Skip to comments.Luther vs. Kline III: Will the Result Be Different This Time?
Posted on 06/17/2002 9:04:54 AM PDT by Torie
Luther vs. Kline III: Will the Result Be Different This Time?
Earlier this month, Leonard Joseph, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's director of financial services, distributed a memo to political action committees that had contributed to Republican John Kline in his 1998 or 2000 challenge to Rep. Bill Luther (D-Minn.). Joseph's goal, stated forthrightly in the communication, was to "lead you to the conclusion that you should either throw your support to Congressman Luther or decide to spend your resources somewhere else."
The memo, which sets forth six points explaining why Kline can't win in 2002 (and is therefore a bad investment for PACs), offers an analysis of the Luther-Kline rematch. Let's take a look at it.
Point 1). "John Kline knows what he's up against, and his worst nightmare has now come true." The memo quotes Kline as saying that he wasn't enthusiastic about running against Luther again, and that the prospect of having to raise another $1 million wasn't enticing.
Kline obviously was deflated after his second loss, and he might have passed on a third race in a more difficult district. But Kline is in the race now and should have adequate funding. His situation isn't "a nightmare," and the fact that the Republican "knows what he's up against" should be a plus for him.
Point 2). "The new 2nd District ... is competitive and not nearly as Republican as the [National Republican Congressional Committee] would have you think."
The 2nd district is competitive but leans Republican. According to NRCC figures, George W. Bush beat Al Gore 51.1 percent to 44.7 percent in the new district, about two and a half points better than Bush did in Luther's old 6th district. Given the fact that Luther beat Kline by just 1.6 percentage points in 2000, the district's slight shift would seem to be enough to give Kline a narrow advantage in the 2002 race.
The new 2nd district is so Republican that then-Sen. Rod Grams (R), who lost statewide by 5.5 points, defeated Mark Dayton (D) 49.9 percent to 43.8 percent in the redrawn district.
Point 3). "John Kline starts his third quixotic campaign for Congress at a huge financial disadvantage." First, "quixotic" means "doomed to fail" or "impractical," so it doesn't apply to Kline's candidacy. Kline may or may not win, but his effort clearly isn't "quixotic."
As of March 31, Luther showed $1,024,425 in the bank compared to $27,769 for Kline, for a very considerable Luther advantage of $996,656. The only problem is that at the same point in the last cycle (as of March 31, 2000), Luther had $1,826,501 in the bank to Kline's $285,502, for net Luther advantage of more than $1.5 million. The big difference between the two cycles is Luther's financial starting point, not Kline's. Kline's "financial disadvantage" is actually smaller this time than in 2000.
Point 4). "The demographics of the new district favor Luther."
The memo notes that Luther currently represents about 40 percent of the new 2nd district, and that while it is slightly Republican in preference, it is "generally older [and] better educated" than the old 6th district, "demographic groups [that] were carried strongly by Luther" in the two previous races.
I haven't seen any demographic numbers on the new district, so I can't comment about the memo's assertion. But if Luther currently represents about 40 percent of the new district, that means he doesn't represent 60 percent.
Point 5). "Luther is already executing [an] aggressive campaign against Kline." This undoubtedly is true. Luther is always well-funded, and he always runs aggressively. The DCCC has made this one of its top races and will spend money to try to re-elect Luther. In noting "Luther knows how to win tough races" and "John Kline has never won an election to anything," the memo is again correct.
All of these points are well-taken and relevant. Nobody in their right mind should count Luther out in this redrawn district. He has shown he can win tough races. But the past doesn't always predict the future.
Point 6). "John Kline has become old news in Minnesota politics." The memo makes a number of points here, arguing that Kline is a "three-time loser," that he ran a negative campaign last time that "left a bad taste in the mouth of Minnesota voters," and that he's "ideologically extreme." It also argues that the state GOP will be busy with other state and federal races.
Kline has run two races and lost narrowly each time. Counting his chairmanship of Bob Dole's presidential campaign in Minnesota in 1996 as a Kline "loss" is too silly to deserve comment. And if he was so nasty and so extreme, how did he come within 5,400 votes of beating Luther?
So what's the outlook for this race? The Luther-Kline contest is a tossup. If only one Democratic incumbent is defeated by a challenger in November, it is likely to be Luther. He faces an experienced challenger in a redrawn district that, if anything, helps Kline.
I'm not certain who will win this race, but the DCCC memo simply doesn't come close to making its case that Kline is a loser.
For real experience, see Sam Johnson, Ducan Hunter or Randy Duke Cunningham...those guys are the ones who've truly walked the walk.
AL-03 is now suddenly Leaning Republican. MD-08 is still a tossup, but PA-17 is also. He has Simmons as leaning Republican. By my math that means that Cook has 220 seats that Lean Republican (with Hall that becomes 221), with 11 tossups.
I think your analysis on Gekas is first rate. I'm convinced. But what do you make of Gerlach as Likely Republican? That surprised the heck out of me, especially given what he said about Gekas.