DFL candidates: We were all caucus winnersby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
If spin were a sport, they'd be handing out gold medals at the state Capitol. DFL candidates for governor and the U.S. Senate are all claiming a victory of some kind from the outcome of a straw poll taken Tuesday night at precinct caucuses around the state.
St. Paul, Minn. — Attorney General Mike Hatch came out on top in the poll in the governor's race with 38 percent. Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar had a wide lead in the poll over her opponent in the U.S. Senate race.
Hatch and Klobuchar have long been considered the DFL frontrunners for their races for governor and U.S. Senate. You would think their leads in the straw poll taken at the DFL caucuses would confirm that, but that's not the way their opponents are spinning it. No matter how they finished, nearly all of the candidates are saying the poll is good news for them.
Hatch says he's pleased with the showing, especially since he spent little time and money courting potential delegates. He says he's saving his resources for the fall.
"We've spent a lot of time and effort raising money. We've been doing very well with it. We are shepherding it. We've been putting it in the bank. We want to use it at the right time, and that is in a general election," said Hatch. "That means we must depend on a volunteer organization. We're not a slick as the other campaigns, but I think we did well."
While Hatch is touting his numbers, his DFL opponents say his showing wasn't strong enough. DFL Sens. Becky Lourey and Steve Kelley are essentially tied for second in the poll at 22 percent each.
Both Kelley and Lourey say they expected Hatch to win the straw poll, since he's well known and is a statewide officeholder. But Lourey says she's encouraged by the results, since a majority of those voting in the straw poll picked someone other than Hatch.
"When you look at 38 percent and then you add up the rest of the vote counts, this is a wide-open race and I'm very excited about it," said Lourey.
Sen. Kelley agrees with Lourey's assessment, and adds that Hatch is not the clear frontrunner in the race.
But Kelley says he needs to redouble his efforts to make sure he wins the party endorsement. He's the only candidate who says he will abide by the delegates' choice.
Kelley has been in the race longer than any other DFLer. He announced his candidacy nine months ago.
"We have to get out and communicate more with people. We've found that when I actually get in front of folks, we make progress in securing their support, and that will happen with the delegates between now and June," said Kelley.
Real estate developer Kelly Doran is the other DFLer running for governor. He said he didn't expect his poll numbers to be high since he's relatively unknown among the party faithful. He is disregarding the party endorsement and is headed straight to the DFL primary in September.
In the U.S. Senate race, Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar has a commanding lead over veterinarian Ford Bell. Nearly eight in 10 DFLers polled say they back Klobuchar. She's pleased with the support and says she's focused on defeating Congressman Mark Kennedy, the presumptive Republican nominee.
"The results were an affirmation of what we've been doing, and a testament to the hard work of our campaign," said Klobuchar. "I have all the respect for Ford, but we've clearly showed that we have a strong grassroots effort, and it's the kind of campaign you need to win in November."
But Ford Bell says he's pleased that his campaign had 15 percent of the vote, considering he's a political newcomer. He also said he's pleased that many caucus attendees support resolutions that he's been pushing.
"Those are the issues that I'm running on -- single-payer universal health care, and getting our troops out of Iraq by the end of the year. Those aren't Amy's messages. So we need to connect the message with me, the messenger, and that's what we're going to be doing," said Bell.
Klobuchar says she supports a gradual troop withdrawal, and would take incremental steps toward a universal health care system.
While many of the candidates continue to spin the results in their favor, Carlton College political science professor Steven Schier says he expects Klobuchar and Hatch to be the DFL candidates on the November ballot.
"There are frontrunners in each case. One is a prohibitive frontrunner, Amy Klobuchar. The other one, Mike Hatch, is a frontrunner but faces some bumps between here and the endorsing convention and the primary, potentially, but otherwise I think the signals are pretty clear."
The other Democrats running for governor and Senate disagree, and show no signs of backing off of their campaigns. That's good news for Republicans who relish the thought of Democrats criticizing each other instead of their candidates, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Congressman Mark Kennedy.
- All Things Considered, 03/08/2006, 5:19 p.m.