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'Man in the middle' Tom Horner stuck between new DFL, GOP attacks

For months, the state's Republican Party has been pounding on Tom Horner, denouncing the Independence Party candidate for governor as just another liberal.

Now, the DFL is firing away at Horner, claiming he's just a Republican.

The DFL today put up a web video that shows Horner himself saying he's a Republican.

"I reflect the philosophy I've always defined as a Republican philosophy," Horner says on the video. Additionally, it shows Horner talking about his proposal to broaden the sales tax while reducing and — ultimately — even eliminating corporate income and capital gains taxes.

But the video is only one part of a major move DFLers are making in an effort to bring wayward party members back to Mark Dayton and away from Horner.

The video comes out at a time when the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a progressive group, has been mailing literature reminding people that Horner is a lifelong Republican.

DFL meeting tonight aims to rally the troops
And it comes at a time when a number of DFL leaders — including a handful of people who were candidates for governor — are meeting with party members who "are on the bubble."

Former DFL gubernatorial candidates — including Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Matt Entenza and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak — are listed as hosts of tonight's private event being held with wavering DFLers. The idea is to point out that there are clear differences between Dayton and Horner.

Rybak, who has made nearly 50 campaign appearances for DFL candidates, including Dayton, since June, is honest about the need for this sort of push. Five weeks from the election, there remain many DFLers who are having a hard time rallying behind Dayton.

"There are people who supported me, people who supported Margaret, who are on the bubble," Rybak told MinnPost. "I understand that very well. There are some things I agree with Horner on. But Mark has the only realistic approach to balancing the budget and investing where we need to invest."

Beyond that, Rybak said, people do need to be reminded that Horner is not Tim Penny, a former DFLer who ran as an IP candidate for governor eight years ago, or Peter Hutchinson, a liberal-leaning IP candidate four years ago.

"Tom Horner hired me for my first job in journalism," Rybak said. "I've known him for years. I like him. I agree with many of the things he says. But I also remember that for eight years of the Bush presidency and eight years of Tim Pawlenty, he was defending Republican policies that were devastating for our state and the nation."

Rybak said he doesn't know for sure "what Horner we would see a few months from now. There's no question who Mark Dayton is. We need less spin and more direct courage."

In a sense, this sudden attention from the DFL is a validation of the legitimacy of the Horner campaign. All along, he's pointed out that he's the man in the middle, willing to accept ideas from both sides of the aisle.

Horner expects continuing barrage
"I think you will see this continue from both sides for the rest of the election," an amused — and unsurprised — Horner told MinnPost this afternoon.

"Neither [GOP candidate Tom Emmer nor Dayton] can consolidate their bases, so you have the Republicans out there trying to position me as a liberal and the DFL trying to position me as a conservative. I would expect in the coming weeks you will begin to see some TV spots along those lines.''

Horner continues to say that this two-sided attack shows that his opponents are more extreme than IP opponents in the past were. It was harder for both Penny and Hutchinson to pitch a big tent on the middle ground, Horner said, "because the Republicans and the Democrats both ran to the middle. When you have two moderates running, why do you need a third?"

That's not happening this time around. And both Emmer and Dayton are having trouble rallying the centrists in their own party.

"There are Republicans saying, 'I will not vote for Tom Emmer' and DFLers saying, 'I don't want to vote for Mark Dayton,' '' Horner said.

These new attacks from the DFL and the continuing shots from Republicans are "all upside for me,'' Horner said.

 Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.

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Comments (17)

Good observations by Doug Grow. I lean toward the Dems and I am supporting Tom Horner, who truly can win, for many reasons. Minneapolis has a good mayor but I must respectfully disagree with his
comment about "what Horner we would see a few months from now." One of the reasons I support Horner is that he has carefully laid out details in his moderate platform. It takes courage and will to let Minnesota know that there are no easy answers.

Conversely, Mr. Dayton -- whom I have no doubt is a nice person -- has staked a claim further to the left than suits our state (much the way his GOP opponent is too far to the right). When he lays out his plans, that is. On his Web site, too many of his positions are vague and end with the line: "More to come soon, please check back." That might of been OK in May. Today? It leaves me wondering what we would see a few months from now.

"Five weeks from the election, there remain many DFLers who are having a hard time rallying behind Dayton."

No surprise here. Most DFLer's supported MAK or Entenza. Dayton won the primary because of his name, and because of Duluth support for his running mate, who no one elsewhere in the state can even name...

I don't know what you all are smoking. Horners a Republican through and through. Really his proposal in put a tax on clothing and his opposition to raising taxes on the wealthy are all you need to know about him. Giving to the rich at the expense of the poor is the default Republican postion.

The two-party system is a direct effect of first-past-the-post voting. All political systems with FPTP eventually reach an equilibrium of two major parties. We are not going to have a viable multi-party political system unless something like instant-runoff voting becomes popular.

