Monday, May 12, 2014

Mike McFadden For Senate & Republican Denial

The political mise-en-scène was to have an accomplished private sector man with no record, capable of being programmed by Norm Coleman and Vin Weber to be a plausible alternative to Al Franken, thereby clearing the field of competitors and uniting the Minnesota republican party after a cycle controlled by Ron Paul zealots now returned to party regulars. The Cipher Candidate™ would mouth enough generic platitudes to convince the activist base to fall in behind him and the large money needed in order to take out Franken would flow, the implicit representation being that here was a guy who could self-fund if needed (never true).

Before that scene could be shot, however, reality intervened, leaving the script in tatters.

The first thing anyone learned about the previously unheard of McFadden was that he was wealthy (he's more like Euro trash wealthy; he's not, for example, Alida Rockefeller "we don't smile we're so wealthy"). The second thing you learned about him was that he was going to a primary, period. Curiously little attention or thought was given by the base and activists to this arrogant pronunciamento. If he's so great, wouldn't he win the endorsement by acclamation?

To be fair, the last time a republican endorsing convention offered up a senate candidate they gave Minnesota Kurt Bills, so one can't fault the men behind the curtain from being leery. But two years is a long time in politics and if either of these influence peddlers without scruples had been paying attention, they'd have realized May 2012 in St. Cloud was the Paulers' high water mark. For a trip down memory lane, you can read what I wrote about it at the time, "What I Saw At The Hemp & Raw Milk Revolution," by clicking here.

The McFadden campaign, however, has turned out to be a case study in tone deaf kingmakers, money men, consultants and staff. I realize Mike's the actual candidate but I put him last in assigning blame for the ridiculous show to which Minnesota republicans have thus far been treated. Somehow, in my heart of hearts, I just know he was told it would be very different.

The decision was made to keep McFadden from much exposure to the base. This was very stupid, but Vin Weber crowed to MinnPost that it was exactly the right move, keeping him on the phone dialing for dollars. The reporter never thought to ask Weber why the candidate couldn't have done both; most do. As a result, the ones McFadden most needed to get to know never got a chance to meet him. As time wore on, it became clear that it was actually McFadden who desperately needed the exposure to the base, not the other way around. Having squandered virtually all of 2013 by keeping him under wraps, his consultant driven handlers tried deploying him as a real person in 2014 with increasingly disastrous results.

The two most recent events should suffice as I've blogged about this campaign for some time and interested readers can click on the archives to the right should they wish to read that analysis.

The first involves McFadden campaign manager Brad Herold traveling to Washington, DC to hold a press availability about the career of Mike McFadden, without the career guy himself present. This was bizarre but in the cloistered world of consultants it somehow made sense. OK then.

The campaign tried to thread the needle between different types of equity: investment bankers (McFadden) as opposed to private equity (Mitt Romney). The point of the event was to make the useless, and graceless, point that McFadden isn't Romney. I look forward to another such event where they try to differentiate the unknown McFadden from, say, David Duke. Why not? You never know what that dastardly Al Franken may throw our hero's way!

And isn't always being on defense the best way to win an election? The Star Tribune's story can be read by clicking here. McFadden's Twitter supporters were left to critique the media, which is a topic I pretty much own in this town but anything to avoid blaming an awful campaign.

The second recent event involved Mike as Daniel: into the den of Tea Partiers went he.

I actually was fascinated by this decision when it was announced a week or ten days ago (who can keep track of time, especially when on Twitter a lot?). Jake Duesenberg & Jack Rogers have ginned up the Tea Party in Minnesota this cycle. While I'm not a per se Tea Party republican, I welcome everyone into the tent who wants to defeat democrats.  Jake & Jack had previously been rather harsh on Mike for avoiding the Tea Party and the conservative base. Hence the about face of the McFadden team to have Mike address the North Metro Tea Party last week made me wonder if they couldn't yet get it together.

Turns out they couldn't and then some. Disastrously so.

How could The Borg not prepare MM for what he would encounter there? How could he so obviously filibuster in order to avoid answering questions? How could he be so cringe-inducingly unprepared to answer just the basics? Why bother to attend when he said he needed to leave after a mere 40 minutes? Even then, after getting off the stage, he mixed with attendees as Duesenberg asked him from the stage if he hadn't said he needed to get going? This was after McFadden called for an end to the republican circular firing squad only to have a boisterous member of the audience point out that going to a primary constitutes holding the gun. Before the event staffers patrolled the premises attempting to keep people from recording him. Remember, it's the smart set running this campaign.

Worse, how could one of McFadden's high ranking aides appear to threaten Duesenberg? That, at least, is the allegation. From a public relations standpoint, this appearance could not have gone worse if Al Franken was in disguise advising.

The Star Tribune's Rachel Stassen-Berger wrote up the proceedings which can be read by clicking here. Jake Duesenberg put his own thoughts together on Facebook, which can be read by clicking here.

A depressingly large number of republicans have bought into this dog and pony show; their better judgment clearly eclipsed. Some of them are my friends; some of them used to be. Funny, that.

At the end of the day, however, almost all of them know, at some level or another, that the guy they saw stumble through his own press conference last month can't beat Al Franken. They've already signed onto the effort, however, and see no realistic (for them) reason to either abandon this sinking ship or switch outright to another candidate. So they bide their time, thinking the endorsement means nothing and that the primary will vindicate their readiness to be bought.

Except that McFadden winning the primary is another word for Franken winning the general. And for their dishonesty in refusing to admit that there is still time to select another, infinitely more qualified and viable candidate, I cannot forgive them.

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