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October 9, 2005
Wetterling Joins Race For Dayton's Seat

Patty Wetterling has decided to bypass another attempt at the sixth Congressional district seat she lost in last year's election against Mark Kennedy to take on the same opponent in the race for the Senate seat that Mark Dayton's retirement will leave open. The political novice lost a tough battle against Kennedy last year in which she showed a thin skin for politicking and plenty of inexperience and indecision on policy. She has to convince Democrats that she can more effectively challenge Kennedy than Hennepin County DA Amy Klobuchar, a much more experienced DFL politician who has already declared her candidacy:

Last year, she lost a bruising battle for Congress to U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy, who is now the Republican candidate for Senate.

Although Wetterling was a political novice at the time, her name was recognizable to many Minnesotans.

She became one of the country's foremost child-safety advocates after her son Jacob was abducted at gunpoint in 1989. He has never been found.

Wetterling said she "learned a lot about herself" in her previous (and only) run for office, which was marked by a series of Republican ads that characterized her as soft on terrorism, high on taxes and too liberal for the Sixth District's conservative voters.

"I'm stronger now," she told reporters Sunday. "I refuse to let anyone else define me that way again ... with those nasty ads."

Those "nasty ads" amounted to nothing more significant than the normal policy-comparison ads run during any normal election, but the Wetterling campaign pitched a hue and cry over the supposed meanness of Kennedy in running them. Wetterling tended to bring this on herself, however, as I noted last October. She shifted her position on abortion with less than a month to go before the election, one she lost by eight points. She went through the entire election campaign saying she opposed abortions after the first trimester, and then suddenly shifted, saying that she would not vote against late-term abortions.

Most politicians, I noted, go into elections wanting to win so that they can support policies in which they believe. Wetterling appeared to campaign on the notion that once she won, she'd figure out what she believed afterwards. She ran as a Chauncey Gardener figure, someone on whom voters could project their own hopes and desires without ever having to actually take a firm stand on anything.

I doubt she'll get her rematch against Kennedy, however. Although she has better name recognition than Amy Klobuchar, the DA has a much better track record in elections and a better sense of herself. Klobuchar has already received the Emily's List endorsement that provided Wetterling her only lifeline in last year's contest. The only impact Wetterling might have on the race will be to force Klobuchar more to the left in order to beat her in the primary, which might make it tougher on Klobuchar to face off against Kennedy in the general election.

Kennedy will have his work cut out for him in either case. He won two elections to Congress in blue-state Minnesota, but in a district known for its more conservative tendencies. Kennedy will need to broaden his appeal somewhat in order to garner the necessary margin needed to win Dayton's seat. If Wetterling can make the primary tough on Klobuchar, Kennedy could take advantage of the opening.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at October 9, 2005 9:38 PM

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