What I do think, though, is that the media largely hews to the idea that two parties represent the breadth of discourse in this country. With the largest cohort of us unaffiliated with a party, it seems stupid to me that when someone wants a debate on an issue, one Democrat and one Republican get to define the sides. But when the rest of us want to debate issues, that conversation ought to topic-focused not party-diffused.

Anyone who thinks Tom Horner has any chance whatsoever needs to get over themselves. It just isn't going to happen. The reason Penny and Hutchinson got nowhere wasn't because of their DFL and Republican opponents, but rather because, like Horner, they weren't former professional wrestlers. Do you know who doesn't win third party races? Wonky, non-charasmatic moderates.

Horner is getting attacked on both sides because the race may well be decided by Horner pulling more from one candidate than the other. Think hard about whether you prefer one of the main party candidates over the other before you vote for Horner, because its one of those guys who will end up as governor.

I agree with Allison Sandve that Tom Horner's courage to lay out his positions early and repeat them often show that he is not a duplicitous candidate who would become someone else once elected.

Additionally, I have found Mr. Horner to be the most forthright, consistent person to run for political office since I've become politically aware-- except for maybe Paul Wellstone.

R.T. Rybak is a fabulous, progressively green government executive who got the short of end of the super delegate stick during the Democratic Primary.

But for his comments that try & call into question Mr. Horner's impeccable political integrity, I fear he is just playing the good party soldier.

The comments offered here largely support Ms. Sandve's contentions. They all seem to come from the republic of Medom. The centrist/independent position isn't uniform, it is incredibly diverse, which gives insight into the stranglehold of the fringe represented currently by the two-party system. It's unsustainable, the only question is which party will recognize it first.

@ Mr. Tobias; You are correct when you state that Mr. Horner is a republican. In my view a moderate one. I believe the policies that Mr. Horner proposes is attracting voters and not which party he is affiliated with.

Perhaps there are no politicians who are willing to be quite that frank about what is required. But that doesn't change the fact that it needs to be done. Instead we find ourselves with a system where candidates from either party must contend for their party's primary voters, a result that seems largely responsible for today's hyperpartisanship.

Two years ago our country knew we needed to do something different. We elected our first black president. Among many substantive differences Barack Obama represented he also appeared physically different. Even "Barack" was different. He embodied something different. Good for us as Americans.
In our Governor's race this year we have three guys that you would all describe as basically the same. "Tom", "Mark", and "Tom". And they sort of look the same. You would describe their physicality much the same. Older, educated white guys. However, I believe that Tom Horner actually is different. You really have to listen to him though to hear it. It isn't as obvious as our last Presidential election that there is someone talking about reform. Real reform. Reasonable reform. Doable reform. It is just that you wouldn't guess that when you see him. I am not sure what that says about me. I guess it is that old book and cover saying.

I agree with Mr. Schulze's view that it is Horner's positions that attract voters, not his party affiliation. One of Horner's most appealing characteristics is his apparent willingness to consider any pragmatic solution to our financial situation. Neither of the ideologues flanking him sit well with my sensibilities. On the other hand, there are still a number of factors working against him: his support of eliminating corporate taxes; his lack of a legislative base from which to launch his plans; and the abiding fear that a vote for Horner brings Tom Emmer that much closer to a home on Summit Ave.

Mark Dayton inspires anything but confidence. I'd be more supportive of his plan to increase taxes if it extended to all of us. His budget-balancing efforts to date have consisted of a string of shoot from the hip blunders. His ads are old-school liberal, at a time when that prospect frightens and angers a large segment of the electorate.

My vote may come down to which party I think can do the best job of finding a way through this, rather than forge a new long-term path. That may be the DFL, if headed by moderates.

This excerpt from #8's Chelle Stoner bears repeating:

"I believe that Tom Horner actually is different. You really have to listen to him though to hear it. It isn't as obvious as our last Presidential election that there is someone talking about reform. Real reform. Reasonable reform. Doable reform. It is just that you wouldn't guess that when you see him."

I agree that Mr. Horner has integrity and has laid out his positions clearly. I simply disagree that his approach will be sufficient to bring to a halt the damage that's still being done to Minnesota and its citizens by policies enacted during the two terms of little King Timmy Pawlenty - the results of which we're only just beginning to see (falling bridges are only the above-the-waterline tip of the iceberg).

In fact, Mr. Horner's approach, ever with an eye to improving Minnesota's "Business Climate" (even though previous massive changes to favor business over individual citizens have clearly led to the mess we're currently in), will only be more of the same with the result that, although the wealthy members who control the "Chamber of Commerce" will be even happier, the availability of well-paying jobs with adequate benefits will continue to grow worse and the quality of the lives of regular Minnesotans will continue to deteriorate.

