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Tom Emmer: mainstream candidate for governor?

ALSO: Bachmann doesn’t know whether liberals can be constitutional; Vikings stadium proposal under way.

By Max Sparber | Monday, May 3, 2010

So the Minnesota GOP picked Tom Emmer as their candidate for governor on Friday, but just saying so misses the nuances of the process. There was , for instance, Michele Bachmann asking for party unity, as described by Tom Scheck of Polinaut. Well, that’s actually recasting her message as being gentler than it was. Her actual words pointed out that the real task at hand is addressing liberal extremist: “That is furthering an agenda of destroying our country thanks [to] the agenda of the uber liberals in Washington DC. Don’t let that be lost in the midst of the rivalry that we’re seeing here today.”

Steve Share on WordDay Minnesota offered up a summary of the various candidates, scoring them based on their voting records, and was unimpressed. According to Share, as ranked by the ALF-CIO, the various candidates scored quite poorly on issues related to “working families.” Emmer, for instance, scores 1 percent — properly, less than that, as “86 votes tracked through 2009, he voted with the AFL-CIO only ONCE.” Of course, unions and Republicans can be a bit antagonistic to each other sometimes, so it’s not likely that Emmer’s voting record here is going to hurt him.

In a story credited to MPR’s Tom Scheck and Brian Bakst of the Associated Press, Emmer offers an interesting summation of why he might be an appealing candidate: “I own blaze orange that’s got blood on it. We hunt, we fish, we’ve been in every hockey rink in this state … the Emmers are just another family in the state of Minnesota and we connect with families in the state of Minnesota.”

So Emmer nails what seems to newly be the three H’s of the modern GOP: hunting, hockey and half-pints (he has seven children). But what are his viewpoints? Well, for one thing, he actually seems to be perfectly fine with the Republican Party being cast as “The Party of ‘No.As Scheck reports, Emmer declared, “There’s no shame in saying ‘No’ to bad ideas.”

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Certainly there isn’t, but we’re curious about what ideas Emmer might say yes to. Scheck continues his superlative coverage of this with a response to Emmer from the DFL Party Chair. The quote, in entirety:

“The biggest problem facing Minnesotans is the economy and particularly the shortfall in jobs and the historic number of layoffs, Melendez said. “That really needs to be the issue of the campaign and yet Emmer has spent all of his time talking this week about immigration, last week co-sponsoring a bill to nullify federal legislation in Minnesota. These wedge issues that don’t really have anything to do with balanced leadership.”

Is that fair? After all, Tom Emmer’s own page maps out his viewpoints about jobs, which is that we need to encourage their growth, and raising taxes does the opposite. Also, he discusses small businesses, opining that we must “provide a business climate that fosters small business success.” How? Cutting taxes. He also points out that the economic backbone of Minnesota is agriculture, and we need to support our farmers. How? Deregulation and tax breaks.

And, in fairness to Emmer, his own website says nothing at all about immigration. Instead, the issues that concern him so much that he has given them a page called “social values” are, apparently, abortion (”I have voted 100% pro-life and introduced numerous bills and amendments to protect the unborn”) and gay marriage (”As a legislator, I have consistently supported the constitutional marriage amendment that protects traditional marriage”). Could either of those be seen as a wedge issue? If you couple “abortion” and “wedge issue” in a Google search, you get about 52,000 hits; pair “gay marriage” and “wedge issue” and you get about 40,000 hits, the first from FOX News explicitly identifying gay marriage as being one of the identifying wedge issues of the 2004 presidential election. So, yes, perhaps it is fair to say that Emmer can be a little wedge-y.

Bill Salisbury of the Pioneer Press details the next step for Emmer, which is to try to convince a majority of Minnesotans that he is an attractive candidate. “Democrats will try to cast him as an angry right-winger,” Salisbury notes. “He’s given them plenty of ammunition.”

Salisbury quotes Emmer as saying, “We are mainstream,” a story also tackled by the Associated Press. The story notes that even state Rep. Marty Seifert, who was competing with Emmer for the GOP nod, wondered how he would attract moderate Republicans. And it’s worth asking, what actually is the mainstream? On abortion, Emmer is in the minority, as more Americans favor legal abortions than oppose it; In 2009, more Americans favored gay marriage than opposed it.  But, then, he’s into hockey, and that’s pretty popular here.

Tangentially, Susan Perry of MinnPost  offered an interesting summary of an Australian study about people who hold a bigoted belief: Apparently, the results of the study are that bigots think their views are widely held. Of course, this study was specific to Australians, and so may not reflect on American attitudes at all. As we said, we just found this an interesting tangent.

While we’re on the subject of MinnPost stories, Eric Black has written two stories that are worth highlighting. Firstly, he looks at the platform of the Minnesota GOP in a piece called “What Republicans believe,” based on the proposed platform. Black also noticed that Republicans are increasing affixing the word “constitutional” to their self-descriptions; he was at the GOP convention and had access to Michele Bachmann, and so he went ahead and asked her if it was possible for a liberal to be “constitutional.” She seemed confused by the question, then offered this answer: “I don’t know … That’s a good question. I guess we’ll find out. But we invite them to become a part of the party and vote for our candidates.”

One of the planks of the proposed platform was that no taxes would be used for building stadiums. And yet at least four Minnesota lawmakers are proposing exactly that, including Republicans Sen. Julie Rosen and Rep. Morrie Lanning, according to the Associated Press. What sort of taxes? “[A] menu of options including, a sports-memorabilia tax, a hotel-lodging tax, a rental car tax and continuation of a tax that helped build the Minneapolis Convention Center.”