Monday, May 15, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Don't Look Now, But The 2024 Election Has Already Begun

The 2024 presidential campaign cycle will begin

formally in less than four months with the first

Republican nationally televised debate in Milwaukee

in August. The exact date, and the debate rules,

are not yet known, but GOP national chair Rona

McDaniels has stated that those who want to be

included in the debate will have to publicly promise

that they will support the eventual party nominee

who will be named at the national Republican

convention next year (that will also be held in


Major candidates already announced include

former President Donald Trump, former South

Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, former Arkansas

Governor Asa Hutchinson, businessman Vivek

Ramaswami, former National Security chief John

Bolton, radio host Larry Elder and businessman

Perry Johnson.

South Carolina Senator Tim Scott. former Vice

President Mike Pence and Florida Governor Ron

DeSantis are each expected to announce their

candidacies in coming weeks.

Other Republican political figures are known to be

considering running, and given the August debate

date, would almost certainly declare their intentions 

before August.

Current polls indicate Mr. Trump with a two-to-one

lead over his nearest potential rival Mr. Desantis,

with hopefuls Pence, Haley, Ramaswami, Scott,

and Hutchinson is low single digits. Candidates

Johnson, Elder and Bolton so far have little support

in the early polls.

Political commentators have noted that the early

polls reflect name recognition, and likely also reflect

GOP grass roots sympathy response for Mr. Trump

after his recent indictment in New York City, something

widely perceived by most Republicans to be a purely 

political attempt to hurt the former president’s

re-election chances. Since Mr. DeSantis has not yet

announced, observers have noted that the Florida

governors true political strength might not yet be

accurately reflected in the polls.

Democrats will hold their 2024 national convention in

Chicago, and have rearranged their primary schedule

to begin in South Carolina, bypassing the traditional

campaign order that has begun with the Iowa caucus

and New Hampshire primary. New Hampshire officials

say they will defy the change and schedule their

primary before South Carolina. 

The choice of Chicago for the Democrats’ convention

involves some risk. Although historically the most

frequent convention site of the major parties, in 1968

the convention to seek a replacement for retiring 

President Lyndon Johnson turned into chaos in the

city despite the strong urban control of then-Mayor

Richard Daley. Today, Chicago is a crime-ridden city

with an untested new leftist mayor.

Two candidates, activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and 

businesswoman Marianne Wiliamson, have formally

declared they are challenging incumbent President 

Joe Biden’s renomination, but by next year more 

serious potential opponents (so far discouraged from 

running) could enter the contest. As part of the

Democrats’ strategy to prevent a serious challenge, 

no primary season debates have so far been slated.

But early polls indicate that Mr. Biden has very high

unfavorables, and that his running mate Vice President

Kamala Harris is even more unpopular. 

Although he has a famous political surname and is 

seen as only a controversial maverick, Mr. Kennedy is 

receiving about 20% in early polls — against 60% for 

Mr. Biden — with about 20% undecided. Until now, 

no prominent Democrat has openly declared they will 

run in 2024 against Mr. Biden — although California 

Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom has been making 

himself conspicuously heard and seen.

In any event, it is much too early to draw conclusions

about the 2024 presidential cycle. But the contest,

slated to hold its first actual voting early next year, has 

already begun in earnest. We don’t yet have the full cast 

of its characters, but with the Republican debates set to

begin very soon, the time has come to begin paying more



Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, April 25, 2023


With his formal announcement, Joe Biden appears to

have locked up his renomination as the Democratic

nominee for president in 2024. With his current big lead 

in the polls, Donald Trump appears now to be the likely

nominee for his Republican Party for president in 2024..

Considering the negatives in public opinion for the

re-election of the Biden-Harris ticket or for a comeback

win by a Trump-led ticket, it seems that the current

conventional wisdom that next year will see a replay

of 2020 is a defiance of common sense and political


I would suggest that, far from any certainty, both races

for the presidential nomination are far from over.

On the Democratic side, we have likely not seen the

end of the challenge to the frail and rapidly aging

president. Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. is not going to be the

Democrat who defeats him, but the Kennedy scion’s

growing appeal, like Eugene McCarthy’s 1968 challenge 

to Lyndon Johnson, mighy lead to a delayed entrance

of at least one or more conventional Biden challengers.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump’s current lead in

the polls is almost certainly the result of his recent legal

indictment, and the fact that his major GOP rival, Florida

Governor Ron DeSantis, has not yet announced his

candidacy. While Trump currently leads DeSantis among

Republicans in most national and state polls, those same

polls show DeSantis doing better than Trump against

Biden in almost every case. This curious divergence

suggests that DeSantis is the stronger GOP nominee

against a Democrat in 2024.

