickly put, people are acting jittery, which is putting the Senate race up for grabs.

From May 07 to October 08 Coleman has experienced rocky approval and ultimately polls lower now than he did late last year. Franken rose in the polls early on, but stumbled in June when his tax issues came to the fore. Since that time however, Franken seems to have rebounded and through October has been leading Coleman. The latest Quinnipiac poll has Franken ahead by 2 points and several pollsters put Franken winning the race by 4+ points. Let’s look into this further.

The polls reported in this analysis come from multiple sources. Each source uses a different methodology and has different margins of error. The methodological discussion is one best saved for another day. For now, let’s just say each has their own issues and assume the random sampling conducted for the polls was sufficient.

The reported numbers stated in the media from each poll are simply estimates. To get the full story, you have to look at the margins of error calculated for each poll. The margins of error in these polls range from +/- 2.8% to 4.5%. In addition to the margins of error is the associated confidence interval or the reliability of the estimate. For most polls, this interval is 95%, which means that 95% of the time the estimate will be within the margin of error. For more on these topics go to:

Adding the margins of error from the Senate race polls and graphing them on top of each gives us a deeper level of analysis.

According to poll data, Coleman had consistently outpaced Franken until September. The points on the graph where the lines do not intersect are points where each candidate could have a clear victory. Coleman, has 10 of these points. Franken has just one, occurring a few weeks ago in October.

Alright, so we’ve looked at all of the polls. Let’s look at data from one poll source. Since Rasmussen consistently conducts polling, they provide the most data points. Using Rasmussen only polls we get a consistent survey methodology and more comparable data across time. This time we see that Franken opened up a wide lead in October. The interesting thing to note is that both candidates are descending.

According to poll data, Coleman had consistently outpaced Franken until September. The points on the graph where the lines do not intersect are points where each candidate could have a clear victory. Coleman, has 10 of these points. Franken has just one, occurring a few weeks ago in October.

Alright, so we’ve looked at all of the polls. Let’s look at data from one poll source. Since Rasmussen consistently conducts polling, they provide the most data points. Using Rasmussen only polls we get a consistent survey methodology and more comparable data across time. This time we see that Franken opened up a wide lead in October. The interesting thing to note is that both candidates are descending.

If we again look at all polls, Franken has never sustained a spread advantage. That is, he has never pulled ahead of Coleman and held it over time. Franken has come on strong in October, but the trend line suggest that lead is slipping. Why is this happening?

Considering the current state of things, there are many reasons why polling data would show that the major party candidates are losing ground. Where are they going? It appears people are turning to Barkley. Barkley has been included in the last 10 public opinion polls. Pulling these points out an interesting trend appears. Barkley’s ascension has come with Franken’s decline. Even more interesting, Franken is falling faster than Coleman, who has seemed to level out.

The wild card in all of this is the rising level of support for Barkley. Given the blow back of the negative ads Coleman has run against Franken and the sinking ship of the GOP party in general, people are looking toward other choices. The strength of the Independence Party candidate, Dean Barkley, and the 30% showing for Priscilla Lord Faris in the recent DFL primary election evidence that neither Coleman or Franken have this wrapped up.

Throwing even more data onto the pile, favorability ratings for Franken suggest that he has a lot of work to do in order to shore up some votes to win the election. His very unfavorable ratings are 8 points higher and his very favorable ratings are 6 points lower than Coleman’s. It seems, however that voters are unsure of what to make of both candidates since somewhat favorable and unfavorable ratings are opposite.

So, with all of this data all we are left with to make an educated guess are trends. Combining all poll data and doing some fancy month the above graph represents the trends of public opinion. If you trusted in the polls, Franken has a good shot of winning. Coleman is descending and Barkley has topped out. As we all know, however is that elections are won on the intangibles. The biggest key to victory for either Coleman or Franken is if they can get a few more people to believe them. This will be difficult for Minnesotans to do however, between a satirist and a carpet bagger, who can you trust??

-Allen Springvale