It sure is hard to find a picture on the internet of all the DFL gubernatorial candidates that I haven't already used several times. Here's six of the candidates. From left to right, we have Mark Dayton, Tom Rukavina, Susan Gaertner, Steve Kelley, John Marty and Paul Thissen.
This post is to point something out to DFL voters. As you know, we have not had a DFL governor for twenty years. That's an entire generation. Young people don't know what it's like to have a DFL governor. We have got to change that in this November's election. How can we do that? By making sure we have a candidate who is electable. It's not just the DFL voters who will determine the final winner. It's also all the Minnesota voters who don't vote by party affiliation. They will vote for who they think will make the best governor. Some people will, as always, vote for the person whose name they recognize. Others vote for very strange reasons. One person told me they would never vote for anyone named Steve because that was her ex-husbands name. Crazy? Well sure. And we can't do anything about that kind of voting mentality. On the other hand, we can make sure that the candidate with the greatest liklihood of getting elected gets the DFL endorsement. We have to put aside thoughts of who we personally like best. We have to put aside ideas that the candidates may have that are just not going to bring in the independent voters. Also, we have to look at past electability. There are several candidates who have run for governor and lost. More than once. They have a history of not being electable.
Let's take a look at all the DFL candidates and see just how electable they might be. I won't include Ole Savior for obvious reasons.
Tom Bakk - I don't think that Bakk is the most electable candidate. On the other hand, he's certainly not at the bottom of the list. The trouble is that he's pretty much unknown among most Minnesota voters. He'd have to run a very expensive campaign to get his name out there. It can't be denied that he knows a lot about taxes and the budget. I don't think that's enough for Minnesota voters. Many voters do still vote on personalities. Bakk's a bit gruff. He doesn't seem very approachable to the average voter. He could work on that. I just don't think that voters will vote for someone who comes across as being an angry man.
Mark Dayton - As most of us know, Dayton is no doubt the most electable of all the candidates. His recent disclosures about his personal health have done nothing to change that. If anything, it has drawn even more supporters to his campaign. Dayton has more statewide name recognition than anyone else. Voters all across Minnesota fondly remember Dayton's Department Store. He's Minnesota's native son, even as JFK Jr. was America's native son. Also, he's got a reputation for being honest and sincere and having a great deal of integrity. He's got 34 years of public service experience. He's also experienced at winning statewide elections. He's campaigned and won against Republicans in the past. He knows how to win. Plus he's likable. When you add all these factors together, he's got the best chance of winning.
Matt Entenza - I don't see Entenza as being electable. I don't think he would be able to get past Republican opponents enough to win the election. They've got too much against him. He made mistakes in the Attorney General's Office which people have not yet forgotten about. He should have waited this election out and instead started gearing up for the next one. There are only two ways that Entenza could win this election. One, he could buy his way in. Two, he could hire the best PR person he could possibly find and do a campaign on how he learned his lesson. He'd have to be very sincere, as voters aren't stupid. They can sense insincerity a hundred miles away.
Susan Gaertner - I wanted Gaertner to be electable. I really did. It's not happening, though. She's missing some necessary ingredient. It's one thing to win the office of Ramsey County Attorney. It's quite another to win a statewide election for governor. Voters might see her as being a real person and down to earth. They'll like the way she talks. Then they'll wonder what she will do for them and for Minnesota. I just don't see her as having the ability to win the governorship.
Steve Kelley - Sometimes you have to know when it's time to give up. He didn't win in 2006 and he's not going to win in 2010. He's not saying anything new, as many other bloggers have noted. I don't think that voters all across Minnesota would look to him to solve Minnesota's terrible problems. He does have good credentials. On the other hand, as Tim Pawlenty has shown in New Hampshire, voters look at their perception of a candidate's personality. Apparently for the presidential race, it's going to take a perception (however false) of charm, charisma and presentation skills. Kelley would need to work hard on these. Maybe if he hired a personal coach he could improve his public personna. And work on toning down a voice that is too loud. I've heard several people say that he seems to be yelling at the audiences at the debates and forums.
