Unified Republican Party now faces task of convincing public it’s in Minnesota’s mainstream

Rep. Tom Emmer addressing convention delegates on Friday. At left is his daughter Katie.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Rep. Tom Emmer addressing convention delegates on Friday. At left is his daughter Katie.

For all of the joyful unity Republicans celebrated Saturday, Sunday offered a far broader view of Minnesota. Although Republicans left their state convention believing they represent Minnesota’s mainstream, Sunday — and other parties’ candidates — raised questions about whether that’s true.

On Saturday, Republicans gathered for their unity breakfast at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Minneapolis, amid genuine excitement over Friday’s endorsement of Tom Emmer.

Already, it was obvious by the receptions they received, that Gov. Tim Pawlenty is yesterday’s news. Emmer now is the party’s guy.

At the unity breakfast on the last day of the Republican state convention, Pawlenty received nice applause when he spoke.

But his biggest applause line came for his comments about Emmer. For his introduction of the hockey-coaching Republican gubernatorial candidate, the hockey-loving governor took a line from Ross Bernstein’s book, “The Code: The Unwritten Rules of Fighting and Retaliation in the NHL.”

“If you’re a crusher and you try to become a rusher, you’ll soon become an usher,” Pawlenty said.

GOP crowd loves its ‘crusher’
The crowd loved it. Republicans have endorsed a crusher.

When Emmer stepped to the podium, there was a huge ovation.

Like everyone else at the breakfast, Emmer heaped praise on Marty Seifert, the man he’d defeated Friday with stunning, two-ballot ease.

Emmer noted that Seifert approached Emmer’s wife, Jacqueline, immediately after conceding the endorsement. Jacqueline Emmer, recall, had written an open-letter to delegates at the start of the convention, expressing pain at the tone that Seifert and his supporters had taken in the last days of the campaign.

Whatever Seifert said to Jacqueline Emmer, Tom Emmer was moved.

“You will forever be a friend of mine,” Emmer said, from the podium, to Seifert, who was seated at a table near the front of the room.

The breakfast-eating crowd loved it.

They loved it, too, when their guy cracked a joke about one of his slips of the tongue that had happened on the exhausting campaign trail. Noting that Pawlenty had had a major slip in trying to say the word “puck” at a Minnesota Wild game, Emmer told this one on himself: “You gotta stand up and start farting for your country!”

The room filled with laughter.

And then he filled the room with cheers.

“We don’t take that bait [of being labeled extremists],” Emmer told the crowd. “Republicans are mainstream, Main Street Minnesota.”

Oh, how Emmer appealed to the people in and around this convention. Minnesotans will love this candidate, they believe. He can laugh at himself. He is able to speak with conviction to the things that concern so many. Best of all, he seems so genuine.

You walk away from the environment of the convention thinking that maybe these Emmer Republicans do represent a broad swath of Minnesota.

State filled with diverse passions
But Sunday was a reminder that this is a big state with a lot of people with a wide range of passions.

For example, Sunday was the second day of an event called the Living Green Expo at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. There were hundreds of people, many of whom had biked to the event on a cool and windy day, walking among the exhibits that included such things as solar panels and electric vehicles and bio-mass stoves and composting devices.

Included at the event was a governor’s forum, devoted to “clean energy, clean water and Minnesota’s future.”

There was seating for 1,000 people at the event, far more seats than needed.

The noteworthy thing about the event was the presence of the DFL gubernatorial candidates and the Independence Party candidates.

Emmer was invited, but he didn’t come.

“Shocking, isn’t it?” said DFLer Matt Entenza sarcatistically regarding Emmer’s decision not to attend.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher, the DFL’s endorsed gubernatorial candidate, wasn’t surprised, either, by Emmer’s absence, either.

“I do believe the Tea Party has pushed them far to the right,” Kelliher said.

Margaret Anderson Kelliher
Margaret Anderson Kelliher

The DFLers felt a little rushed at the forum, where they were among friends. That’s because there was a huge event going on in the heart of Minneapolis, the annual May Day Parade, which attracted thousands of people.

Mark Dayton, Kelliher and Entenza wanted to make sure they did some meeting and greeting at that event, for there, too, they would be among friends from all backgrounds. Mark Dayton, Kelliher and Entenza all had big signs and delegations in the parade. An Emmer presence was not observed.

Update: I’ve learned since publication that the Emmer campaign did indeed have a presence at the annual May Day parade in the Powderhorn Park area of south Minneapolis. That presence, it should be noted, came as a “surprise’’ to some parade-goers, but it does show that Emmer and his supporters will be reaching out to all areas of the state to spread their message.

Of course, Republicans are delighted that they are unified around a single candidate. But IP candidate Tom Horner said Sunday he believes that with the convention uniting around Emmer, at least 30 percent of Republicans now feel homeless. He’ll be trying to attract them to his presumed candidacy, though fellow IP candidate Rob Hahn insists that Horner is not assured of the IP spot on the November ballot.

