When Events Matter

by Stuart Rothenberg February 21, 2006 · 11:17 PM EST

While journalists and political junkies watch each day’s news with an eye to see who is winning and who is losing — who is moving up and who is moving down — the reality is that most days come and go without any real movement.

Americans don’t dissect the news the way a compulsive blogger or a political reporter does. They tend to fit news reports and political developments into their existing assumptions and biases. And, again unlike most bloggers and political reporters, real people have more important things to do than chew on the latest political bone.

But sometimes events do matter.

The recent decisions by Patty Wetterling to exit the Minnesota Senate race and by attorney Mike Ciresi not to get into it have left Hennepin County Prosecutor Amy Klobuchar all by herself in the quest for the DFL nomination. That means she won’t have to spend money in a costly primary against the well-heeled Ciresi or move left to try to cut Wetterling off at an endorsing convention.

And that puts her in good shape to win Minnesota’s open Senate seat against Republican Mark Kennedy, a congressman who would be even money to win the seat in a neutral year but who is an underdog in the current climate.

Wetterling’s exit from that race and into the Minnesota 6th District House race undermines her party’s chances of winning that open seat, since it is likely to create bitterness and division no matter whether she or former Transportation Commissioner Elwyn Tinklenberg, a more moderate Democrat, wins the Democratic nomination in the district.

In West Virginia, the entry of wealthy businessman John Raese into the GOP Senate race surely makes that contest more interesting and raises at least some doubts about Senator Robert Byrd’s reelection, which had been considered a certainty. Raese drew 47% against Jay Rockefeller (D) in 1984, and he gives voters a serious alternative to Byrd, who doesn’t quite look like Strom Thurmond did in his final years in the Senate but obviously isn’t the man he was three or four decades ago.

Raese has plenty of personal money, so he won’t have trouble delivering his case against Byrd. This is now a race worth watching.