Wednesday, July 18, 2012 By Aaron Brown
Democrat or Republican, union political chief or conservative business owner, this conversation plays out mostly the same way across the spectrum. (Though we could quibble about which side is actually capable of turning out the most dollars in such a fashion). And here in northern Minnesota this reality of the American political system is making its first test run.
See, since 1974 the district had largely been written off as a fortress for the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and their standard-bearer, Rep. Jim Oberstar (D-MN8). But with Oberstar's defeat to conservative tea party supporter Rep. Chip Cravaack (R-MN-8) in 2010, this district now enters the modern age -- where political gladiators do battle for air time and influence.
Oberstar had quite a war chest going into his final ill-fated campaign, but it was mostly money raised through Washington osmosis. As chair of the powerful House Transportation Committee he rarely had to ask for campaign donations. They came. And, until 2010, no one thought he could lose and he rarely had to spend much. This is very different from the current environment in which everyone knows there will be some bloodsport ahead and candidates desperately need funds to compete.
In fact, it seems that the normal "in-district" fundraising network for MN-8 badly lags other "swing" districts. People here just aren't used to speaking with their wallets. In fact, this may end up being the systemic disadvantage that follows the DFL here even as the district political index might lean a gentle shade of blue.
Politics in Minnesota sums up the tale of the (ticker?) tape in Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District campaign fundraising for the second quarter:
CD 8: GOP incumbent Chip Cravaack raised $387,000 and has nearly $900,000 on hand. Tarryl Clark led the trio of DFL challengers, reporting $210,000 raised and $259,000 in the bank. DFL endorsee Nolan took in $128,000 and has $93,000 cash on hand, while Jeff Anderson reported raising $50,000 and $18,000 on hand.One thing seems apparent. Cravaack and the GOP are ready for the campaign ahead, one being described as among the nation's most competitive House races. Clark has shown the most proficiency at raising money among DFLers but her fundraising appears to have plateaued. Nolan has raised some, but not what you'd expect from the endorsed candidate. Anderson has raised the least, yet seems to be making a go of it. But $18,000? Even if that were Canadian currency that's just not enough. Will the winner of the DFL primary on Aug. 14 be able to raise the million dollars one would hope to have for such a race?
Oh, boy. We've never tried that up here in the woods before!
In short, we'll see. It's possible many donors are waiting for the primary to determine Cravaack's eventual opponent. It's possible, too, that the money just isn't there. It's in the Twin Cities, D.C. New York and out West.
If you'd like some interesting, if depressing, reading on what this system of campaign finance is doing to our democracy check out this item from Taegan Goddard's Wonk Wire.