This past weekend, the St. Paul RiverCentre was home to the Minnesota GOP’s state convention, and it was an event crowded with gubernatorial hopefuls, and, seemingly, equally crowded with journalists and bloggers equal to see who might break from the pack to become the party’s front-runner. Let’s ruin the suspense by saying that this weekend’s winner was State Rep. Marty Seifert, who won a straw poll of conventioneers; Minnesota Public Radio’s Tom Scheck was among those live-blogging the whole event and posted Seifert’s victory the moment it was announced, later updating it to demonstrate how dramatically the candidate had taken the lead: Seifert pulled in 454 votes; the next highest amount was Tom Emmer, who trailed by a considerable margin, with 283 votes.
FOX9 clarifies just how dramatic Seifert’s lead was — 37 percent of the votes — and reminds us that “The straw poll isn’t binding on delegates to next year’s endorsement, but it is an early indicator of candidate support.” How good of an indicator? According to Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press, not very good: “Previous straw vote winners have often lost the party’s election-year backing.” But while Seifert’s win might not mean much for his chances at becoming governor, the straw poll may help winnow out the crowded collection of hopefuls by demonstrating who doesn’t have much support, or, as Seifert himself told the PiPress, “Republicans want to bet on a winner. They don’t want to bet on the horse heading to the glue factory.”
What the convention also demonstrated was what played well with the GOP base, and what didn’t play well, and the best way to get a sense of that was from people live-tweeting the event. For instance, it sounds as though environmental activist Leslie Davis went on an extended comic riff about his lack of support, claiming his supporters were at a methadone clinic and causing Twitter users to declare him “GOP comedian of MN.” Davis did not do well.
Mike Jungbauer, who missed a day of the convention, apparently because of side-effects of rabies shots he is getting after having been bitten on the face by a bat, declared himself Batman. Phil Herwig came out screaming (“Classic Herwig!” one Twitter user comments), and asked, “Can Good reach across the aisle to Evil?“, a question that will probably also pop up during the DFL Convention.
But the most popular collection of quotes seemed to come from Pawlenty, who introduced the event with a series of potshots at Democrats: “Pawlenty says dems are anti-freedom and compares them to tyrants“; “I will have veto pen warmed up and ready to go“; “we now live in a country where the French president warns us about the danger of appeasement“; the crowd went wild, we are told, for Pawlenty’s essential message: “for FIRST time in 150yr history, MN state budget finally decreased.” Audio from many of these speeches are available on Polinaut, here and here.
Pawlenty is not taking sides this early in the race; as the Associated Press reports: Pawlenty said he won’t be backing any candidates until at least April, if then. He did, however, urge Republicans to get behind whomever the GOP chooses, even if the candidate isn’t the voter’s first choice.
In the meanwhile, there are still signs that the Minnesota economy isn’t all it should be. Chris Serres of the Star Tribune offers a frustrating tale of Minnesota homeowners attempting to enroll in the Obama administration’s foreclosure-prevention program, only to be stonewalled by banks, who then steer applicants toward “the banks’ own programs, which advocates charge are more complicated and costly.” Renee Tessman of KARE11 reports on local unemployment, noting that national unemployment jumped to 9.8 in September, if you don’t include part-time employees and people who have stopped looking for employment; if you include them, the figure is a startling 17 percent, “which is a record.” And Andy Greder of the Duluth News Tribune reports the depressing statistic that the Twin Ports and the Iron Range lost the second-largest number of construction, mining and logging jobs jobs in the country. Associated General Contractors of America chief economist Ken Simonson sums up the situation: “Pretty dreary.”
Concurrent to the GOP convention, Nazis marched on Minneapolis. Well, four Nazis, and they marched on the South Minneapolis YWCA, where a private workshop on anti-racism was being held, as MPR’s Jessica Mador tells it. The Nazis, properly, were members of a Detroit-based group called the National Socialist Movement, but it seems anti-racism is currently a lot more popular in Minneapolis than racism, as they were met by about 200 counter-protesters. As one person told the Star Tribune’s Abby Simons, “I‘m surprised there are only four of them. I guess it’s a good sign that maybe racism is on its way out.” Sheila Regan of the TC Daily Planet offers a video and photographs of the event, as well as noting that there was one other group present that wasn’t mentioned in the other stories: 20 journalists.
Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, the president of Somalia, visited Minnesota this past weekend; as reported by Richard Meryhew and Allie Shah of the Star Tribune, he met with families of the Minnesotans of Somali extraction that disappeared last year, only to die in skirmishes in Somalia. Ahmed also spoke at Northrop Auditorium, where the Associated Press reports that he condemned the terror recruiting that has gone on in the Twin Cities, saying, “We believe this is a wrong action, that these young men were wronged, they were robbed out of their life. Their parents were wronged.”
This past weekend was a big one for the Twins, especially as it might have been their last at the Metrodome, causing local media to line up misty-eyed adieus, with Janey Klein of KARE11 talking to past and present Twins about their experiences at the Thunderdome and FOX11 interviewing the Twins’ “Number One Fan” about her feelings. Unfortunately, the best laid plans of mice, baseball players and journalists gang aft agley, and aglay they ganged in a welcome manner: The Twins easily defeated the Kansas City Royals Sunday, as recounted bt MPR’s Brandt Williams. This means one more game at the Dome, and a possible division win.