Final week of MN-8 DFL primary brings the paper chase

So we’re about a week away from the MN-8 DFL primary, which I’m contractually obligated to refer to as “hotly contested.” Is it hotly contested? Hard to tell, what with all this liquid hot magma pouring over the northern Minnesota landscape. Oh woe, why must so much of our land be highly flammable!

I jest. Actually this thing has been remarkably boring. A few elbows have been thrown but nothing serious. The three candidates, Rick Nolan, Jeff Anderson and Tarryl Clark, are charging hard, but all appear equally mindful of the daunting general election task of unseating incumbent freshman Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN8), who is sitting on almost $1 million. So they’re using a sort of passive aggressive voice in attacking one another, a tone more properly suited for causing teenagers to question their choice in college majors.

The Duluth News Tribune ran a campaign update over the weekend. Nolan’s counting on grassroots support from the DFL endorsement. Clark is counting on her big ad buys and the late support of former President Bill Clinton. Anderson’s counting on his local roots and northern Minnesota bonafieds. All three of them, along with their campaign teams, believe themselves to possess a genius secret strategy to win next Tuesday. Two of them are not geniuses. One of them might be a lucky-genius hybrid.

Only problem is, except for my gut feelings on the matter, I can’t apply the genius/non-genius labels on these folks yet. We might not know for sure until Election Night. It feels like Rick Nolan is leading at this point, but without polling and with a highly volatile turnout estimate of “not real good,” that is only a feeling.

Nolan has been taking increased fire from the Clark and Anderson camps, though, and that’s probably an indicator that he’s ahead. Again, light fire. A Clark-allied group sent a mailer questioning Nolan’s position on choice (he’s pro-choice, but those are votes that Clark needs). And Anderson has turned up the fire on Nolan’s mining initiative and lack of commitment to immediate deregulation of federal standards regarding new mining projects in the region. But those are not mortal attacks, nor have attacks gotten particularly personal. I expect the three will easily be able to make up shortly after the primary.

Again over the weekend, two big newspaper endorsements came across the wire. The Star Tribune endorsed Clark while the Iron Range’s biggest daily, the Mesabi Daily News, endorsed Anderson.

UPDATE: The Duluth News Tribune, largest paper in the district, endorsed Anderson today as well.

From the Strib, which is located in the small hamlet of Minneapolis:

Much has been made — too much, we’d say — of Clark’s decision to move to the Eighth District after failing in 2010 to unseat Sixth District Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann. Talent ought to matter more than residency when judging capacity for leadership. …

Of the three, Clark alone has shown that she can operate effectively in today’s rough-and-tumble partisan lawmaking environment. That ought to count for much with primary voters.

OK, and from Bill Hanna’s MDN:

[Anderson] has a trained focus on the future, along with a strong foundation based on respect for and love of the history, traditions and people of Northeastern Minnesota.

Anderson is a strong Democrat on issues ranging from social to bread and butter.

However, he brings a most welcome Democratic Party approach to the focus on jobs. He does a lot more than just voice the “jobs, jobs, jobs” mantra.

Naturally, that means that the pro-mining Mesabi Daily News feels most comfortable with Anderson’s statements on the issue, which the endorsement goes on to extol in great detail. Bill even throws in a dig at “preservationists” who seek to “demonize mining supporters.” James J. Hill would have friggin’ loved this guy. Anyway, my own amusement aside, this does have a net positive effect for Anderson, who has put his hopes behind a huge performance on the Iron Range.

Now, I’ve written about newspaper endorsements before. I believe unsigned newspaper editorials from faceless committees or high-minded editors are relics from another time. But they are a strange quasi-factor in the election, tipping off the psychology of a district as much as they actually move voters.

In this case, the MDN editorial could move some people to Anderson (temporarily, for Bill all-but-completely telegraphs his intention to endorse Cravaack in the general). The Strib, bless its heart, has given Clark some kind words, but also a great deal of ammunition to Nolan and Anderson.

This is how we kick off the week. I’ll have a handy guide for election watchers as the primary approaches. I will share appropriate news about the race as it becomes available.

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