Lewis began the race with near universal name ID, plenty of goodwill among Republicans, and that plus his previous national radio platform should have equated to the ability to fundraise.
His one big liability was his years on the radio, where he had inevitably said some outrageous things, as radio people are wont to do. In an environment where Donald Trump seems to be teflon coated, it was unclear exactly how much Lewis' past would hinder him. Plus, Al Franken was able to be elected in Minnesota despite his portfolio of rape jokes.
Lewis also brought some life into the race in CD2, which had previously been unusually boring for an open seat in one of the few real swing districts in the country.
The open question in all of this was whether Lewis would be able to make the transition from radio personality to political candidate.
That question seems to have a clear answer at this point.
Despite his allegedly national following, Lewis raised an embarrassingly paltry $100,000 for the race in 2015. Nearly 2/3 of that cash was raised from large donors including many of the familiar names among those of us who regularly review MN campaign finance reports- Bob and Joan Cummins, Bill Cooper, Bron Scherer, Harold Hamilton, Brian Sullivan, etc. That leaves only about $35,000 which came from the type of small donors that you would expect would make up contributors from a radio audience.
When you remove the fundraising advantage Lewis was supposed to have, all you're left with is a guy who maybe said some outrageous things on the radio in the past.
Yeah, well about that.
The first of what will be many stories about "dumb things Jason Lewis said" broke this week with a round-up of some of his comments about women- comments which prompted some of his GOP rivals to call on him to jump out of the race.
More concerning, however were Lewis' comments about the Civil War (or as he likes to call it "The War Between the States") and slavery, which came from an updated version of his audio book, which was released after he declared his candidacy for congress.
In response to criticism, Lewis has 1) lashed out at the press 2) laughed it off (literally laughing about it on TV today) and 3) doubled and tripled down on his past statements. Lewis discussed on KSTP TV this morning that President Abraham Lincoln "exploited" the issue of slavery, citing author Thomas DiLorenzo, who advocates for demolishing the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.
(Good thing this news broke after the recent MNGOP Lincoln/Reagan Dinner, otherwise things could have gotten a bit awkward...)
Jason Lewis likes to think of himself as a deep thinker, unafraid to tackle important issues, and unwilling to run from his controversial past. That's nice and all, but it's not a recipe for winning a Congressional District.
Nuanced arguments may work on talk radio, but "Jason Lewis Not Sure Civil War Was Worth Fighting" will be pretty damning when it comes on a postcard in your mailbox.
If Jason Lewis is the GOP Nominee in the Second Congressional District, he will lose, and he will likely hurt other candidates down ballot.
The DFL knows this, which is why they are silent on Lewis. Remember, Ken Martin and the DFL were able to turn around a fauxoutrageous press release reacting to a joke tweet about the closing of Old Country Buffet in a few hours. They have yet to release anything on Lewis. The DCCC mentioned him once in passing in a generic "Republicans All Suck" press release that isn't even worth linking to.
The DFL wanted people talking about Jason Lewis' past comments- but they wanted this conversation to happen on August 10- not now.
In April 2008 Jason Lewis was on Sean Hannity's TV Show discussing the race between Norm Coleman and Al Franken. In response to criticism about something Franken had written, he had this to say:
Well, I've got one word for you Sean, macaca. Can you imagine if there were George Allen who was drummed from the presidential race for saying something much less offensive. You know, not only the Asian stereotypes but the vulgarity of the language is clearly unbecoming of a would-be senator.
So a lot of people around here, I think, are starting to wonder whether Al Franken is not quite ready for primetime to use a pun.