In addition to the major party campaigns, the weakness 

of the frontrunning candidates, and the widespread

economic and international uncertainty, makes it very

likely that serious third party candidacies could soon

emerge. A centrist “No Labels Party” effort is already

underway, and it could easily attract well-known

figures if one or both parties seem unusually vulnerable

in the November, 2024 campaign.

Governor DeSantis, now on his obligatory international

tour that includes Japan, Great Britain and Israel, is the

most serious potential Republican challenger, but his

timetable for entrance into the race has narrowed with

the first debates only months away. There are already

some credible other figures in the GOP race, but the

political reality is that only Mr. DeSantis could defeat

Mr. Trump in the upcoming primary campaign contests.

Although the obvious political nature of the timing of the

New York indictment of Mr. Trump has rallied Republicans

to his side for now, it is not at all clear this and his other

looming legal problems will sustain support for him.

Every public opinion poll indicates that voters of both

major parties, and independent voters, want younger and

less controversial choices than Biden and Trump. By

keeping Kamala Harris as his running mate, the president

is also offering voters a choice even more unpopular than

he is, and who has been decidedly unimpressive as vice

president so far.

Perhaps, after all, it will be Biden vs. Trump next year.

But public dissatisfaction with that prospect is so great

that the possibility of surprise in one or both parties’

tickets is higher than any presidential cycle in memory,

perhaps ever.

This presidential nomination campaign cycle has just begun.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.

Monday, April 3, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: Restaurants In Recovery

 by guest food writer Leo Mezzrow

It appears that the restaurant-hospitality industry, so

heavily damaged at the height of the pandemic crisis,

is well on its way to recovery.

Some establishments didn't make it, unable to survive

lockdowns, regulations, take-out only restrictions,

lack of employees, rising meat and produce costs,

and lack of customers.

Those which did survive often had to adjust their food

ordering and delivery processes, reduce or alter their

menu choices, raise prices and intensify their

hospitality relationships with customers.

Hesitant at first, diners began to resume earlier habits

of eating out, and returning to favorite restaurants,

as well as try out the many new bistros which opened


The latter is one of the most positive signs of the

dining-out renewal, with many restaurateurs who had

closed opening new dining rooms. Several closed

facilities also reopened with new owners and different

menu identities.

Many upscale restaurants, previously employing

traditional table service, adapted to self-service

ordering, and employing fewer wait and kitchen


The most visible change, from the diner’s point of

view, has been of course, menu prices which in 

many cases exceeded the general inflation in other

retail industries. This inevitably has caused diners,

especially older ones, to stay home more often, or

to abandon previous favorites which had become

too expensive.

As I said previously, the opening of new restaurants

has been a positive sign of dining out recovery. Using

the Twin Cities in Minnesota as an illustration, here are

some examples. Although parts of Minneapolis are

still suffering, especially in central downtown and 

Uptown, the periphery of downtown where new condo

and apartment construction has taken place, is

enjoying a restaurant boom. The North Loop near the

Mississippi River now has Tullibee, an upscale 

Scandinavian restaurant (in the Hewing Hotel) serving

breakfast, weekends brunch, lunch and dinner. Valet

and on-street parking on Washington Avenue North.

Going south, The Canopy Hotel features two fine

restaurants, its own Umbra, serving a daily buffet

breakfast, lunch, happy hour and dinner. Umbria has

two menus all day, including a menu that features

cassoulet, alligator, octopus, lamb sliders and unusual

flatbreads. The latter are half price at happy hour in

the bar area. Across a beautiful lobby is Chloe, a fine

French restaurant created by a veteran Gallic chef,

serving dinner only, and soon a Sunday brunch.

On-street parking on South 3rd Street near the Viking


Back in the North Loop area, three promising upscale

restaurants are under construction within a few blocks

of each other and Tullibee. One is an Argentine

churrascaria, another is French and a third is Basque,

each operated by top well-known local chefs. In the

same area, three high-end dining rooms are already

open, one of them in the new Four Seasons Hotel.

All of these restaurants, are or will be, quite pricey,

although both Tulibee and Umbra are less so.

Across the river in the East Hennepin commercial

neighborhood, a number of new restaurants have 

opened, including an outstanding southern Indian

restaurant, Curry Corner, and All Saints, featuring

innovative cuisine. On-street parking on East 

Hennepin Avenue.

Over in St, Paul, a number of new ethnic bistros

have opened in neighborhoods outside downtown.

Kalsada is a Filipino restaurant with an authentic

menu. Estelle serves an upscale continental menu

dinner only. Both have on-street parking.

Although I can’t guarantee it for others, I have had 

very good experiences at each of the named new

restaurants above. They range from moderate pricey 

to very pricey. Each one seems to be doing good 

business, and they are are only a fraction of new 

Twin Cities restaurants.

