Department of Hyperbole: Mark Kennedy edition

With elections less than two months away, the season of absurd political spin--not to mention the season of the unseemly smear job--has once again hit high gear. For the most part, the autumnal whoppers that pass from the lips of the political operatives don't deserve serious comment. Like a burst of flatulance from a dinner guest, they are simply best ignored. But sometimes you can't resist. Case in point: a recent declaration from Mark Drake, the communications director for the Republican Party of Minnesota.

Commenting on the contest between Amy Klobuchar and Mark Kennedy to succeed U.S. Senator Mark Dayton, Drake offered this analysis to the Star Tribune: "It's the most competitive race in the country." That conclusion was based, evidently, on the fact that Bill Clinton appeared at a Klobuchar fundraiser.

You don't have to believe the results of the Star Tribune's Minnesota Poll (which gave Klobuchar a whopping 56 to 32 percent advantage) to recognize the absurdity of Drake's assertion. Because while the Strib's poll has come under plenty of criticism, no poll--not even Kennedy's internal poll--has the freshman congressman within five points of A-Klo. Recent surveys conducted by Zogby and Gallup both found Klobuchar leading by approximately 10 points.

What's more, according to the political newsletter, Politics in Minnesota, there are rumblings that Governor Pawlenty--disappointed by Kennedy's poor showing--is distancing himself from Kennedy:

Kennedy has failed to make this race as close as the GOP thought it would be. While the gap isn't likely to be the 24 points that the StarTribune poll indicates, Kennedy's own polling shows that he is down by at least 8 to 10 points. Most Republicans will acknowledge that Kennedy is in trouble.

One major factor is Kennedy's negatives. Almost every poll has them in the 30% range, while Amy Klobuchar's remain in the low teens. As Kennedy begins to go negative his strategy is to drive up Klobuchar's negatives but it will also drive up his unfavorable ratings among voters. As Kennedy becomes less and less popular, how can Governor Pawlenty stand side by side with him if his race with Mike Hatch is as tight?

Pawlenty has implied that candidates who "run away" from the President are "weenies" and Kennedy has done just that. But even more so, Pawlenty hasn't been running close to the President either. Pawlenty is a deft and bold politician and we predict that if Kennedy doesn't pick up traction, the Governor will distance himself to give himself the best chance at reelection, rather than risk a loss of both statewide offices.

So does Drake still stand by his assertion that Klobuchar-Kennedy is a barn burner? He seems to have modified his opinion, albeit--in true flak form--only marginally. "I think it's one of the most competitive races in the county," Drake now says.

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