The Kennedy effect
The Pioneer Press today has an article today analyzing the Minnesota Senate race. It contains this flashback to '04:
Kennedy is a three-term Republican U.S. House member from Watertown. Voters might think worse of him because of his association with now-unpopular President Bush and the war in Iraq.
He may also suffer from his campaign two years ago against Democrat Patty Wetterling. Before the campaign, Wetterling was best known for her work on crime issues after her son Jacob was abducted in 1989.
Late in the 2004 campaign, Kennedy and his supporters began running ads directly questioning Wetterling's politics. One said she had "latched onto radical extremist groups." Another said: "The more we learn about Patty Wetterling, the more surprised we are."
Kennedy won that race but may now be paying the price.
"I really think Mark Kennedy is dangerous. I didn't like his tactics in the race with Patty Wetterling. I don't like his tactics now," said Kathleen Miller, a St. Paul housewife and Democrat who took part in the poll.
Susan Phillips, of Forest Lake, considers herself independent of party affiliation. She also answered the poll questions and said she is pulled to Kennedy's message but not his way of campaigning: "I like some of the things Kennedy is saying. But I won't vote for him. He had such a dirty campaign last time."
The article doesn't even mention the infamous Kennedy ad which shows images of Patty Wetterling alongside those of Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and implies that Wetterling opposed the invasion of Afghanistan (she didn't.)
Now that Kennedy is behind by huge margins in every poll, even his own internals, it seems his negative campaign against Patty Wetterling in 2004 is hurting him. He's so far behind that he's already gone negative in this race, a month and a half before the election. Republicans are abandoning him. John Kline's campaign manager reportedly said, "It's over for Mark Kennedy"; the NRSC appears to be leaving his campaign for dead. His campaign is desperate, and we can expect an almost completely negative campaign from now on. Kennedy still has a ton of money in the bank, and it's all going to be used to drag Amy Klobuchar through the mud.
How does this affect the Sixth District race? Well, as you know, Mark Kennedy currently represents the Sixth District. His dirty smear campaign against Patty Wetterling is still fresh in the minds of Sixth District voters. His poor performance top-of-the-ticket Senate race, some say, may even be dragging down the rest of the Republican ticket--a recent segment on MPR linked Tim Pawlenty's lower-than-expected poll numbers in part to Kennedy's poor showing.
With the recent publicity given to the smear-filled NRCC mailings, which have not been condemned and thus implicitly accepted by the Bachmann campaign, will the memory of Kennedy's infamous smear against Wetterling spur voters to vote for Patty? Will Kennedy's poor poll numbers drive down Republican turnout and become toxic for Michele Bachmann? Let's not forget, Bachmann and Kennedy are tight:
The Governor's race, if things remain tight, will also become a slugfest with mudslinging on both sides. The NRCC has already gone negative on Wetterling four times in less than a week; Michele Bachmann refuses to condemn these tactics. Most of all, voters will be besieged by smear ads from a desperate but well-funded Mark Kennedy. If the Patty Wetterling campaign can stay above the fray, I think the memories of '04, and the current round of dirty campaiging, could end up being a benefit rather than a negative for Patty.
[UPDATE]: Kennedy releases another negative ad in desperation.