I believe the Twin City experience js being duplicated

in cities across the nation. Next time, I will write about

new restaurants which offer good but less pricey meals.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Leo Mezzrow. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

THE PRAIRIE EDITOR: A Journalist's Education

I have been working as a professional journalist for

more than fifty-one years, but I have not ever attended 

a journalist class, nor ever enrolled in a journalism


I did attend the Writers Workshop at the University of

Iowa, received a masters degree in creative writing,

but learned quickly that earning a living in writing,

especially writing poetry, was not a promising economic


In fact, very few creative writers make their living with

their work. It’s true that a small number of successful 

and best-selling authors make enormous sums from 

their novels and subsequent movie rights, but most 

serious writers become college professors, and others

don’t seek a day job.

Circumstances, more than planned intention, led me 

to be a self-taught journalist in the early days of 

neighborhood and community journalism.

After graduating from Iowa, and a short stint teaching in

public schools in my hometown of Erie, PA, I moved to

Minnesota with the intention of founding a literary

publishing house as well as writing poetry and fiction.

Economic reality quickly set in as I found myself with 

an office, a new computerized typesetter, lots of debt,

and few resources. I lived at that time in the first Title IV 

new town, one that was literally started from scratch

out of rural farm fields. It occurred to me that this new

town (named Jonathan) had no newspaper of its own,

and was growing in population rapidly. Its own newspaper

seemed like a good idea, and being young, I went ahead

and created one, oblivious to the obstacles that might 

discourage a professionally-trained journalist.

That began, in 1971, a fifteen-year career as a community

journalist, a career that required me to be not only a writer

and reporter, but also an editor, publisher, lay-out designer,

ad salesman, bill collector, delivery boy and janitor. It also

gave me a much more practical and useful education than

i had received in my Ivy League undergraduate university

and later in graduate school. 

I soon started a second newspaper in a neighborhood

called Cedar-Riverside near downtown Minneapolis, which

also had a Title IV new town, and which had a much larger 


The issues which faced the rural new town were far less

complicated than those in the new-town-in-town. The

Title IV program, begun in the late 1960s, eventually saw

the creation or planning of about 20 new communities, but

these federally-guaranteed developments did not survive 

an economic downturn in the mid-1970s, environmental

lawsuits, and community activism. Jonathan still exists as

a subdivision of the city of Chaska; and Cedar-Riverside is

now primarily an ethnic neighborhood, but their original

corporate entities and urban innovations are no more.

My Cedar-Riverside newspaper lasted fifteen years. It was

not the first Twin Cities neighborhood newspaper, nor the

largest, but it was immediately different. The neighborhood

was a performing arts center in those days, so my paper

was filled with reviews and arts coverage. Local politics

then was burgeoning, and the city’s large daily newspaper

did little community coverage. I had a lifelong interest in

national politics, and again, the city’s large daily fell short,

so I wrote about state and national politics. Early on, I

predicted a surprising upset in city elections, and acquired 

readers from outside the area. But a feature I had casually 

added in each issue: reviews and recommendations of Twin 

Cities restaurants, became one of the most popular features, 

garnering me considerable local attention and advertising.

In the 1980’s my editorial forays into national politics even

got noticed outside Minnesota. I covered my first presidential

campaign in 1972, but took a more active role in 1976 with

early notice of Jimmy Carter. In 1982, I predicted the rise of

an obscure Colorado senator named Gary Hart — which, 

after the New Hampshire primary in 1984, had national

columnists calling me. A year later, I wrote a front-page

article predicting the emergence in 1988 of another

obscure senator to become president. His name? Joe Biden.

I made only a very modest living from the newspaper, and 

the work was exhausting, so by 1987 I had shut down the

publication, and was writing freelance articles about politics

and restaurants. I had continued doing my literary writing 

all this time, and my poems and short stories were

widely published in magazines, anthologies and even

a few books. It was time to move on to new careers, but

my experience in community newspapers had been not only

an invaluable education, but a rich grass-roots experience

that I would call on again and again in later life.

Forty years ago, there were more than three dozen Twin

City print publications serving neighborhood, community, 

cultural and other local interests. The internet, social

networks, inner city political correctness, the pandemic and

its aftermath, and print economics have now reduced their

number sharply.

But today, more than a dozen neighborhood and community

newspapers are still going strong in Minneapolis and St. 


These small local print news sources also flourish across

the nation. One notable example is The North Shore 

Leader. a Long Island, NY community weekly that exposed

the misrepresentations of local congressional candidate

George Santos weeks BEFORE the 2022 election. Their

scoop was ignored by local Democrat and Republican

campaigns as well as the major nearby daily newspapers 

and broadcast media until after the election when The 

Leader’s community news story became front page 

national news.

Community newspapers can give their readers news and 

information the dailies and other media do not, and 

contribute to the local identity and spirit in this difficult 

urban time. They can enable their local businesses and 

community organizations to thrive. Community print  

media defy reports of their demise. I honor their service, 

and salute their survival.


Copyright (c) 2023 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.