Margaret Kelliher Anderson - MAK has a lot of good things going for her. And some that are not so good. On the postive side, she's got a tremendous amount of endorsements. She's a good communicator, although sometimes she comes across as giving a canned speech. She should try to make her presentations more personable. And quit talking about the dairy farm she grew up on. That gets really old. On the negative side, she really didn't do much in the last two legislative sessions. She wasn't able to stand up effectively against the Terrible Tim. I've always had a problem with MAK but could never put my finger on exactly what it was. I finally figured it out. She's too much like me. Bossy, opinionated and always thinking she's right. On the other side of the coin, though, she probably has (like me) a lot of shyness and insecurity on the inside. And a great need to do the right thing and make a difference in the lives of Minnesotans. So I'm going to change my take on her and say that she is electable. I have no idea whether she could beat whoever the Republican opponent will be. But now I'm willing to give her a chance and see what happens. Besides, it would be kind of nice to have our first female governor.
John Marty - I don't think that Marty is electable. He's already proven that. Twice. Once in 1994 and again in 1998. What has changed between then and now? There's nothing new. He's a great senator for his district. He'll probably get reelected until the day he retires. He authored an excellent health bill, too. But governor? Winning enough votes to beat out everyone else? I just don't see it happening. I think he's wasting his time and money. Unless his main objective is to make all Minnesotans aware of Marty's Bill rather than to win the governorship. John Marty is great on ethics and great on health and fantastic on meeting the reNEW Minnesota vision. I just don't think he has a chance at being the next governor.
Tom Rukavina - There are a lot of Minnesota voters who have no idea who Tom Rukavina is. He's been a representative to the Iron Range district for 23 years. He usually gets nearly 70 percent of the votes, from what I've been able to learn. Can he win, though? Our last DFL governor, Rudy Perpich, was also from the Iron Range. Will Tom take a good hard look at the way Perpich campaigned and learn whatever lessons there are to learn? I'm certainly not ruling Rukavina out. I wish him luck. He'll need a lot of money to win this campaign. Or the DFL endorsement. He does have a lot of popularity among those voters who know him. Can he carry that to the rest of the state? If his campaign staffer Orrie Salper has anything to say about it, he can. Orrie almost got me to change my allegiance. Almost, but not quite. After all, I'm extremely loyal. Often too much so.
R. T. Rybak - Is Rybak electable? Oh yes. Definitely. He's shown that several times in Minneapolis. Can he do the same thing statewide? I wouldn't doubt it a bit. He's likeable, personable and charasmatic. He knows how to work a room. He knows how to get supporters. When he shakes your hand and begins talking, you can't help but like him. A lot. And Rybak isn't one to come to an event late and leave early. He comes early and welcomes people. This easy charm makes voters want to vote for him. Plus he seems to have a good record in doing good things for Minnapolis. Rybak has an excellent chance of winning the general election. He's got excellent communication skills and organizational skills. People like him. Meaning that voters like him.
Paul Thissen - Who is Paul Thissen? I had no idea before last year. Lots of voters still have no idea. He's changing that, though, and coming up fast. Everybody likes Thissen. He's young, he's smart, he's a fresh face and he's got great ideas. I feel that he's very electable. The more Thissen shows up around the state at various events, the more voters are swinging toward him. They like what he has to say. There are some voters who are tired of the same old, same old, and they want something and someone new. Thissen will definitely appeal to those voters.
Here's my take on electability based on what I wrote above. I'll list the top five candidates in order of their electability in my perception of what I've seen and heard from attending a multitude of forums and debates and of talking personally to some of the candidates and their staff. I've also talked to a lot of voters both in the Twin Cities and, to a lesser extent, across Minnesota. This is how it comes down:
1. Mark Dayton
2. R. T. Rybak
3. Paul Thissen
4. Margeret Anderson Kelliher
5. Tom Rukavina
Leave your comments below on how well you agree with my assessments. Please comment according to electability. It's imperative that we support a candidate who actually has a chance to win the general election in November.