If you're going to invoke the Clinton-Obama comparison in discussing Madia-Bonoff, it's quite odd to hint that you're not quite sure whether Bonoff is Clinton or Obama. (Come on!) Sturdevant informs readers that in several ways, Terri Bonoff more resembles Obama: Bonoff has long supported Obama, she wants out of Iraq faster, her early political development in Hopkins was similar to Obama's activism on the south side of Chicago. (In other words, all of Sturdevant's examples are either questionable, inconclusive or both.)
Bonoff's travails are in fact Bonoff-specific and not easily generalizable to other state senators heading into endorsement fights against political newbies. Her public speaking--most excruciatingly when it came to foreign policy--was not infrequently atrocious, for example:
After the key Eden Prairie debate, TheUptake's Noah Kunin explored Terri Bonoff's views. She said:
Peacekeeping troops are essentially troops but they are not engaged in military comment [sic], and I learned something new: There’s a chapter called Chapter Six that says they’re only peacekeeping and they cannot use any military force and so if they’re there in that capacity they cannot respond should there be insurgents or people attacking them. Then there’s Chapter Seven that says if they’re there in that capacity they do all that they can to defend themselves, and it might be Chapter 6 ½ where they would have the capacity and the ability to respond strategically to insurgents. And I think it’s that kind of forward thinking—that kind of compromise—that will meet our objectives.
In other words, people paying attention were given strong reason to suspect that Bonoff simply isn't even moderately well-informed when it comes to foreign policy. And the quotation above shows that while she's clueless on foreign affairs, she's quite willing to bullshit, in the hopes that we're not paying attention.
Perhaps Bonoff's tribulations have resulted from her being 'the establishment candidate,' Sturdevant wonders.
In reality, Bonoff will not lose this endorsement contest because of her tenure as a state legislator. I've heard two strong criticisms of Bonoff's performance as a state legislator. One (the fetal remains flap) discussed here yesterday, has been pushed by some who acknowledge Bonoff's solidly pro-choice voting record but claim her conduct indicates poor judgment. One also occasionally hears fevered criticism of Bonoff's support for the new Twins stadium. Bonoff might have neutralized each of these tempests, had she been able to think up a strategy that might appeal to people voicing these critiques. She utterly failed to reach out to her detractors; she never provided them with a serious reason for reexamining her candidacy.
This failure parallels her inability to come up with an elegant plan of attack against Ashwin Madia. You could tell from early on Bonoff bristled at the impudence of this yokel. Her reaction to Madia provoked our anti-elitist impulse; she would have been a much stronger candidate had she indicated from the start a repudiation of any perceived 'difference in station' between herself and Madia. By attempting to cling to her establishment advantage she doomed her radical chic potential. Being a state senator ought to provide one with a considerable advantage in such a race, but that advantage is not automatic and must be thought through.
There are essentially two ways you might do it: First, you might, through your public comportment, show the hard-earned polish your experience in the state senate has instilled. Your mastery of the facts or your aplomb with the crowds might subtly remind people how beneficial your experience is to your current goal. The other way is to repetitively and clumsily remind audiences of your service in the state legislature. When you take the latter tack, you're looking backward and you're reminding audiences of something that ought to be implicitly communicated to them with your every public gesture. When Ashwin Madia speaks, I often observe the benefits of his legal education and practice--his comfort participating in a public, adversarial process, for example--and I notice this all the time, not just when he's reviewing his autobiography. That's the way being a state senator ought to advantage you.
So being a state senator was not an automatic liability for Bonoff; her failure to think imaginatively about how her political experience might be put to effective use during the current campaign has been the problem. Having come up with no creative answer to this question, she attempted to muscle the cart forward. As the contest wore on, it became apparent that the initial wobbliness we faintly observed wasn't by any means an optical illusion. By the later stage of the contest, the vehicle's inelegance became a severe eyesore.
Which is not to say Madia's campaigning has been perfect. His carriage and gesture could be more graceful and animated. His speeches should be much more positive, uplifting and lively, particularly from this point forward. The fall campaign cannot be about aggressively attacking an 'extremist' Erik Paulsen, nor ought Madia himself make hay out of the comparison between Paulsen and his service in uniform. Leave that part to the scribblers--and beat Erik Paulsen the way you beat Terri Bonoff--by building a ground organization unlike any previously seen in CD3 DFL politics and by capitalizing (and, one hopes--improving on) your public speaking. Give the average suburban homeowner a reason to consider supporting you, while giving those leaning the other way a real reason to take a second look. Tell your story, with great emphasis on your vision and hope for the country's promise.