If elected, Mr. Horner will turn out to be as effective at dealing with what's happening to regular Minnesotans as the captain of the Titanic was in protecting the lower class passengers of that ship. Like King Timmy, who, after demanding "full speed ahead," and operating the ship in ways that guaranteed a collision with an iceberg, and has long since climbed into his own, private lifeboat and jumped ship,...

Mr. Horner will make sure the first class passengers have their own palatial lifeboats with additional boats, as needed for their staff and servants, while the rest of us damned well be able to survive swimming in icy waters for a very long time to come, because that's where we'll be.

Meanwhile, the the Chamber of Commerce folks will look down from the portholes of their private yachts and comment to each other that it's our own fault that we didn't prevent the ship from hitting the iceberg in the first place and, if we were smarter or more hardworking, we'd be able to build our own lifeboats out of nothing, as we floated on the briny deep trying not to freeze to death.

In comparison to the sweat and treasure that ALL the citizens of our state now need to invest in order to stop our slide into the economic abyss and begin climbing back up to recovery, Mr. Horner's "moderate" approach will prove to be several days late and billions of dollars short. Under his governing, this ship will go nowhere but down to the BOTTOM.

I like Tom Horner. He looks and sounds like he has a plan and makes sense. And he knows more than Emmer (everyone knows more than Emmer). But lift up the map, and -- voila -- looks like a republican plan, with tax cuts for corporations and higher taxes on the poor in the form of taxes on clothing.
What is he going to do for the working class. How does he propose to bring Minnesota back to its former halycon days.

A lot of us are looking hard at Horner because:

- if Emmer delivers on half of what he envisions, many of us would find ourselves wishing for the good ol' days of Tim Pawlenty; and,

- the Dayton campaign seems to be too busy playing with Facebook to realize that a lot of the DFL constituency would not even know how to use Facebook, let alone use the internet.

I got on an elevator at the building where I work the other day and Mark Dayton and two handlers stepped aboard right behind me. No greeting, no introduction, not even a "hello." Just a candidate looking at his Blackberry and completely ignoring a voter.

Old-school campaign tip for the two handlers that were escorting Mr. Dayton around on Monday: if you want votes and your guy (GASP!) actually meets voters in an unstaged, unrehearsed face-to-face encounter like an elevator, SAY SOMETHING!

Your guy was too busy reading his Blackberry. What the heck do you two bozos do? He's the one who is supposed to be campaigning. YOU do the %&#@! Blackberry! You lost a vote Monday. If you are doing that on every elevator you get in with the candidate, you are not going to win--regardless of what the pollsters say. Or what you post on Facebook or send out as a tweet.

Yep, Horner's pedigree is certainly tilted more to the right, but at least he seems to have personality and a genuine interest in getting the job.

Tom Horner is a nice guy, but I don't like his tax plan..extending sales tax only hurts the poor and middle class..rebates mean nothing.
I think Mark Dayton has the best plan to reduce the deficit and if Republicans would come together maybe our state can get back on track,
We don't need more Pawlenty ideas or Horner non ideas.we need a combination of tax increases and cuts.
Mark if your reading this my check will be there Sunday..

Allison is living in a fantasy world. Horner has half the support Dayton does and she thinks he's going to win? What is courageous about Horner's politcs? He is recyled George Bush. He's a newer version of Tim Pawlenty without the tax pledge. Unfortunately the taxes he likes are all super regressive and fall most harshly on the middle class. Horner is a life long republican that supports policies designed to increase the fortunes of the wealthy while fleecing the institutional benefits of the middle class to do it. There is absolutely nothing courageous about that. Daytons budget proposals are the only realistic and proven method to achieve balance and have been shown to be stimulative to boot. There's a reason Dayton is gaining support and Emmer is stuck. There is nothing proven or factual about the lie that cutting taxes will bring in revenue and balance the budget. A substantial enough people in this election understand this and that will put Dayton in the governor's mansion.

Dion Goldman (#2): I must disagree with your contention that Dayton won the primary because of his name and his running mate, Duluth's state senator.

Dayton won the primary because he was not timid or cautious about insisting on corrective measures that will help Minnesota recover from the starve-the-beast government that has caused so much damage (and deprivation) over the past ten years.

Horner is, I believe, an honest and upright true conservative (as in Arne Carlson). His measures would be helpful but do not go far enough.

Emmer would be Pawlenty on steroids. We can't afford a third governor who advocates the extremely right-wing policies of Grover Norquist.

This morning on RT-TV, the announcer noted that "twenty bridges have fallen down in the state of Minnesota alone." Maybe he was looking into a future Minnesota led by Pawlenty-like clones.

@ Jean Schiebel, who wrote:

"We need a combination of tax increases and cuts."

If this is your defining issue, Tom Horner is the candidate who deserves your vote.