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The Tarrance Group’s latest polling on the Westrom-Peterson race isn’t good news for Collin Peterson:

The Tarrance Group is pleased to present the following findings from our recently completed telephone survey of N=300 registered “likely” voters in Minnesota’s Seventh Congressional District. The Tarrance Group was commissioned by the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) to conduct a telephone survey in this district. A random sample of this type is likely to yield a margin of error of +5.8% in 95 out of 100 cases. Responses to the survey were gathered October 12-14, 2014.

Torrey Westrom has pulled ahead in the race for the congressional seat long held by DFL incumbent Collin Peterson. Westrom has made steady improvement throughout the campaign and now eclipses the incumbent. Turnout modeling puts the race at 48% Westrom and 46% Peterson, with only 6% undecided. Those undecided voters do not seem likely to break toward an incumbent they know so well.

With a margin of error of 5.8% and with the race being this close, this race is anything but settled. Also, it’s always wise to question private partisan polls. Still, this can’t give the Peterson campaign comfort.

It’s noteworthy that the KSTP-SurveyUSA poll showed Peterson leading 50%-41%, with a distinct oversampling of Democrats:

Sen. Westrom has fought a great campaign. He’s raised the money to be competitive. He’s travelled the district to increase his name recognition. He’s enunciated a message that’s resonating with voters. In short, he’s given Peterson a legitimate reason to worry.

It isn’t accidental that the DCCC has spent a few fists full of money on advertising. That advertising has mostly focused on criticizing Sen. Westrom for his alleged role in the Dayton government shutdown. Prior to this partisan private polling, this already figured to be Peterson’s toughest re-election fight yet.

That fight just gained in intensity. The thing is that the DCCC has already thrown the kitchen sink at Torrey. They don’t have many bullets left in the clip.

Entering this summer, conventional wisdom was that Stewart Mills had a better shot at defeating Rick Nolan than Torrey Westrom had of defeating Collin Peterson. That’s mostly due to the fact that Rick Nolan wasn’t the top-tier candidate that Peterson was. Apparently, Peterson isn’t as popular in the district as his recent election numbers indicated.

Going into this summer, I thought Republicans would win either defeat Peterson or Nolan. I didn’t think they’d defeat both of them. I still have trouble believing that they’ll accomplish that feat but it’s definitely a better possibility today than a month ago.

If Republicans flip both seats, it’ll be bad night for the DFL and for Nancy Pelosi.

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It’s still too early to say that the Franken-McFadden race is a top opportunity to flip a seat from blue to red. Still, MSNBC’s Mark Halperin seems to think it’s a possibility:

Here’s the transcript of Halperin’s commentary:

The other one to look at is Minnesota. It isn’t talked about much. You always see at the presidential level and statewide races a natural tightening at the end. It is a politically divided state even though it’s normally thought of as a blue state. Al Franken has gotten a visit from Bill Clinton, other big Democrat surrogates. I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw television money pour in there from both sides at the end to make that race competitive.

This race will tighten dramatically towards the end. McFadden’s finishing kick has started on a positive, uplifting note, starting with this promise:

Here’s the transcript of the clip:

KTTC ANNOUNCER: Well, US Senate candidate Mike McFadden made a stop in Rochester to sign a contract with the people of Minnesota. With a background in business, he said that drafting a contract detailing his agenda just made sense. In the contract, McFadden promises to visit all 87 counties each year, to hold quarterly townhall meetings and to post reasons behind every vote that he casts on his website if elected to the US Senate. After signing the contract, he talked about the Ebola virus. He says he supports additional screenings at Minneapolis International.
MCFADDEN: I think this is a huge issue. It’s the role of the federal government to keep our citizens safe. That’s why I think we need to be much more proactive on Ebola screening. It’s a big, big issue.

That’s the type of contract that will appeal to Minnesotans. We love hands-on democracy. We insist that politicians mix and mingle with the people they represent. That isn’t what Sen. Franken has done. He’s done the opposite, in fact.

Earlier this week, McFadden introduced plans to help middle class families:

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden said Wednesday tax incentives for parents with children in day care should be consolidated and made available to parents who choose to care for their kids themselves.

