It was in October, 1994 a glorious day, just like today. Gov. Arne Carlson and I were waiting at the St. Paul airport, by the campaign plane for the arrival of Senate candidate and Congressman Rod Grams to embark on a campaign swing up north.
Arne had just won the Republican primary by a two-to-one margin. With his approval rating of 70 percent, the maverick Republican was in a position to help other Republicans like Rod.
Rod was trailing DFLer Ann Wynia, but research showed she had a voter “soft spot,” where she needed a good showing. That was on the Iron Range, where she was hurting because of her position on gun control.
Arne is no great friend of the NRA, but he skated through the primary without active opposition. And the Rangers liked the governor. So the respective campaign masterminds thought a joint appearance or two certainly couldn’t hurt.
Was I concerned? A bit. Rod and I had a bond as TV anchor people who had turned politicos (I was an aide for Arne) and worked for the Republican Party. But Arne and Rod? The governor wasn’t at all convinced that Rod had the chops to replace Dave Durenberger. Furthermore, Rod had supported endorsed candidate Allen Quist in the GOP primary.
These would be strange bedfellows, indeed.
So we waited for Rod to show for our 10 a.m. departure. As I remember, he was slightly late — another mark against him for the always-early Arne. But just after 10 he arrived, and in an instant, I knew these two were going to hit it off.
Rod Grams was a gentleman and a gentle man, smiling and soft-spoken. That day he gave the governor a handshake and the full measure of respect a popular, sitting governor deserved.
Once on board, the two of them launched into a discussion of federal policy. Now, public policy of all kinds is Arne’s strong suit. Any smart person listening to him expound should just sit back and take notes. That’s just what Rod Grams did, literally, for the hour flight to Duluth.
I don’t remember much of the rest of that day, except getting on and off the plane at several stops along the Iron Range. But I remember flying back with the two of them, at sunset, knowing we had a successful trip.
And looking back now, I realize that those two men forged an alliance that Republicans today would do well to emulate.