Saturday, February 27, 2016

Laettner's Lament

The highlight of Christian Laettner’s career as a Minnesota Timberwolf occurred after one of the many, many loses he suffered as a member of that woeful team.  As remembered by Michael Rand in the Star Tribune in an interview of Laettner:

You were talking about how everyone else on the team is a loser but you're a winner. You're pointing at dressing stalls saying, "Loser, loser, loser" ... until you get to yours and you say, "Winner."

That incident from 20+ years ago has some resonance in contemporary politics.   Loser!  Loser! Loser! Laettner seems a natural for a position in the coming Trump Administration, perhaps Secretary of Loser Identification.

I just hope Laettner wasn’t skulking around the Minneapolis Hyatt earlier this week when Marco Rubio rolled in to town with his retinue of new supporters:

Capping a strong week in Minnesota with endorsements, a state office and new state staff, Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio on Tuesday visited Minnesota to erect a bastion against other candidates’ dominance in the race. 
… Rubio gained endorsement support from former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty and current U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen this week. 
“What we need if we want to win is a candidate who can not only speak to all of us in this room but just as effectively speak to the people who aren’t in this room. Who might never consider coming into this room because they hate politics and they distrust Republicans,” Hennepin County Commission Jeff Johnson, who is Rubio’s Minnesota campaign chairman, told the crowd Tuesday. “Marco Rubio is able to do that.”

I’m not saying Jeff Johnson is an expert on inspiring hate and distrust in Minnesota voters, but he did manage to lose not one, but two, statewide elections (for Attorney General and Governor).

Tim Pawlenty’s expertise in how to win Presidential campaigns was no doubt honed in 2012, when he was the first major declared candidate to drop out after he lost the Iowa …. Straw Poll.   Yes, a non-binding beauty contest preference poll that was so influential that it went out of business last year due to lack of candidate interest.

And then there’s Norm Coleman, who not only lost two statewide races himself, but he upped the ante on Jeff Johnson by losing them to the likes of Jesse Ventura and Al Franken.
If that doesn’t provide enough evidence of the power Norm Coleman’s magnetism, let’s not forget prior to picking Rubio as his favorite candidate this year, Norm Coleman has already served as the co-Chairman of the super PAC dedicated to Lindsey Graham’s presidential campaign:

“I think Lindsey is just in a league by himself.”

And then jumped off that bandwagon to endorse Jeb Bush:

“The sense I get as I talk to folks on the ground is that Jeb is gaining momentum on the ground,” he said. “In a place like New Hampshire, which really prizes retail campaigning, that’s where you’re going to see a difference.”

Now he’s on to Marco Rubio.  And I think if you give Coleman two or three more chances at this, he’s going to be backing a winner!

I don’t mean to be too harsh on Johnson, Pawlenty, and Coleman (although that does sound like a dynamite name for a mortician’s practice).  These are the Republican leaders in Minnesota.  And, for the last couple of decades, being a Minnesota Republican leader means being a loser.   You lose elections, over and over and over.   The traditional “The Party Decides” model assumes prominent endorsements play an outsized role in picking eventual winners.   But decades of loss chokes off the supply of prominent, influential endorsers (see the list of commercial products endorsed by Minnesota Timberwolves over the past 20 years for reference).  For Minnesota Republicans, that model is broken.

But you have to give our losers credit for trying.  And who knows?  Some analyses show Minnesota as perhaps the only state Marco Rubio is leading going into the Super Tuesday voting.   Maybe it’s working.  Losers -- we like them here.  Not that we have much choice.