Sunday, October 24, 2010

Is Oberstar In Trouble?

"And the leaves that at green turn to brown,
and they wither with the wind
and they crumble in your hand..."
~Simon & Garfunkel

A Political Digression

I remember during the Viet Nam War era when a Republican candidate for president came through Ohio University doing the stump speech thing. His name was Henry "Hawk" Jackson, a senator from Washington whom I'd never heard of. I did not go hear him at the Baker Center Student Union, but did read about the nearly unattended event in the student paper afterwards. He was shocked at how rude the students were. This was at a time when Sport Illustrated even wrote an editorial about how vulgar and rude students were at college football games with their obscene football cheers and jeers.

This past week Congressman Jim Oberstar met to debate his Republican opponent Chip Cravaack in a packed out AMSOIL Arena. The audience was notably disrespectful. A friend who was there commented that Jim even got visibly annoyed a couple time, having allowed the peanut gallery to get under his skin. Evidently, for possibly the first time in his long career -- having served the 8th District of Northen Minnesota since 1974 -- the lifetime public servant has a fight on his hands if he is to retain his seat.

In years past, my guess is that he hardly ever had to dip into his war chest because there's never been a viable challenger. I know that resentments have been fostered by many Oberstar naysayers who claim he is living inside the D.C. beltway and has lost touch with his constituents. I do not know what being in touch really means, though. Even if he lived here year 'round, how many of the 14 counties in his district could he really become intimately acquainted with? Isn't this why he has offices in various parts of his district? Besides, if he spent too much time here, then his opponents would level the criticism that he is not representing us well in Washington, etc. What's he doing rubbing shoulders with us when he should be studying the ramifications of that next 2,000 page piece of legislation?

Anecdotally, I know that when my daughter was having a visa issue, I contacted Jim's office here in Duluth and they were very responsive. They did not drop the ball or give me a pat answer. They looked into the situation. When a new business opened in Carlton this summer, Jim was there to cut the ribbon, went out of his way on a tight schedule to fit in visits with other constituents in the area.

There are two factors contributing to a potential Chip Cravaack upset on November 2. First, the guy is a union man. Like this is really a different animal, Republican with roots in the labor community. In Northern Minnesota, if you ain't for the working class, not just in word but also in deed, you are dead in the water. Cravaack has a history of being active in the fight for the people. The second factor is this: voters are unhappy with how long this recovery is taking. Ten per cent unemployment is bad for incumbents across the board.

This morning's Duluth News Tribune announced their endorsement of Cravaack. That has to be disappointing for the congressman. The most recent polls show a tight race. That alone is a first in this district over the past seventy years or more.

I once wrote (in 1988) that Congressman Oberstar would represent this district for as long as he wanted to. It looks like Chip Cravaack just might force me to eat my words.

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