Bush backlash: the Rowley upswing

Three bits of information have come out about Coleen Rowley this week, and they all seem contradictory.

The first is that Rowley raised a whopping $74,000 for her campaign during the month of September, ranking 14th out of Minnesota's 19 congressional candidates for that period (even though at the start of the campaign season, her name recognition was probably close to the top five). This means she's raised some $511,000 total, slightly more than a third of what her Second Congressional District opponent, incumbent John Kline, had raised by October. Rowley has $128,000 in cash on hand to Kline's $774,000.

The second tidbit is the announcement that DFLer Rowley and GOPer Kline will not participate in a KSTP-TV debate, a circumstance that would seem to only hurt Rowley: Her campaign has been so low-profile and utterly lacking in charm that any free media would do her well. Besides, incumbents often have the most to lose by participating in the pro forma rituals of democratic elections.

But, lo and behold, the third piece of news is the most beguiling of all, namely that Rowley has actually gained on Kline, at least according to one survey. The latest poll from SurveyUSA, which was commissioned by KSTP and released yesterday, showed that Rowley only trailed Kline by eight points, 50-42 percent, with a plus-minus error margin of 4.4.

This stands in marked contrast to the last SurveyUSA poll done on the race, at the end of September, which had Kline cruising with a 55-35 lead. The 12-point gain could be that Rowley finally found a message and passion that is resonating with voters in the district. Or it could be that Kline's military/homeland security bona fides are suddenly woefully out of sync with his constituency.

Nice try. Of course, the only logical explanation is the much-theorized-but-rarely-backed-up notion of a toxic White House, embodied by Kline's guiding light, George W. Bush. But the effect on other closely contested races in the state, like Bachmann v. Wetterling and Pawlenty v. Hatch, is now evident; perhaps there's an even deeper, wider reach.

That is, if the Bush backlash can actually propel Rowley, then there must be something to it--a campaign long left for dead is suddenly, uh, nearly competitive. It's the presidency, stupid.

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