McFadden cited the financial squeeze on middle class parents as he unveiled his child tax proposal. He said consolidating credits and making tax benefits available to parents who stay home with their children makes sense.

“A working mother may want to work part-time or may want to care for her child directly rather than to use a child care program. And right now under the current program, she doesn’t have that option if she wants to avail herself to some of these programs,” McFadden told reporters after touring a business in Mounds View.

Anything that helps parents spend more time directly raising their children is a positive thing. It’ll be interesting to hear Sen. Franken explain why he didn’t think of this during his time in office.

After all, he’s been telling everyone in Minnesota that he’s the champion of the middle class.

The reason why Sen. Franken didn’t propose this is because this initiative would kill AFSCME’s attempt to force unionization down Minnesota parents’ throats. If parents suddenly had the ability to raise their own children, AFSCME’s ability to grow their union would disappear instantly.

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Stewart Mills just won an important endorsement:

Don’t believe everything you’ve heard about Stewart Mills, except that he’s the clear choice for voters on Nov. 4 to send to Washington to represent Northeastern Minnesota’s sprawling 8th Congressional District.

Don’t believe he’s a rich kid who never had to work a day in his life, as some have charged this election season. The truth is he scrubbed toilets and mopped floors for his family’s Mills Fleet Farm stores. And today he’s vice president in charge of administering a health plan for the chain’s 6,000 employees and their families. A job of such importance requires plenty of hard work.

The Duluth New Tribune’s endorsement is one of the most important endorsements from Minnesota’s Eighth District. It isn’t the only endorsement that matters but it’s important.

What makes this endorsing editorial important is how it takes Rick Nolan to the woodshed. Here’s a great example of that:

Don’t believe critics who say Mills would privatize Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid if elected. Even after the Republican nominee flatly denied it at Tuesday’s forum, Nolan continued to make the baseless accusation.

“Yes, there have been some Republicans that have advanced different ideas, but those are not me. For Rep. Nolan to attempt to put words in my mouth because somebody somewhere in the Republican Party advanced one idea — . You know what? I can only state what I believe and what I will stand for in Washington,” Mills said. “I believe in preserving and protecting Social Security and Medicare.”

Nolan had his script a year ago. No matter who he ran against, Nolan’s plan was to accuse his opponent of a) representing the 1 percent and b) wanting to privatize Social Security. Why trust a person who won’t listen to what others are saying and who thinks he’s a mind reader? That wasn’t the only time the Tribune’s editorial board criticized Nolan:

Don’t believe Mills is a spoiled elitist, either, as this fall’s bad-mouthing further has purported. We all have our less-than-mature moments, but at Tuesday’s forum, Mills was respectful, he listened politely when it wasn’t his turn to speak, and he consistently referred to his opponents as “Rep. Nolan” and “Mr. Sandman.” (Ray “Skip” Sandman of Duluth is the Green Party nominee in the 8th District. Voters can hope Sandman stays involved in public service after his thoughtful, sincere and genuine performance Tuesday.)

By contrast, at least twice Nolan cut off Mills while he was talking; referred to him at least once as “Stew”; talked about his “dad and your granddaddy’s store,” as though speaking to a small child; and on a couple of occasions turned to Mills and lectured him like he would an underling. The moments were disrespectful, rude, inappropriate and less than congressional.

It’s astonishing how disrespectful Rick Nolan is. This wasn’t the first time Nolan was dismissive of Mills. It’s just that this debate was just the biggest stage where Nolan was condescending, undisciplined, dismissive and disrespectful.

Beyond that, Nolan’s anti-war policy is reckless:

Critics also have charged that Mills has no clue about foreign policy. But when asked about the threat of ISIS, Mills offered a detailed, realistic and honest assessment while Nolan said, simply, we can’t afford wars overseas. As true as that may be, reality is dictating a different course.

