Ok, so I'm sorta convinced its just a bad design. As in, I think the automatic section on the timer is just not long enough. We started a load of towels this morning, and i watched the timer throughout the load (for a good portion of it anyway), looking through that back window on the timer motor to see if the timer motor was moving or not. And basically it seems like its doing exactly what it is designed to do: the timer is moving when the dryer isnt calling for heat, and its stopped while the heating element is on (just like the non-moisture sensing whirlpools do). I guess I didnt watch it the whole entire time, but watched it for a few minutes several times throughout the load and could see the timer stopping and starting. And when i saw the timer start, i would also hear the thermostat click off at the same time.
We had put the timer dial on maximum dryness in the automatic mode, and it took 30 minutes before it reached the cool down section on the timer. 30 minutes just isnt enough, obviously. I checked after it reached the cool down section, and the towels were still fairly damp. It wasnt a huge load of towels, but i would say medium/large load. On the timed mode we normally would have selected 60 minutes for this size load.
So one theory mentioned above is that the airflow isnt good, causing the thermostat to cycle more than it should. But as i mentioned, I got this same result when I ran the dryer with no vent hose attached to the back. So for this load, the vent hose was hooked up, but i cleaned the vent system out less than 6 months ago. And drying time in general seems normal (60 minutes isnt abnormal for this load). So i'm certain thats not what it is. The only thing left that could make any sense at all is just a poor design. Not enough time in the automatic section to actually dry a load. I really cant think of anything else. One theory could be that the temp is not getting high enough, but it definitely is, since as i stated before, i tested the temp cycles out the back exhaust.