Kelliher admits that it would be nice to be able to focus on Emmer, rather than having to wage a primary campaign against Entenza and Dayton.

“But it’s what we’re presented with, so that’s what we’ll have to do,” she said.

Entenza, Dayton defend challenging in DFL primary
Meanwhile, neither Entenza nor Dayton is apologetic about going to a primary against the party’s endorsed candidate. Dayton repeatedly has said that “no one in a democracy should ever oppose the idea of letting the people vote.”

For his part, Entenza said Sunday that the endorsement process is “an insider’s game.”

Matt Entenza
MinnPost/Terry Gydesen
Matt Entenza

“Look at the last four endorsed [DFL] candidates,” Entenza said. “An attorney general [Skip Humphrey], a Senate majority leader [Roger Moe], an attorney general [Mike Hatch] and now the speaker of the House (Kelliher). This is the only way to open up the process.”

A contested primary does mean there will be considerable attention paid to the DFL, which Republicans do understand could present a problem. Emmer could get lost in the shadows, admitted David Fitzsimmons, the campaign manager who helped propel Emmer from just another face in the Republican crowd to the party’s overwhelming choice to be their guy.

Already Saturday, Fitzsimmons was working with the party to broaden the campaign from its original focus on attracting 2,000 convention delegates to one that now must reach out to citizens across Minnesota.

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 (22)

  1. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 05/03/2010 - 10:18 am.

    The DFL has not held the governors’ office for a generation – but they are considered mainstream?

  2. Submitted by Duke Powell on 05/03/2010 - 10:27 am.

    Concerning Tom Emmer’s non-appearance at the Living Green Expo….

    His son was attending his first communion in Delano. The service was at 10:30am and got out around noon. Tom undoubtedly had family in for the event. The forum was at 1:00pm

    Go ahead and kick Emmer around for being with family at an important religious sacrament….

    Par for the course at MinnPost.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 05/03/2010 - 10:32 am.

    In other words, the lie and deception machine is going to kick into high gear. The question is will the Democrats let them get away with it this time or will they let it slide like they did with that famous moderate Tim Pawlenty.

  4. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/03/2010 - 10:41 am.

    Oh, of course; the Democrats were marching in *Minneapolis*!

    Heh, I had read a little something on CNN this morning and come away with the impression they might have been marching elsewhere…

    “Havana, Cuba (CNN) — Thousands packed Havana’s Revolution Square on Saturday for International Workers’ Day, drawing hordes of Cuban demonstrators, spectators, and trade unionists from around the world — including the United States and the United Kingdom.”

    Yup, May Day marches…right there with Mom and apple pie. Mainstream as you can get.

  5. Submitted by Brian Simon on 05/03/2010 - 11:14 am.

    “The DFL has not held the governors’ office for a generation – but they are considered mainstream?”

    By that measure, Jesse Ventura is a mainstream politician.

  6. Submitted by Steve Marchese on 05/03/2010 - 11:30 am.

    Of course, sure as night follows day, we’re going to get happy talk by Republicans after the convention. More fun is to come, particularly as the GOP tries to hide many of Emmer’s positions — most of which are NOT mainstream anywhere.

    The good thing is that there is plenty of live footage and news reporting on Emmer’s well-known propensity to run his mouth. Arizona-style immigration laws? Nullification (didn’t that concept die with the Civil war)? Abolition of the Met Council? There will be lots to see and do this summer and fall as Emmer and the GOP leadership pretend that they aren’t hostage to the most reactionary, backward-looking fringe elements of the party. Maybe the delegates bought Emmer’s line last Friday. The rest of us have lots of other (better) choices.

  7. Submitted by Lauren Maker on 05/03/2010 - 11:40 am.

    Actually, Emmer did have a presence in the May Day parade–he had about a dozen volunteers with signs and tshirts in the Free Speech section, which I, for one, found highly amusing. They didn’t get much of a reaction except shocked silence, since Emmeer doesn’t support much in the way of the environment, free speech, religous freedom, individual freedom, social justice, diversity or even the 14th amendment (according to the Republican platform). Classic conservitive he ain’t.

  8. Submitted by Jeff Klein on 05/03/2010 - 11:40 am.

    Yeah, the Republican candidate didn’t show up for the Living Green Expo because of his son’s communion. Convenient.

    None of the Republicans and almost all of the Democrats showed up for an early debate hosted by Macalaster College, one of the nation’s premier educational institutions. Given Mac’s liberal reputation – a reputation that is shared among most beacons of intellectual thought – I’m going to assume that this was no coincidence.

  9. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/03/2010 - 11:52 am.

    Steve, are you aware that 70% of Americans side with the 68% of Arizonan’s in their approval of the new law?

    Outside the scary smart, reality based community, I think it’s pretty safe to say that Tom Emmer’s views on illegal immigration are about as mainstream as one could get.

