It is being reported that within the next hour or two, Minnesota’s Mark Dayton will announce that he is not seeking re-election to the Senate. I’d classify this as a mild surprise; I assume it’s the result of pressure from fellow Democrats who fear that Dayton is too weak to hold his seat. His retirement will open the door for a stronger candidate. Obvious possibilities include Vance Opperman and Mike Ciresi. Both have the virtue of being rich, although neither has held office. Another possibility is Attorney General Mike Hatch, although I think he prefers to run for Governor. It’s hard to see any of the Democratic members of Minnesota’s congressional delegation as serious contenders.
Conventional wisdom is that Dayton has been the Democratic incumbent most likely to be unseated. I think that’s right. While the Democrats undoubtedly can field a better candidate, it isn’t obvious to me that they can find a candidate sufficiently better than Dayton to cancel out the loss of incumbency.
UPDATE: Here’s a link to a local news story, which speculates Dayton’s withdrawal may have been related to difficulty raising money. That’s a little mysterious, given what I understand to be Dayton’s vast wealth, but I have heard him say that he did not want to spend his own money this time. “Difficulty raising money” could be, of course, a euphemism for “his party wanted him out.”
UPDATE: The Minneapolis Star Tribune’s article on Dayton’s telephonic press announcement is here.
ONE MORE: Doug Grow is a local columnist for the Star Tribune. He’s a pretty good writer with, unfortunately, not much to say that wasn’t liberal dogma by 1975. Today he describes Dayton’s conference call in a way that starts out well, taking shots at television reporters–long a staple of print journalism–but then descends into the kind of embarrassing self-pity that typifies so many Democrats these days:
When you think about it, this mess of journalese and babble into which Dayton tried to speak Wednesday was symbolic of his life as a senator. He’s a man with a big heart and classically Minnesota progressive ideas. Yet, he found it virtually impossible to get his message out in an era where style beats substance every time.
For all his money, all his effort, all his intellect, Mark Dayton’s got no style. None. Zero. Zip.
We’ll pass over the references to Dayton’s effort and intellect in silence. But if there was anything Dayton didn’t have, it was a problem getting his message out. The pages of Grow’s own newspaper were always open to Dayton, and the Strib never wrote an unfavorable word about him, that I can recall. The last straw for Dayton was when he got his message out all too effectively, and his constituents learned that he had closed his Senate office in a fit of panic. Dayton’s real problem was that his “classically Minnesota progressive ideas” were well known to the voters, and no longer very popular with most of them.
Though Dayton couldn’t inspire love in the way that Wellstone could, he has managed to inspire some hatred.
I was stunned after recently writing about Dayton of the hate some feel toward this man. There were dozens of obscenity-filled e-mails. Most who dislike him seemed focused on his wealth. (Funny thing, Dayton’s always felt bad about his wealth, too.) Others focused on his refusal to support the war or his decision to close his Senate office during the Christmas break as a security precaution. (“Chicken!” wrote one. “Traitor!” wrote others.)
Dayton knew he was going to be targeted in the coming campaign by a massive, sophisticated, loud smear. It was going to be harder than ever for him to be heard.
Wow! Someone called Dayton a “chicken”? Grow should see our email inbox. Or Michelle Malkin’s. Talk about a “massive, sophisticated smear!” Earth to Doug: Have you been reading what your own editorial board has been writing about President Bush?
There’s also this: MInnesota did once have as its Senator a nice, self-effacing guy who had trouble getting his message out. His name was Rod Grams, and he was ceaselessly savaged by Grow’s newspaper. He lost to Mark Dayton in a close race that was marked at the end by the Star Tribune’s breathless coverage of Grams’ son’s drug problems.
So put your handkerchiefs away, Dems. Your party is going nowhere until you get out of the self-pity mode.