Here in Minnesota, Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty is locked in a tight re-election battle against Attorney General Mike Hatch. By any normal standard, Pawlenty’s record is fantastic, and he is a highly talented politician who should have no trouble gaining a second term. But this year, it’s not easy for any Republican running in a state like Minnesota.
Hatch has been around for a long time, and he reminds me a bit of Richard Nixon. Hatch is reasonably able, but seems ill-suited to politics. He is not very likable, frankly, and seems to struggle constantly to restrain his volcanic temper. Yesterday, Hatch may have doomed his long-cherished hope to become governor when, in a burst of anger, he called a reporter from the Duluth newspaper a “Republican whore.”
Hatch denies the comment; he said this morning that he thought he had called the reporter a “Republican hack.” But no one believes Hatch’s denial. The sad fact is that in recent days, Hatch has been coming unglued. On a tour of southern Minnesota, he made a number of what he admitted were “very inappropriate” comments to reporters. Hatch was angry about news coverage of the fact that his running mate, Lieutenant Governor candidate Judi Dutcher, admitted in an interview that she didn’t know what E-85 is. This became a cause celebre in southern Minnesota, where ethanol–E-85 is a fuel containing 85% ethanol, which is made from corn–is a huge business. Both Dutcher and Hatch seemed to melt down over this incident, although, if you’ve seen the YouTube video of Dutcher’s long explanation–it involved a waitress whose coffee machine was hissing, or something like that–you’ll probably agree that Dutcher is at least cute when she melts down.
A lot of people have been waiting for Hatch to self-destruct. Today, Ron Carey, Minnesota’s Republican Party chairman, said, “The long-awaited meltdown of Mike Hatch has begun.” I’ve been predicting that Governor Pawlenty would win a narrow victory in a race he should have won easily. Given Hatch’s downward spiral, his margin might not be so narrow after all.
UPDATE: I just realized I forgot to explain the title of this post. The reporter whom Hatch called a “Republican whore” is a man. If it had been a woman, the race would be over.
FURTHER UPDATE: For those who are interested, here is the video of Dutcher trying to explain her failure to know about E-85. Which, by the way, is no crime: I didn’t know what it is, either. If she had acknowledged in a straightforward way that she is coming from a private sector job, and is still getting up to speed on agricultural issues, I don’t think anyone would have held it against her.
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