Fade to Blue

Five or six things about last week's winners and losers

Margaret Martin, wife of Taxpayers League President David Strom, echoed the sentiment in a comment thread attached to Aplikowski's post. She aims a little bile Pawlenty's way just for good measure:

"Pawlenty has done more to keep the base demoralized and disorganized than any governor, Republican or Democrat, in the last 10 years. At least there was no pretense with Arne. Why does [Pawlenty] do this? Because it benefits him politically. It's Machievellian. It works. He almost lost this time but since he didn't, it won't matter. Pawlenty sucked all the money and other resources of the election for Republicans." (Mosedale)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The GOP emerged from the election with a new rock star in its midst

Happy moments on Tuesday night were so few and far between for Republicans at the Bloomington Sheraton that revelers were reduced to gestures such as cheering for Democrat-turned-Independent Joe Lieberman to lift their spirits. And if Tim Pawlenty's comeback win crowned him as king at three o'clock Wednesday, the belle of the ball was unquestionably Sixth District Representative-elect Michele Bachmann.

Surely Patty Wetterling's disingenuous and timid campaign had something to do with Bachmann's decisive victory in the Sixth, but the fact of the matter is that, for all of the unflattering things that can be said about her—that she's a homophobe, a lock-step Bush soldier, a religious extremist, and an opponent of the separation of church and state—nobody is better at charming a crowd, or capitalizing on negative press, than Bachmann. And then there's the more intangible matter of personal charisma. On Tuesday night, she was simultaneously shielded and fawned over like no other local politician in recent memory. When she showed up at the Sheraton, it was almost as if Oprah had made an appearance—if Oprah were conservative, tiny, and white, that is.

Bachmann arrived in a stylish, sheer black dress and pearls, surrounded by handlers who carefully shepherded her to a very select group of media members to conduct interviews. She did brief, obligatory stints with print and television reporters, but mostly she made the rounds of the numerous conservative talk-radio hosts on the premises. Bachmann certainly knows who her audience is.

"We knew what was important to the people of the Sixth District," said Connie Slama, a Bachmann campaign staffer. "It was an excellent match with what was important to Michele Bachmann, and we just had to get her message out there." What was that message? "Cut taxes, build roads, and keep America safe," Slama said succinctly. When all was said and done, no one was better this campaign season at staying on-message than Bachmann.

When she had finished her appointed media rounds, Bachmann spent a good half-hour merely making her way out of the room, indulging group after group of admirers who approached her in a manner more often reserved for movie stars than politicians. She shook hands, accepted hugs, signed autographs, and posed for pictures. "She's so pretty," one female admirer cooed, "and so petite." (Anderson)

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

The pundits may have been mystified by Keith Ellison's appeal, but the voters were not

It's a good thing that most of the old-school DFL stalwarts were stalking the halls at St. Paul's Crowne Plaza Hotel—many would have choked on the heavy "Kumbaya" vibe in the air at Keith Ellison's downtown Minneapolis victory party. "You have to lay skin on people," Ellison said of his campaign that night. "You have to look them in the eye and tell them what you're about."

During the hour it took the erstwhile indigent defender and state representative to make his way from the back of the nightclub's ballroom to the main stage, he moved through a throng of people who amounted to a living tutorial on the candidate's appeal.

There was an effusive young woman wearing a black hijab decorated with metallic blue flowers standing with a subdued older man in a mustard-colored shirt, red tie, and navy blazer. To their left stood a Latino with an afro of gunmetal gray curls, a Fu Manchu, and John Lennon glasses. Behind them, a labor official who looked more like a beatnik surveyed the scene in black turtleneck and white goatee. An enormous coterie of photographers struggled to capture the scene; in additional to local newsies, they included a shooter from a German news agency, someone taking pictures for a union publication, and a camera crew shooting a documentary for Morgan Spurlock, the maker of SuperSize Me.

The revelers were forced to take turns peering between the photographers' knees to see updated vote tallies on a TV screen in the corner. At any given moment, the person with the best vantage called out the results for the rest of the clutch. Half an hour into the wait, the woman in the electric-blue hijab dropped a glass, which shattered. People shifted around her, trying to kick the pieces under the stage.

The labor guy disappeared in the shuffle and was replaced by a young African man wearing a long orange muffler and a huge grin. When the Senate race was called for Klobuchar, he pumped a fist in the air, chanting, "A-my, A-my," with a thick accent. "We've got to get them all out," he insisted. "Ritchie, he's good, we want him in there. Hatch, he's good." Beyond that, only isolated words of his running commentary were in English: Wayzata, Sixth, Ramstad. When Ellison finally appeared, the man vaulted onto the stage and squeezed in next to the candidate's wife, Kim Ellison, waving and cheering as if the victory were his.

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