Monday, October 22, 2012 By Aaron Brown
While both sides have ads that would qualify as effective and others that qualify as noise, the whole thing sounds like a din in which it's hard for any ad to break out.
So lets look at some other information.
First, a Star Tribune poll now shows Nolan with a 50-43 lead. That's seven points, a much bigger lead than any candidate has shown in this race. The Cravaack team has dismissed the poll, and the Strib poll has had mixed results in the past. Nevertheless, since other polls have shown at least modest leads for Nolan one could consider this further evidence that Nolan is running just slightly ahead at this point.
Second, the Mesabi Daily News endorsed Cravaack this weekend. This was widely expected -- the MDN is a rabidly pro-mining paper and has been friendly to Cravaack throughout his first term. Still, it's in print and certainly helps Cravaack. Though the Iron Range often bucks the endorsement of its center-right newspaper, circumstantial evidence would suggest that Cravaack has made permanent gains of some kind on the eastern Mesabi in particular.
UPDATE: The Duluth News Tribune added their endorsement this morning, also for Rep. Cravaack. The DNT endorsed Cravaack in 2010 and has stuck with their reasoning.
Finally, the last debate is scheduled on the Iron Range -- a Halloween affair that was originally scheduled for 90 minutes. Team Cravaack has apparently been trying to negotiate this down to 60 minutes, to the press release delight of Team Nolan. This is very interesting to me, because candidates that are ahead usually want fewer, shorter debates while candidates that are behind preach the opposite.
I think both campaigns sense that Nolan isn't really a full seven points ahead and the whole thing is very, very close. Nolan knows that he needs to make up ground on the Range, while Cravaack believes that if he breaks it open here he has his best chance to craft the long term coalition he'd need to stay in office for a career.
But consider that Nolan's family goes way, way back in the Brainerd area -- a place where Cravaack made huge gains two years ago. And consider that Duluth is behaving much differently than the Iron Range. Cravaack has not made any gains in the district's largest and most Democratic city and that may be, in the end, his undoing ... if his Range strategy falls short.
The ads are running. They're on now. It goes on and on, but we are just 15 days away from knowing what happens.