The Republican Nightmare in MN: "We're a Disgrace"
Campaigning is in full force in Minnesota and according to a piece in today's Wall Street Journal, Republicans are in trouble:
The Republican nightmare here in the First District is a burly, high-school teacher and coach who is running as a Democrat but evokes House Speaker Dennis Hastert as a younger man. The Democratic candidate in the Second District is a former Federal Bureau of Investigation agent with the maiden name of Cheney who is waging an antiwar campaign. Her Republican opponent, a Marine veteran, opined on radical Islam and attacks on the Easter Bunny while on the campaign trail recently at a Lutheran school whose sports teams are the "Crusaders."Tim Walz, the "burly" man running in the First District, spent 24 years in the Army National Guard and is still on active duty.
As Minnesota suggests, the 2006 campaign is a power struggle but also a moment for Congress to renew itself after wearing thin its welcome with voters. For Democrats, who need to gain 15 seats to win the House, spring is the season for testing campaign pitches. For Republicans, who hold power, it is a time to take stock after dominating Congress for the past 12 years.
K.J. McDonald, a former Republican state legislator who now is mayor of Watertown in Carver County, recites a litany of party woes from "the ineptness of the Bush administration" to the national debt and the Iraq war. "We are due for a fall," he worries. "We're a disgrace."
In a recent profile of Democratic veterans running for office, The Atlantic reports on what happened when Walz decided to take two students to hear Bush speak shortly before the 2004 election in Mankato, Minnesota:
The president's visit struck Walz as a teachable moment, and he and two students boarded a Bush campaign bus that took them to a quarry where the president was to speak. But after they had passed through a metal detector and their tickets and IDs were checked, they were denied admittance and ordered back onto the bus. One of the boys had a John Kerry sticker on his wallet.I'm sure you've already heard about this incident in the liberal media.
Indignant, Walz refused. "As a soldier, I told them I had a right to see my commander-in-chief," the normally jovial forty-one-year-old recently explained to a Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party dinner in the small town of Albert Lea, Minnesota.
His challenge prompted a KGB-style interrogation that was sadly characteristic of Bush campaign events. Do you support the president? Walz refused to answer. Do you oppose the president? Walz replied that it was no one's business but his own. (He later learned that his wife was informed that the Secret Service might arrest him.) Walz thought for a moment and asked the Bush staffers if they really wanted to arrest a command sergeant major who'd just returned from fighting the war on terrorism.
They did not.
Instead Walz was told to behave himself and permitted to attend the speech, albeit under heavy scrutiny. His students were not: they were sent home. Shortly after this Walz retired from the Guard. Then he did something that until recently was highly unusual for a military man. He announced he was running for Congress--as a Democrat.
Colleen Rowley, the woman running in the Second District, is the former FBI agent who blew the whistle on pre-9/11 intelligence failures.
Democrats on the ground in Minnesota say this time around, gay marriage and other wedge issues won't help Republicans; voters are more concerned with the war and the economy. Last week, 2,600 Minnesota National Guard troops left for the Middle East.