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Election year notes


Sun, Oct 29th, 2000
Posted in

Monday, October 30, 2000

Like everybody else Ive got a case of election year fatigue, but in spite of that Im finding a bit of perverse enjoyment in observing the whole spectacle. Say what you want about the shallow, unqualified and intellectually challenged Bush or the haughty, pedantic and boring Gore, these two guys have given us a good old-fashioned horse race. And if the polls are even half-right, come November 7, its going to be a photo finish.

What follows then is a collage of observations Ive made over the past few weeks regarding the national as well as the state and local elections:

If you missed the presidential debates, and I havent talked to one person yet who has admitted to watching them, theres a site on the Internet where you can read the entire transcripts of each one. Further proof, perhaps, that you can find absolutely anything on the Web, regardless of how trite, irrelevant or forgettable.

The Wall Street Journal has devoted its editorial pages to enthusiastically endorsing the candidacy of George W. Bush. Last Wednesday they even gave Green Party candidate and potential Gore spoiler Ralph Nader, ample space to write his own editorial in which he passionately spoke of the importance of "human need over corporate greed."

Naders message has caught on with many disaffected young people and would-be Democrats. A Minneapolis Star-Tribune poll last week showed Nader with 8% of the Minnesota vote, much higher than most other states. Jesse Jackson, Paul Wellstone and Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold are just a few of the Democrats who have formed an anti-Nader squad, arguing that a vote for Nader is a vote for Bush.

The most honest quote Ive seen by a politician this year was by the Republican also-ran John McCain, who said, "the campaign finance system is little more than an elaborate influence-peddling scheme in which both parties conspire to stay in office by selling the country to the highest bidder."

The Journals globetrotting publisher, John Torgrimson, just returned from a week in Ireland, and reports that the Irish affection for Bill Clinton is pervasive, if not passionate, throughout the country. When John told one woman that the vast majority of Americans were disillusioned with their presidential choices this year, the immediate response was, "You caint do much better than that Bill Clinton now, can you?" That response, John says, rendered him speechless.

Torgrimson said that Connor Cruise OBrien, the American-based correspondent for the Irish Independent, wrote that come Election Day, Americans will turn out in paltry numbers at the polls. OBrien said that a scant 50 percent of the voters will cast ballots and predicts that it will be the vote of women that will insure a Gore victory.

Its been said that all politics is local so with that in mind I attended a candidates forum in Lanesboro last Tuesday evening. Around fifty-five other people showed up as well, to hear candidates for the Minnesota House, Senate, Fillmore County Commissioner District One, and Lanesboro City Council. The highlight or low point of the night (depending on which side of the aisle youre on) was incumbent Rep. Greg Davids seven-minute offensive tirade against his Democratic opponent Al Hein. When Hein took the podium, he mildly quipped, "Does this mean that Im not going to be on your Christmas card list this year, Greg?"

I decided to do my own polling this election in order to get a handle on how local residents are leaning in the various races. Instead of bothering them with phone calls though, I decided to do a scientific count of candidate signs along the rural blacktop roads of Fillmore County. I conducted my poll last Wednesday and Thursday covering almost 100 miles of highway. The results may be surprising but remember the margin of error in this poll could be as high as 100%! Still, it may be indicative of something.

District 31B Representative:
Greg Davids: 21 signs; 43%
Al Hein: 28 signs; 57%

District 31 Senate:
Kenric Scheevel: 17 signs; 45%
David Blanchard: 21 signs; 55%

District 1 U.S. House:
Gil Gutknecht: 5 signs; 42%
Mary Rieder: 7 signs; 58%

US Senate:
Rod Grams: 4 signs; 44%
Mark Dayton: 5 signs; 56%

President:
George W. Bush: 3 signs; 60%
Al Gore: 2 signs; 40%

Im sure theres a tried and true method and no end of political strategy when it comes to signs. Somebody mentioned that Daytons signs were the team colors of the Minnesota Vikings and that Blanchards were the U of Ms, which makes one wonder if sports fans will be subliminally swayed at the ballot booth. One former politician told me that signs are a means of generating conversation about the race and the candidates. Another said that placing signs around the county gives the volunteers something to do.

Bob O. Olson of rural Lanesboro has seen the signs on his property disappear several times this fall. Last week he decided to do something about it and placed an electric wire around them (see photo).

"I dont know whos been stealing them, but Im getting tired of it," Bob said. "Somebodys going to be in for a shock now!"

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