That’s downright dangerous thinking from a sitting member of Congress. Does Nolan think that we’re safe as long as we don’t bother ISIS? That’s incredibly naïve. That type of naiveté can’t be tolerated when terrorists are at war with us. Mills sounded like the wise congressman:

“We don’t have a choice in this one,” Mills said. “They have a direct stated intention of attacking Americans (and of) attacking America and American interests abroad. The current track that we’re on is the right track because we need to leverage our air power we need to work with our allies in the region … making sure that we’re able to give them the training and the arms (and) the logistical support and the intelligence they need so this particular coalition can be successful in undoing our mistake of creating the vacuum (caused by the premature U.S. withdrawal of troops from Iraq). We don’t have a choice in this. We can’t bury our heads in the sand while there are people being beheaded — while there are Americans being beheaded.”

Pretending that terrorists will leave us alone is foolish. That isn’t reality. As Mills said, ISIL has said that they want to attack Americans. They want to hoist their flag from the White House. ISIL has a history of doing what they say they’re going to do.

It’s time to retire Nolan. He’s outlived his political shelf life. He isn’t a good listener. His policies are older than the rock formations of the Iron Range.

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Stewart Mills nailed it in this article about the impact outside money has on races:

Every day of his 8th Congressional District campaign, he said, he hears evidence of a backlash of reaction from viewers to independent expenditure messages made by outsiders. “They know nothing about this district and they certainly know nothing about me,” Mills said earlier this month at the Crow Wing County Republican Victory Office in Baxter.

The DCCC’s ads sound like Nancy Pelosi’s superPAC ads, which sound almost identical to the ads Rick Nolan is running.

Just off the top of my head, I’ll come pretty close to the script. “Stewart Mills inherited his money. He opposed middle class tax cuts so that wealthy billionaires and multinational corporations could keep their tax breaks.” If that sounds familiar, it’s because it’s only slightly different than the cookie cutter ad the DCCC is running against Torrey Westrom. The only difference between the two ads is that the DCCC’s ad against Torrey Westrom accuses Westrom of essentially masterminding the state government shutdown in 2011 while the DCCC’s ad against Stewart Mills is that he’s a rich and out of touch and that he that wants to go to Washington to protect his rich friends’ tax breaks.

He said his own message of a consumer based health insurance solution and a reining in of regulatory overreach is resonating with Republicans and independents alike. “I endeavor to run a very issues focused campaign,” Mills said. “Our message agrees with them.”

Despite the Democrats’ claim that people like the ACA, Mills is using the Affordable Care Act effectively to his advantage. Running against the EPA is another winner in the Eighth, too. Miners know that the federal government, especially the EPA and the US Forest Service, are preventing PolyMet from getting built. That’s a hot button issue if ever I heard of one for the Eighth District.

He wants a health care insurance solution that’s comprehensive. He said he favors the aspect of the Affordable Care Act in which people can’t be rejected for insurance because of pre-existing conditions. He rejects his opponent’s call for a single payer health care system.

“Consumerism works,” Mills said. “Socialism doesn’t.”

Because Mills has run Mills Fleet Farm’s health insurance program, he’s got instant credibility on the issue. Nolan didn’t try challenging him on health care during last week’s debate because he knows Mills is loaded with ammunition to blister Nolan on Nolan’s health care policies.

If the DCCC and Pelosi’s superPAC continue with the ads they’re currently running, there will be an anti-Nolan backlash. That wouldn’t be pretty for Nolan.

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According to this Brainerd Dispatch article, Skip Sandman jumped into the Eighth District race because Rick Nolan abandoned environmental activists:

His motivation to run against the incumbent was Nolan’s vote to in his words “fast track the permit process” for the PolyMet mine, a copper-nickel sulfide mining operation, which he feels is unsafe.

Sandman said the science is currently not adequate to assure the ability to clean up sulphuric acid problems that could be caused by a mining project that’s close to the St. Louis River. He contends that an environmental problem with the planned mining project is a certainty.

