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October 12, 2004
The Mini-Kerry Of Minnesota

Today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune reviews the flip-flopping going on in one of our Congressional races, pitting popular Rep. Mark Kennedy against political neophyte Patty Wetterling. Wetterling has built a name for herself from her tireless work on behalf of missing children after the tragic disappearance and loss of her son, Jacob. However, the Democratic strategy to run her against Kennedy appears to be floundering as their candidate can't decide which policies she supports or opposes, even on basic-values questions such as abortion:

U.S. House DFL candidate Patty Wetterling confirmed Monday that she unreservedly favors abortion rights and supported the war in Afghanistan, two issues that may play a decisive role in her Sixth District race against Republican incumbent Mark Kennedy. ...

Wetterling retreated from previous statements that she and others made that she opposed second-trimester and late-term abortions.

"I did have concerns about late-term and second-trimester," she said Monday. "I always have concerns about these. But it's between the woman and her doctor."

Wetterling said she opposes mandatory parental notification before a minor obtains an abortion, as well as a ban on so-called partial-birth abortion that has no exception for the mother's health. But she said she wants to focus on preventing unwanted pregnancies.

So at first she opposed late-term abortions, and then she changes her mind? She was for parental notification before she was against it? These aren't necessarily difficult questions to answer, nor do Minnesota voters expect candidates to shift their answers to fit the reaction of their supporters. One presumes that the Emily's List donors failed to appreciate the nuances of her previous answers and made their displeasure known to the Wetterling campaign. The Strib, which normally would be a natural ally to Wetterling, notes the late nature of her shift:

Throughout the campaign, Wetterling has acknowledged her discomfort with the issue of abortion. At her campaign kickoff in May, she said she was pro-choice but that she opposed second-trimester and late-term abortions. That was how campaign staffers described her position as recently as last week.

This highlights one of the problems we anticipated from Wetterling. In her years of work on behalf of children, Wetterling wisely refrained from too much partisan rhetoric, preferring to work with all sides equally to press her agenda forward. Now that she running for office, one presumes she's doing so for a reason. However, Wetterling hasn't clearly articulated any policy stands, and even on the basic abortion issues has communicated confusion and a lack of thought and philosophy. For a woman her age to launch a Congressional run without having a well-thought-out answer to the basic questions of abortion demonstrates not only a lack of preparation but a lack of skill as well.

It's apparent that Wetterling is little more than a placeholder, a woman with name recognition that the Democrats hoped would have enough sympathy to derail Kennedy's re-election. Instead of providing the Democrats with solid name recognition of her own, however, she has served to remind us of all the vacillating qualities at the top of the Democratic ticket this November without any of the experience that John Kerry has, whether he runs on it or not. She is an empty suit, a cipher, another Chauncey Gardener in a Democratic ticket full of them.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 12, 2004 12:23 PM

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