  10. Submitted by Jeremy Powers on 05/03/2010 - 12:07 pm.

    What some of the Republicans posting above fail to realize is politics is a game of numbers. For the last two elections we’ve had two Democrats on the ballot and they’ve had one Republican. Neither time did Pawlenty get a majority of the vote. This time you’re going to have two Republicans. Tom Horner, a 20-year-plus Republican analyst on MPR is going to run as an IP candidate with the endorsement of Dave Durenberger. This election the Republicans have put up the most extreme right-wing candidate in party history, a former Republican moderate with little chance of winning and a mainstream Democrat supported by all the Democrats.

    I wouldn’t be quite so bold if I were a Republican.

  11. Submitted by Garrett Peterson on 05/03/2010 - 12:15 pm.

    Lauren is correct, Tom Emmer had about a dozen supporters at the May Day parade. The crowd, however, seemed not to notice or care.

    It appeared that his supporters equaled or outnumbered the groups that were supporting Dayton and Entenza. Kind of embarrassing for those two millionaires.

  12. Submitted by DeeAnn Christensen on 05/03/2010 - 12:20 pm.

    Mr Swift:

    Where do you get your data? Simply saying it does not make it true. Evidence?

  13. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 05/03/2010 - 12:31 pm.

    Americans do support this law–but not by nearly that margin. An NBC poll showed 39% in favor, 30% opposed, and the rest had never heard of it.
    It’s when AZ starts trying to enforce this law that things will get interesting. It is unconstitutional so lawsuits will be brought. “Profiling” is the only thing police can use to stop residents. How else could they decide who to stop, who might be an “illegal alien”–bitter nasty term–and who is not. Probably would not stop me or most of my friends with our pale skin and brown, blonde, or whatever hair color.
    I think once people see the results of this law they will see it’s unworkable.
    One good thing might be getting people talking about a workable policy, one similar to George Bush’s a few years ago.

  14. Submitted by Ginny Martin on 05/03/2010 - 12:41 pm.

    Actually, it doesn’t matter what the level of support is for this law. If you are familiar with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (and I suspect you are not), the minority is protected against the majority when necessary. The majority, as we know, does not always “think” wisely or make good decisions, especially in highly emotional matters like this. The “aliens” are being blamed for things like job losses and the economy, when nothing is farther from the truth.
    If this begins to happen, I think when people see the consequences, they will realize how unworkable and just plain vicious this law is.

  15. Submitted by Dave Thul on 05/03/2010 - 01:10 pm.

    No Thomas, they are right. Tom Emmer’s view on the Arizona immigration law is clearly out of the mainstream of Minnesota’s liberal elite. Luckily he wont need the liberal elite to be elected.

  16. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 05/03/2010 - 01:14 pm.

    The GOP has not held the legislature in how long Ron? Does that make the DFL mainstream?

  17. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 05/03/2010 - 01:57 pm.

    ” If you are familiar with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights (and I suspect you are not), the minority is protected against the majority when necessary.”

    Huh; well, maybe you’re right, Ginny. I had thought I was pretty well informed about our founding documents, but this one is new.

    Which part of the bill of rights is “the minority is protected against the majority when necessary” clause?

    I’m always fascinated by the stuff that comes out of the scary smart, reality based community and am anxious to hear all about this latest development.

  18. Submitted by Ambrose Charpentier on 05/03/2010 - 02:24 pm.

    Wow, Emmer tells fart jokes. Now that’s something I want in a governor. Glad to know he’s one of us.

  19. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 05/03/2010 - 02:50 pm.

    Brian, what % of the vote to “mainstream Skip” get in 1998?

  20. Submitted by Kimbers Cadieux on 05/03/2010 - 04:00 pm.

    I question how many people actually really do support Arizona’s law Mr. Swift.

    Even if your numbers are correct, they are only as good as the people polled and I’m willing to bet that the people being polled (older white Americans with landlines) have never been profiled by the police. JMHO.

  21. Submitted by James Hamilton on 05/03/2010 - 05:08 pm.

    Matt Entenza the outsider? Oh, my!

  22. Submitted by William Pappas on 05/04/2010 - 06:42 am.

    When Pawlenty was elected he was considered, somewhat erroneously, as a moderate republican. Since then he has migrated to the farthest right wing reaches of the Republican party. There he and Emmer can shake hands while they watch the Republican party disassemble under the leadership and dominance of radicals like themselves. They do not represent mainstream America. They do not even represent Norm Coleman’s “center right” American fantasy. While democrats have moved rapidly to the right (not to the left as Bachmann asserts) and are led by a President that has entrenched himself and the party in the “center left” (holding positions, for example, in health care that were formerly 90’s republican mainstream thinking) conservatives have unexplainably moved their party to the lunatic right wing fringe. This strategy is strange indeed and destined to squander the anti Washington/Wall Street populism shaping up the next elections. In addition, Republicans can no longer call themselves “constitutional” as they increasingly hold radical postitions with repsect to existing laws that require unique legal interpretations and ultimately a host of amendments. As their positions come under campaign and media scrutiny their support will dwindle.

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