Tuesday, April 08, 2008

The Death of a Campaign

"I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it!"

As a very wild child, I sure this was uttered many times, jokingly of course.

Whether I was tearing up the house on my Big Wheel or tearin up roads as a teenager, I certainly deserved the admonishment I received and am fearful of the day I have kids!

I never imagined the initial phrase would be relevant to any political campaign, much less any political campaign I supported.

As a blogger in the 6th, I have become accustomed to the ever changing staff of Congresswoman Bachmann. For many of us, it's a sign of instability. A sign of weakness in our Congresswoman.

The same thing holds true for Bob Olson.

One staff defection can be expected.

Two defections are typical.

Three defections make me wonder.

Four or more in the span of 6 weeks is a significant problem.

Only those on a Rush Limbaugh vicoden induced high can't see the writing on the wall.

The free ride stops today.

The past 6 months we've spent some considerable time exposing Elwyn Tinklenberg. Agree or disagree, his past as a lobbyist and at MnDOT will be used against him in the general election. If Tinklenberg sufficiently answers these questions, amongst others, he will better position himself in the general election.

Olson on the other hand, has really not had to answer a lot of questions and virtually no tough ones.

His experience as a tax attorney and banker should resonate well with moderate voters in the 6th. Unfortunately, Olson has failed to really deliver a solid message to delegates and voters alike, a message grounded in the real problems across the 6th: Healthcare, the Economy/Mortgage crisis, Iraq, and Education.

It's easy to blame staff for these mistakes, and surely some mistakes have been made by paid and unpaid staffers.

However, staff cannot be blamed for a candidates failure to deliver a speech on message.

The buck stops...over there.

As a former candidate, I know the importance of the stump speech. My first couple of stump speeches, well, sucked. They didn't suck because of who wrote them, they sucked because I failed to deliver them properly.

After two weeks or so, we got the speeches down, 2, 5 and 10 minute speeches for different occasions, all on message, just with different lengths.

9 months into a Congressional race, follwing a US Senate race, this is still a major liability for the Olson campaign. It was clear at the Wright County Breakfast of Champions, an event where three local House candidates, two Congressional candidates, and a State Senator spoke, that Olson delivered the worst speech of the 6.

I've criticized Elwyn Tinklenberg for this before and I'll criticize Bob Olson for it now.

You cannot run on holding Congresswoman Bachmann acountable when you will not allow yourself to be held accountable. It's a recipe for failure.

The Startribune and St Cloud Times will not run the obituary, but like a carcass on the side of the road, the Olson campaign is dead.

Many have kindly tried to take a shovel and simply move the carcass off the road without anyone noticing.

But as the stench of the rotting carcas grows stronger, a quiet and graceful exit is no longer an option.

Much my my chagrin, Elwyn Tinklenberg is our candidate in the 6th.

The time has come to unite around one candidate to defeat Michele Bachmann in the fall.


eric zaetsch said...

You are a good party man.

I am not a DFL koolaid special.

As one feeling the DFL needs to earn voter respect, you run Elwyn Tinklenberg, you earn nothing.

You mock yourself, as a party. You repudiate a lot you could stand for.

Certainly, Michele Bachmann and the Minnesota GOP are extreme, with the entire party being hijacked by zealots of two major kinds; with Bachmann having a foot in each camp.

Certainly she is a problem. People who voted her in are a bigger problem.

But you cannot answer a problem with Elwyn Tinklenberg and get any respect.

Blueman, bottom line - Can you say, would you publish that you respect Elwyn Tinklenberg? Would you ever publish the line, "I respect Elwyn Tinklenberg."?

Then why the "circle the wagons" stuff?

Think. Let him face the music, running on HIS record. It is not your candidacy. It is his to win or lose. We most assuredly do not have to unite, on this thing.

Go unite with others.

Many in Orleans Parish united behind William Jefferson, the Jefferson family, the cronies supporting him as a power base in the Democratic Party there, those doing business with him on his terms, his ways and means, each for a personal reason. He took whatever he could. Not that any of that necessarily reaches to Elwyn Tinklenberg. But it tells a story. It sure did not buildtheirparty, did it, long run?

Blue man said...

Correct Eric, I struggle with saying "I respect Elwyn Tinklenberg". However, I am also struggling with the phrase "I respect Bob Olson".

People in the 6th will unite around Elwyn.

Myself, I'm going to work in the 2nd or 3rd. As a progressive, I'm sure I'll join with other progressives and flock to campaigns where progressive ideas are welcomed.

Tinklenberg has baggage. I can't trust him.

Olson has less baggage, but recent events which have unfolded show a lack of discipline. A lack of compassion. A lack of understanding the issues of working and middle class Minnesotans.

He's a banker and acting like one.

I trust what I've been told by several friends that were former employee's. Some of them worked on my campaign without a single issue or problem.

I guess what I struggle with the most Eric, is that we don't have a single honorable candidate in the 6th, a candidate who can defeat Bachmann without compromising their integrity or moral courage.

How do we beat Bachmann?

Elwyn Tinklenberg has never been the answer. Bob Olson failed that test recently as well.

