Republican U.S. Senate candidate Kurt Bills bounded onto his campaign bus Friday with the energy of the high school kids he had just finished teaching for the school year.
He’s going to need that energy.
Bills’ campaign is still skeletal, and he has several major tasks to accomplish this summer before he and Sen. Amy Klobuchar take on each other in earnest after Labor Day. First, he needs to make the introductions through hand-shaking, parade-walking retail politics.
Just before boarding the bus in front of Rosemount High School for a weekend road trip that starts in Redwood Falls, Bills seemed up for the challenge.
“I’m going out to hit the road and talk about what I believe in,” he said. “Once they get to know me, they’re going to vote for me in November.”
A poll just released Friday, though, might prompt a “good luck with that” reaction.
According to Public Policy Polling, Klobuchar holds a 26-point lead over Bills, and her approval rating stands at 57 percent.
Klobuchar is also campaigning this weekend, visiting businesses in Cloquet, Eveleth, St. Cloud, Grand Rapids and Winona. And then there’s her campaign fund of more than $5 million and growing.
Fundraising is an urgent task for the Bills campaign, which has engaged veteran Republican fundraiser Zandra Wolcott to work with finance director Jeff Lorsung.
Also, campaign manager Mike Osskopp says the campaign is discussing some significant help from the Ron Paul organization, which helped push Bills from high school economics teacher and first-term legislator into the political big leagues.
Osskopp is confident that “we will have enough to do what we want to do.”
The Paul connection has been controversial and now has resulted in a primary opponent for Bills. Former legislative candidate David Carlson said he will challenge Bills for the Republican nomination because he thinks Bills is unelectable in a general election.
A primary opponent means that Bills may not have the leisure of talking only about his agenda. He will need a group of advisers who will provide him with policy background, reality checks and a comfort level that he has not yet achieved.
It’s in the works, he said, with advisers being assembled on agriculture, foreign relations and fiscal and monetary policy.
He accepts criticism that his policy positions are, in his word, “evolving.” “People are going to talk about a lot of different concepts,” he said. “You just keep studying.”
And for Bills, keep hoping that three summer months on the road turns a high school teacher into a well-funded, well-versed and recognizable candidate by September.