Mark Dayton gave an interview to the AP which clarified his reasons for declining a run at re-election in 2006. Dayton confirmed that he has no stomach for the grind of the same kind of politics he displayed in Condoleezza Rice’s confirmation debate last month, and would rather quit and go home rather than defend his record:
Sen. Mark Dayton said Friday his low poll numbers and an expectation of vicious political attacks were factors in his decision not to seek re-election next year.
“I certainly was not looking forward to the likelihood that on November 7, 2006, 99 percent of the people of Minnesota would think less well of me than they do now,” Dayton said in an interview with The Associated Press. “There’s no question the Republican strategy is to destroy you personally in order to defeat you politically.” …
Dayton said that last month’s poll by the Star Tribune of Minneapolis, which showed his approval rating had dropped 15 points, to 43 percent, factored into the decision.
“It’s hard to go into an election cycle and recover that public support, because everything you do is cast in political terms,” he said.
Dayton gives quite an extraordinary statement in rationalizing his retreat, accusing the GOP of using the politics of personal destruction after calling Rice a liar on the floor of the Senate last month. Dayton regularly casts his opposition in harsh personal terms, but seems quite unable to bear the thought of defending himself on the same footing.
Dayton lost significant ground in this state, as shown by the polling, because of the way Dayton approached his job. His personal attacks on Rice did not play anywhere near as well as he expected here. Moreover, his flight from DC last October because of supposed security risks while all other 534 members of Congress managed to muster up the courage to keep their doors open gave Minnesotans a look into the same lack of intestinal fortitude that he displayed yesterday and today.
Along with the bizarre demands made by Chuck Schumer on behalf of Harry Reid yesterday, however, Dayton’s political cowardice does not deviate far from the norm of his party. Once a formidable political machine, the Democrats have drifted so far philosophically that they cannot even answer a standard political challenge on voting records without crying “Uncle!” The defeatism that underscores so much of their foreign policy initiatives has infected their entire political thought processes, so much so that their knee-jerk reaction to any tough spot is to run away.
I thought I might retire the Brave Sir Dayton icon when Dayton left office, but it might remain as applicable after 2006 as now, if the Democrats can’t grow up.