Tinklenberg is easily a first ballot endorsement. He will have a lot of work to do get progressives into the race, as I said earlier, I'll go work in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd.

We've given Olson a free pass.

It no longer happens, at least here. I'll see if I can dig up some of the speeches in Buffalo!

Blue man said...

Also Eric, Olson had assembled an amazing team, a team that could have done some amazing work in the 6th.

We had everything but a strong candidate...and that's disappointing.

Beckfeld said...

There is plenty of blame to be passed around.

1st. Bob still feels he is in this race. The delegate count for Bob could be around 60 for the convention. One of the reasons we all liked Bob was because he was outside of the party structure so it should come as no surprise that he ran an unusual campaign.

Next is the DFL itself. Both candidates are having a hard time raising the kind of money that will be needed to beat Bachmann. Why? Weak leadership both locally and statewide. The Democratic Party pretends it plays this neutral game where they can’t get involved until after an endorsement. Then they do damn little afterwards. I was a board member of cd6 for two years and I can’t think of a single thing they have accomplished outside of having a convention. Imagine gathering 25 of the top activist once a month for two years and only having a convention to show for it. I forgot, They also managed to split the list-serve into two parts. One for discussion and one for no discussion, in doing so both failed. We need leadership that is proactive. Hell we just need some leadership.

The local party activists are also over matched. This year we had record turnout for caucus’s and conventions yet or party coffers are still dry. We had 250,000 people turn out for caucus. Any competent leader should have been able to raise $2 mil. And turn our party around. Hell the PRC would have reimbursed the donors so it wouldn’t have cost a dime. How hard a sell is that? I raised $1000 dollars at our caucus with 1-5 min speech and 40 out of 50 people wrote checks.

The State DFL hires 1 party affairs person, on political director, 2 press people and a number of other staff, full time year round. Yet who was happy with the way the caucus was handled. Clearly we lack management and direction. What the hell are these folks doing?

Then there is the old guard. Tink getting 24 union endorsement with only 5 unions screening is an embarrassment to the unions and Tinklenberg himself. They should have at least pretended there was some integrity in the process. Instead they did a Tom Delay, They threatened candidates and campaign managers promising to withhold funding with future campaigns (might have been more effective if they actually were involved in local races)

Keep in mind that Elwyn had stated that he would not run and didn’t get into the race until after the 3rd qt. last year. I have yet to hear a good reason for the unions endorsing Elwyn over a candidate that held 4 union cards and was working at bringing 3 new manufacturing plants to the area and 30 billion dollars for wind turbines. Of course they never talked to Olson so how would they know. Bob should have played more golf with these guys.

Thing will stay the same until we all get a lot madder. In a couple of years we can try again to take our party back from the incompetents that currently hold sway.

I’d like to thank Bob. At least he put his time, effort and money into the cause he believed in. That’s more than 99.99% of the rest of our “leadership” in this district have done.

blueJ said...

Beckfeld and Blue Man, I have respect for each of you, for your service to the DFL party and your willingness to push for what you believe, even if it makes party hacks like me uncomfortable.

There are answers to the harsh critique of the Sixth District DFL leadership, which I hesitate to put in a public forum. We can talk later. But you mentioned the splitting of the list serve, a subject with which I am acquainted.

If you were not already aware of the reason behind it, it was this:

The attacks on Tinklenberg by Olson supporters were getting nastier by the day. They weren't extolling the virtues of their favored candidate, they were using the list serve to attack their candidate's opponent. They took what was supposed to be a news and information service for the good of the DFL party and were turning it into a campaign tool for one candidate - their own.

This was patently unfair. We were losing readers, who didn't sign up to get these kinds of messages in their inbox. So instead of saying "no opinions, please" the list was split, as a compromise. One for opinion, a free-for-all, and one for news and information. Surprise, surprise, two Olson supporters refused to go along, and continued to post long treatises, usually forwarded from other sources, on the news and information site.

Second, I'd like to point out that most of the members of the current Sixth District central and executive committees are already working for their local units.

The very people you criticize for not doing enough for the district are working their butts off at the local level, where the real party work is done anyway.

Maybe at this convention we'll be able to attract directors who are willing to give time at the CD level.

Now we are a couple of weeks away from uniting behind a candidate. It will be Tink, and I respect those who will find other races to work for. As MB says "There are other races out there."

As for me, I will be available to our candidate for rallies and events, I will support him with letters to the editor, I'll continue to record and transcribe MB moments, and I will work on yard sign committees - you know the drill.

MB is an affront to everything I believe in, and I will not stop until she is out of D.C. or I am redistricted out of her territory.

Blue man said...

Thanks Mr. Beckfeld!

I'll kiss you if Olson gets 60 delegates. A nice romantic kiss on pier near the Anoka dam.

While certainly, blame can be tossed around in many directions, the majority of it falls with Olson.

While I was thrilled by a campaign ran by local activists, IMHO, Olson never really listened to those activists. Many of us have been working behind the scenes for years, we know the make up of our districts, and that expertise was dismissed.

Labor endorsements seem fishy at worst. Olson had trouble (may still have trouble) getting delegate lists from conventions.

