Monday, September 25, 2006

Pioneer Press article on Mark Kennedy

Posted by Craig Westover | 11:07 AM |  

There's an excellent article by Rachel Stassen-Berger on Mark Kennedy in Sunday's Pioneer Press that does a better job of highlighting Kennedy's strengths in a single piece than the Kennedy campaign has done in a couple years. From the article --

In his campaign for U.S. Senate, Kennedy has pitched himself as a common-sense Republican with an independent streak. His political foes have worked to paint him as a Republican robot who toes the party line.

Both portraits have shades of truth and both miss much of the work that Kennedy, like most Congress members, does behind the scenes on local issues . . .

Ultimately, Kennedy's job success in Congress may be best measured through three lenses — his partisanship, his values and his service to Minnesota. . .
On partisanship, the article notes --

When voters elected Kennedy three times, they sent someone to Washington who agrees in large part with the Republican Party and with the GOP president.

In his time in Congress, Kennedy, who formerly worked in finance for big businesses, has voted like a Republican.

That makes him neither a good nor a bad member of Congress, say those who watch lawmakers, but simply a Republican one. Whether that is a plus for Kennedy come Election Day depends on whether voters believe the Republicans in power tend to be more right than wrong and whether they think those in Washington should be independent of party allegiance.
In his campaign, Kennedy has tended to run away from his partisan record, responding to Democrat charges that he is a rubber stamp for the Bush administration. He's tried to counter that perception rather than embracing it and claiming his votes as good votes, whether they support or depart from he administration. He has come off as somewhat of a "weeny."

On values --

Kennedy maintains that he has brought Minnesota values to Washington. Those include lowering taxes to help the economy thrive, keeping a lid on federal spending, and opposing legal abortion and same-sex marriage.

"I evaluate all legislation according to whether it will strengthen or undermine the traditional family values that have made Minnesota great," Kennedy has said.
That's an admirable stance that Kennedy has played up in his Senate campaign. The question is, does it play in the Senate as well as it does in a House? A couple of elections -- Humphrey for president in '68 and Mondale in '84 -- have demonstrated that "Minnesota values" don't play well on the national stage. A Senator shouldn't limit himself to parochial thinking -- especially when Minnesota Values are changing under the influence of immigration -- not just from other countries, but from other states.

As a comment on this site noted, Kennedy is running his Senate campaign like a house campaign, simply making promises to a larger constituency. (Note: This is why changing the constitution to directly elect Senators was a progressive mistake.) I think that's a good insight. The Senate is not just, or should not be just, a smaller-body version of the House. The Senate is the body of big ideas, of debates over war and peace, expansion of government, constitutional questions, advise and consent on presidential appointments. Kennedy has not positioned himself as a "big idea" guy. He hasn't demonstrated that he understands the difference between Congressman Kennedy and Senator Kennedy.

On Service to Minnesota --

Kennedy has joined with Democrats on some issues that uniquely affect Minnesota.
"If you are going to make a claim that you are not a knee-jerk partisan, that's a point in your favor," said Ornstein (Norm), the congressional expert. "There are some members who would never do something like that."
Congressman Kennedy’s efforts on behalf of Minnesotan’s will likely have a retail effect at the polls -- those that actually benefited and those they might influence would be solid Kennedy votes, but again the question surfaces, “What is a senator’s role?” Can Senator Kennedy be as effective selling ideas on big issues like national defense and a national energy policy support for presidential appoints as he was brokering legislation that sent federal dollars to his district and state?

Bottom line, Stassen-Berger has done a nice job framing Mark Kennedy, better than the candidate himself has done. Overall, it’s a very positive picture of Kennedy, but one that raises questions about whether he can translate an effective House tenure into effectiveness as a Senator.

I don’t need a peek at any unreleased Kennedy ads to surmise that his strategy for the remainder of the campaign is going to be demonizing Amy Klobuchar. Too bad. The Mark Kennedy portrayed in this article would be a better candidate.