There’s no question whether Nolan has staked out multiple positions on environmental issues. Here’s the first time I wrote about Nolan’s ‘flexibility':

Northern Minnesota is known for its great fishing, so perhaps it’s fitting that tracking 8th District Congressman Rick Nolan’s position on a bill that deregulates the mining industry and fast tracks the permitting process for PolyMet is a bit like watching a fish flopping around on a dock: first he’s against it, then he’s for it and now he once again opposes it, this time promising to vote against the legislation if it “comes anywhere near close to becoming law.”

That’s from an environmentalist publication. Later in that article, environmentalists took Nolan to task:

The reaction of the those who gathered in Bohannon Hall on that Saturday afternoon is perhaps best summed up by 32-year-old Jesse Peterson, who characterized Nolan’s responses and actions with respect to HR 761 as “incredibly deceptive and reflecting a willingness to be phony.”

HR 761 is the legislation that Sandman was referring to. By flopping around like a fish on a dock, Rick Nolan upset environmentalists. If these environmental activists are sufficiently upset, they might cast their ballot for Sandman. The other possibility is that they’ll stay home.

Whether these environmental activists are upset enough to cast a protest vote still hasn’t been determined. Still, Nolan’s campaign can’t be happy with this potential division within the ranks. He’ll need every environmentalist and every mining vote he can get to stay competitive with Stewart Mills. If Stewart stays competitive on the Range, he’ll win because Stewart virtually owns the southern third of the Eighth District.

Skip Sandman’s entry into the race complicates things for Nolan. Whether he’s able to navigate those waters remains to be determined. That’s why this race will be such fun to watch.

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Yesterday, I received a mailer from Pro Jobs Majority that criticizes Zach Dorholt’s vote for MNsure. Saying that it’s a hard-hitting mailer is understatement. Here’s one thing from the mailer:

The MNsure exchange was supposed to increase competition and help Minnesota families shop for health insurance. Instead, costs are increasing and we have fewer choices.

There’s no disputing whether costs are rising under MNsure. Despite the Dayton administration’s lie that insurance premiums are going up an average of 4.5%, the reality is it’s skyrocketing well past that in almost every county in the state.

In St. Louis County, the least expensive health insurance policy is increasing by 36% over last year. Meeker, Kandiyohi, Chippewa and Yellow Medicine counties are seeing their least expensive health insurance premiums jump by 43%. Cottonwood, Lyons, Nobles and Murray counties’ least expensive health insurance premiums hit a less-than-happy medium, increasing by 34%. Benton County’s least expensive health insurance premiums will increase by 22% in 2015. Ditto with Stearns, Sherburne and Wright counties.

Thanks to his vote, Dorholt’s constituents have seen their insurance premiums skyrocket.

When it came time for Minnesotans to sign up for insurance, the $160,000,000 MNsure website didn’t work as promised. (It still doesn’t.)

Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Here’s another part of the MNsure disaster:

The recent revelation that the state failed to send out letters to 16,000 low-income Minnesotans seeking medical assistance to let them know their applications had not been processed and they were not covered does not surprise Olmsted County Community Services Director Paul Fleissner.

“Every county has been screaming that we didn’t think notices were going out, and the state kept saying yes, yes, yes, people are just forgetting this. We had a really strong sense that they weren’t and finally it’s been confirmed that they weren’t going to our people,” Fleissner said.

Unfortunately, there’s still more:

Is your baby married? It’s a ridiculous question. But if you just had a baby and went to MNsure to update your family status, the health exchange website may ask you anyway. That kind of routine update is proving to be a big problem for MNsure and the Minnesotans using it to buy health coverage.

I wish that was it but it isn’t. Here’s more:

One example: It used to take five minutes to add a baby to a plan under Medical Assistance, Minnesota’s version of Medicaid, but now that Medical Assistance runs through MNsure it takes about 45 minutes and “you have to say whether or not a baby is married,” said Dakota County director of employment and economic assistance Marti Fischbach, who helps clients sign up for plans.

The mailer finishes with this:

And, unbelievably, the bureaucrats who created the MNsure mess got pay raises and bonuses.

Dorholt didn’t vote to give Scott Leitz and April Todd-Malmlov bonuses or pay raises. He just voted to create MNsure, who then threw away the taxpayers’ money on bonuses for inept bureaucrats.