Julie B said it best here a few weeks ago. Good campaigns get that stuff at the convention. While staffers can be blamed for that, ultimately, the blame needs to fall on Olson.

I've felt the impact of lacking resources for him in Wright County. Whether it was hand delivering caucus materials to all 27 caucus locations, or attending events where materials, signage and other important campaign materials were non-existent, Olson failed to invest properly. Had he fundraised better or put some more money into it (easy for me to say), it may be a race now.


Thanks for the comment. While disappointing, I understand the decision to have two seperate boards and respect your decision to keep criticism of CD 6 leadership off the blogs and message boards.

You have more discipline than I do!

You're right, in just over 2 weeks, Elwyn will be our candidate. Across the 6th we will have to unite in order to defeat Bachmann in November.

My focus will be on local house races in 16, 18 and 19.

At least from my perspective,

Beckfeld said...


I’m not for a second discounting the work done by the many outstanding volunteers out there. They are great, overworked and under appreciated. But we lack resources and by that I mean money and you don’t get the kind of money we are talking about by holding potluck dinners. The problem is there are too few doing too much and too many doing too little.

My point was not intended to belittle the list serve but rather to point out that it was one of the accomplishments of the last 2 years. There’s several hundred thousand DFLer’s living in the 6th. We need to start thinking much bigger than the 160 or so people subscribing to the list serve.

You state;
” They took what was supposed to be a news and information service for the good of the DFL party and were turning it into a campaign tool for one candidate - their own.”

How dare they! Why would a party activist do such a thing as turn the DFL6th cd list serve into express a political point of view during an endorsement race.

“Surprise, surprise, two Olson supporters refused to go along, and continued to post long treatises, usually forwarded from other sources, on the news and information site.”

You fail to mention that they are also Clinton and Franken supporters.

My dismay with the party is that we need to start thinking like we are running a campaign all of the time. That means we fundraise every day. We recruit every day. We never pass on an opportunity to earn a dollar or an hour of help. To win we need 3 million dollars. Nothing is more important. The cd6 should have an outrageous target for fundraising. $500,000 at least. We should be calling all over the country.

Because Bachmann is.

Final point is that if a candidate is damaged by what a few DFL activist say about him on a friendly moderated list serve, what’s he going to do when the NRA or MCCL hit him with a million dollars behind them.

eric zaetsch said...

This airing is good. There are some other people who probably read this site, and the comments, who should justify themselves also.

Start with Bill McCarthy. The would-be king maker, whose "king" has feet of clay.

Giving Oberstar two votes via Tink makes as much sense as giving Kline two votes with Bachmann. And that's no sense at all.

I have found a good person, one the party regulars could as well have found - Satveer Chaudhary. The man's a gem. With support and volunteers behind him he could be the best broom around to sweep out Bachmann. But that's water under the bridge. Bill McCarthy anointed a different person, one more like himself I guess, or for whatever reasons he has that he shares with others than me. My local senate district convention host should justify twice in a row supporting Tinklenberg. I'd like to see her say she respects the man. She respects the position she holds and the process, but would she say she respects Tink?

Who would? Someone once said the Internet is like a vast body of water, endless to the horizon, and an inch deep. I see that as a good way to charactize the Tinklenberg love and support.

Or am I, the outsider asking questions, wrong?

Eric said...

I was Bob's first campaign manager a year ago.

The complaints about his candidacy are the same. Beckfeld is very loyal but he knows it.

About one year ago exactly, I wrote how our ideas won't matter if Bob can't tell people why he's running in one minute, two minutes and four minutes succinctly. I also suggested public speaking training. That was the first of many fights we had, he disagreed.

Bob is a good person. He is very smart and has been successful. Those attributes also led to him being a train crash of a candidate. His past success and ideology is great on paper, and should have people flocking to him. That's what attracted all of us to his candidacy.

Many people who have had success on their ingenuity and hard work would find it impossible to be lead around and self-disciplined like a political candidate. Laying your dream and future in the hands of people you don't know personally. So, like Bob did, they may bring in people who have no business anywhere near politics into the circle.

I didn't know he was still in it.

I also don't know how you can blame the party structure for this. In the last ten years, I've been a party employee and in leadership at the state and local levels. Giving Tom the benefit of doubt, how has it changed in the last few years? It hasn't, so why would you expect anything you different. Tom, I've seen you use this for your advantage in the recent past. I don't get why you piss on it now. You were part of the leadership there and worked to bring them in Olson's circle. You had some there for a while but, you lost them. I think you're putting the blame on the wrong entity. Its not the party of lack of leadership, its the product you're trying to sell them.

Good Luck,

Eric M.

eric zaetsch said...

As an outsider, and independent, I blame the party leadership for offering Elwyn Tinklenberg as its favored alternative to Bob Olson.

As an outsider, it is their choice entirely and not mine. They can choose to run Charlie Manson if they want, (although he'd have residency problems).

Were Olson to be topped by a Wellstone or a Vento [who also improved over time as a speaker] it would be different than an entire host of lemmings going over a cliff led by a revolving door lobbyist where I always have the first skeptical question whatever he says or does, bridge fell - I run especially, "What's in it for him?"