Republicans Good For Business? Not at Cossetta’s

Cossetta’s, the wonderful red-sauce Italian restaurant and deli on West 7th Street in St. Paul, is a few steps from the Republican Convention at the Xcel Center. You’d think conventioneers spilling out of the X and eager for a bite or a drink would pack the place. So did the Cossetta’s management — they set up a huge tent in the parking lot with about a hundred tables and high-tops.

And nobody came. All day Monday the staff watched as hundreds of delegates walked past and boarded buses for Minneapolis. They had about a dozen people stop. Today they had a great breakfast set up — pepperoni and peppers with eggs, yumm — and they were so happy to see Lisa and me that they gave away some of the pastries they had piled up for the absent Republicans. It’s a double-whammy for Cossetta’s, because few of their regular customers are coming either, figuring they can’t get to the store. (By coming down the hill from Summit Avenue past the University Club and turning on Grand or in front of the hospital to Chestnut you can get to Cossetta’s — and it’s open to the public all during the convention.)

In the bar at the St. Paul Hotel (we had to go, it was research) the lunch crowd today was pretty good, and included Jon Voight, but the bartender said it’s slower than normal and much slower than they expected.

Seems like big brother Minneapolis is getting a lot of the eating and drinking business. Convention goers like the free gigs, many of them put on in Minneapolis, the bartender said, and people don’t like to drink and eat in the same place where they have their convention sessions, he said. Too bad — the Republicans are missing some of St. Paul’s best joints, like Cossetta’s, a St. Paul institution for 97 years, and the bar at the St. Paul Grille, one of the homiest places in town. Maybe there are too many pictures of Democrats on the wall. The likelihood of any Republicans actually hoofing it down to Mickey’s Diner? Yeah.

Best t-shirt on sale — “Obama, endorsed by radical extremists worldwide.” Took this old liberal a few seconds to realize it was a slam. Then there’s the bumper sticker — Nobama — no experience, no leadership, and nosomethingelseIcan’tremember.

My feeling being downtown St. Paul today? Republicans are whistling past the graveyard. After Obama’s olympic-echoing event, and given where the country is, it isn’t just Gustav that downsized the RNC. McCain and Sarah Quayle ain’t got a chance. No way. Not this time.

offer in compromise fine

On Pilin’ On Palin

There are so many message directions Obama could take on the whole Palin front. Troopergate. Experience. Earmark hypocrisy. Family demands. But sacrifice is the essence of strategy, so he should take a pass on all of those tempting messaging paths, so those issues don’t drown out his most compelling message — “change v. Bush 3.0.”

The Republicans need this to be a Small Election to win. Who is the biggest hero? Who has the thickest resume? Who is riskier? Who is most like you, Mr. and Ms. Swing Voter? If those are the questions on most voters’ minds on Election Day, Obama is toast. And if Obama comments on all of the issues swirling around Palin, he will be inadvertently framing up the election the way his opponents need it framed up.

The Democrats need this to be a Big Election to win. “Keep going in the same direction, or shake things up?” That’s the uber-theme that works best for them. If that is the question on voters’ minds on Election Day, Obama will win. To ensure that happens, he needs to stay away from all of the Sideshow Sarah issues, and hammer his central message repeatedly.

Though the concepting and production of this ad is as milquetoast as all of Obama’s ads have been, it is right on target strategically.

It takes a disciplined and mature leader to avoid taking the easy cheap shot in the heat of the battle. Believe me, going tit-for-tat feels mighty good. But so far Obama is remaining mostly on-message, and he needs to make sure his staff does so as well. The babies? Don’t go there. The trooper? Let the investigation do the work. Earmark hypocrisy? Not the issue that works for you. Experience? It’s a trap that will make you look patronizing, and it supports McCain’s central contention about the paramount importance of experience.

The point: It may feel good piling on Palin, but it’s self-defeating. Instead of taking the bait on those issues du jour, Obama need to keep his focus on the top of the ticket, and hammer home the “change versus more of the same” uber-theme.

— Loveland

small business loans fine