The best way to ‘thank’ Zach Dorholt for all he’s given us is to vote for Jim Knoblach on Nov. 4.

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Something kept gnawing at me after I wrote this post. Here’s what kept bothering me:

That probe, begun almost 18 months ago, had centered on whether the university failed to return federal financial aid money it was required to return if the students whose grades were changed became ineligible to keep that financial aid.

I’ve finally figured out why that bothered me. The transcript scandal was pushed by the Faculty Association during their monthly Meet&Confer meetings with President Potter and members of his administration. If the FA hadn’t pushed the subject, it wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

That’s proven by the verifiable facts surrounding the scandal. First, as I wrote here, SCSU administration doesn’t think that an investigation is needed:

FA: I have a clarifying question. I heard you say this is a preliminary investigation at looking so once you do your preliminary then am I hearing you say then you will decide what your next step is going to be in terms of your going after other data collection for the past four years before this?

Admin: Sure so then we have as to what kind of data is relevant and we go there and we can collect the information so that it makes sense for you. The other thing is I won’t call it an investigation I would call analysis. So it’s a data analysis to understand if there is a spike and then understand whether it is due to factors outside our control or if it is factors of the band of discretion becoming wider.

Second, Potter’s administration hasn’t talked with professors who’ve reported students’ participation in their class deleted:

Chemistry Prof. Tamara Leenay also noticed discrepancies in 2012 and gave the documentation to McKenna. “It was just odd, all of the sudden, these grades are being changed,” she said.

Leenay said she has been out of state on vacation and did not meet with federal investigators. She also said that since she discovered the discrepancies and shared them with McKenna, no one from the administration has talked to her about the issue or asked for her records.

These incidents are proof that the Potter administration isn’t interested in investigating this scandal. This isn’t open to various interpretations. There’s just one explanation for the Potter administration’s inaction. They weren’t interested in the transcript scandal.

That’s important to the claim that “the probe” “had centered on whether the University failed to return federal financial aid money.”

Think about this. Why would professors worry about something that’s the administration’s responsibility? The professors consistently spoke out about the disappearing grades. LFR has covered this story extensively and exhaustively. LFR has reported more details about this scandal than all the other news agencies in the state…combined. While it’s true that professors I’ve interviewed on background were curious if SCSU had returned federal financial aid money, that was always a secondary issue. Transcript integrity and the damage done to SCSU’s academic reputation always topped their list of concerns.

That’s as it should be. Professors have enough responsibilities. They shouldn’t be required to monitor whether the administration has dealt with financial assistance from the federal government. That’s the administration’s responsibility.

The University’s insistence that the transcript scandal was always about “whether the university failed to return federal financial aid money” is pure Potter spin. That’s consistent. One of the things that’s been consistent from the Potter administration about this scandal is their spin. The other thing that’s been consistent about the Potter administration’s behavior during the transcript scandal is that they’ve refused to conduct a serious investigation into this major breech of academic integrity.

The only thing that’s worse than the Potter administration’s dishonesty is the St. Cloud Times’ gullibility.

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Where’s Earl? or Does IT Services Know A Secret?
by Silence Dogood

SCSU’s main webpage has a link to a search window where you can search for offices/departments or people (faculty/staff or students).

Having nothing better to do one afternoon, I performed a search for “Potter” just to see what would come up.

I was mildly amused that the President of the university couldn’t be found. Clicking on the box for “Students” shows four students with the last name Potter. Maybe when he’s in China, it’s like the old computer game: “Where in the World in Carmen Sandiego?” which was released in 1985.”

I then started wondering if IT services knew something I didn’t. So I went to back to the search window and found the “President’s Office” and clicked on the link. The following came up:

I was relieved that SCSU still has a President. However, I’m guessing someone in IT services is going to get a phone call shortly.

This editorial, from the Mesabi Daily News Editorial Board, insists on getting the Sandpiper Pipeline project built:

Symbolic meetings by elected officials being held on the rail delays that are severely affecting transportation of products and goods to market, including iron ore pellet deliveries from the Range to the Duluth-Superior Port, are feel-good nice and make for good photo opportunities.

Yes, it’s good to push for improvement of the U.S. rail system, even though the politicians are coming late to the issue, not dealing with it until it has reached a crisis level.

But what is really needed is a bipartisan meeting of all Minnesota office-holders along with business and labor leaders to endorse more urgency in getting oil pipelines up and running. Pipelines are the proven safest and most expedient way to get the liquid gold of our domestic self-sufficiency boom from the oil fields to refineries. And, pipelines also mean jobs.

Yet, it’s delay and delay and delay and a lot of political posturing when it comes to allowing and constructing pipelines. Meanwhile, some politicians put out news release after news release on the all sides of the issue, except, of course, advocating for getting pipelines built and operational.

Whether it’s the XL Keystone pipeline that would go from Canada’s western slope to Gulf states or the $2.6 billion Sandpiper pipeline through northern Minnesota to carry North Dakota oil to a terminal in Superior, Wis., that feeds refineries across the Midwest, both are hung up in unnecessary regulatory delay.

Enough of the political rhetoric. Let’s get at the core of the issue.

Enough’s enough is right. Environmental activists are doing everything to prevent the Sandpiper Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline projects from getting built. It’s time they grew up. It’s time for DFL politicians in Minnesota and Democrats nationwide to reject the consequences of these extremists’ policies.

Their goal isn’t to put in place technologies that make fossil fuels safe. These environmental activists want to eliminate the use of fossil fuels:

Sierra Club Programs
Priority Campaigns

Beyond Coal
Beyond Oil
Beyond Natural Gas
Our Wild America

The DFL agrees with the Sierra Club the vast majority of the time. Gov. Dayton’s appointees to the Public Utilities Commission, aka the PUC, apparently agree with the Sierra Club. They took the unprecedented step of proposing a different route for the Sandpiper Pipeline. That step means a delay of years, not months.

That’s time farmers and miners don’t have. Farmers already have difficulty getting their crops to market. Miner have difficulty getting iron ore pellets shipped to the ports of Duluth-Superior.

Here’s how serious the Sierra Club is about ending mining, fracking and drilling:

It’s time for Minnesotans to reject the environmental extremists’ agenda. Their agenda is about stopping the fracking revolution that’s lowering gas prices and increasing the supply of natural gas, which lowers Minnesotans’ heating bills.

If the DFL wants to stand with the Sierra Club, let them explain to Minnesotans why it’s better to pay high prices to heat their homes while not creating good paying jobs on the Iron Range.

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Under DFL domination, the percentage of active military personnel serving overseas has dropped from 15% to a pathetic 5%. Despite the DFL’s claims that their policies increase voter turnout, America’s patriots don’t seem to benefit from the DFL’s policies.

Less than 3 weeks from now, Minnesotans have the opportunity to rectify that by electing Dan Severson. Severson has a plan to make it easier for military personnel serving overseas to vote:

Dan Severson says delays in mailing ballots and lack of awareness has brought military voter participation to as low as 5%. Severson proposes creating a secure online voting network for soldiers. A similar system has been used in Arizona.

Steve Simon, Severson’s opponent for Secretary of State, has a less efficient plan:

Simon says military members benefit from the new, no-excuse absentee voting law he shepherded through the Legislature last session. He says Severson’s online voting proposal is worth exploring.

Simon isn’t accurate. No-excuse voting isn’t that big of a benefit because it still takes tons of time to get ballots from war zones back to Minnesota. The online system that Severson is proposing eliminates the mailing of ballots. Ballots wouldn’t have to be mailed to our service personnel. Our service personnel wouldn’t have to worry that the military’s post office would get the ballots back before the deadline, either.

Fill out the ballot. Hit enter.

That’s about as simple a procedure as you’ll find.

Steve Simon didn’t insist on making voting easier for our military, which indicates it isn’t a priority for him. That’s unacceptable. Severson’s commitment to service personnel guarantees that military turnout would be taken seriously. Our heroes deserve nothing less.

As long as we don’t hire the people who designed MNsure or HealthCare.gov, we should be fine.

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