Emmer campaign changes to more soothing tones

Listen very closely to the Emmer campaign today. Has the papa grizzly roar of its opening days softened just a bit?

While we’re not exactly hearing a purr, we sense the more soothing tones of a candidate in control.  Whereas Tom Emmer the grizzly came out of the gate with defiant rousing phrases and simple, stirring platitudes, Tom Emmer the statesman has delved into the arcana of tax structures, local government aid and education funding.  The change is perceptible, and while poll results are mixed,  some show Emmer pulling dead even with Democrat Mark Dayton. 

During a brief visit to the Emmer campaign office in Minnetonka, I saw a veteran staff of political operatives working on the tried-and-true plan for winning elections: secure the base, get the key endorsements, don’t let one sound bite sidetrack the overall campaign message.

They are mostly familiar faces.  I worked with many of them on previous campaigns, including Norm Coleman’s run for governor in 1998 when he lost to Jesse Ventura.

 “It’s important to have people around you that you know, who share the same experience and know how to execute a lot of moving parts,” said Cullen Sheehan, campaign manager.”  They supply what was missing in the post-endorsement scramble.  “What was missing was the structure that a campaign manager brings to the operation,” Sheehan said, “from fundraising to scheduling to message delivery.”

But Sheehan insists, “Tom is who he is. We haven’t changed him.”

‘Arranged marriage’
Not that Sheehan or any other staffer could.  Campaign staffs are hired guns not trusted confidants.  “It was a quickly arranged marriage,” Sheehan says of his arrival at the campaign in August.  Even Chris Georgacas, the campaign chair who is still lauded as a “top man” by former Gov. Arne Carlson, cannot and would not produce a personality change.

But educating the candidate, grooming him, buffing a few of the edges – that’s different,  and both Sheehan and Emmer frankly acknowledge it was necessary. “Tom is learning how to be a candidate for statewide office,” Sheehan said.

One prize Emmer just scooped up – the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce PAC endorsement – wasn’t a slam-dunk, incredibly enough, for the Republican running for governor.  True, Independent Party candidate Tom Horner has some good friends at the Chamber but there was, initially, a question of style which Emmer ultimately answered to the PAC’s satisfaction.

But, harkening back to the Coleman campaign, when a smooth Republican candidate was ousted by a gruff-talking, tough-talking pro-wrestler, and given two new polls which show the Dayton lead widening, I wonder if Emmer’s Papa Grizzly approach should  be abandoned altogether.  In a three-way campaign that surprisingly lacks excitement, could we use a little more of Emmer’s innate skill of reading and rousing a crowd?  Honestly, Emmer’s the only candidate that isn’t dull.

Sheehan answers, indirectly: “The dynamic is different.  ’98 was the beginning of the economic boon that lasted for five years.  Maybe the best economic times in this century and now we’re facing some of the worst.  Times are tough and voters are going to take a serious approach and really look at who they’re voting for.”

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Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/30/2010 - 08:53 am.

    So, what we saw in the early months was Tom Emmer and what we see today is the Tom Emmers, Extreme Makeover Edition.

  2. Submitted by Michael Hunt on 09/30/2010 - 09:05 am.

    Cyndy, there are far worse things than being “dull”. One of them is “Right Wing Crazy”. Ememr’s “innate skill of reading & rousing a crowd” only works with fellow Tea Partiers. It frightens the rest of us. Even the Chamber was worried about backing the lunatic fringe. Now the campaign’s learned to muzzle their candidate in order to get these endorsements.

  3. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/30/2010 - 09:28 am.

    Hmmmm, sorry, haven’t noticed. I did notice him making yet another in a long string of ridiculously stupid and factually inaccurate claims, this time only 50% of MN cities get LGA when in fact it’s 85%. The guy can change his tone a little if he want’s, but like his spokster says, he is who he is.

  4. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/30/2010 - 09:31 am.

    Considering that they “haven’t changed him,” I think we can see pretty clearly what we would get if Princeling Tommy Emmer becomes our new Republican king: exactly what we saw in the early days of the campaign.

    He will sound a good deal more like Jessie Ventura, but seek to badger his way into taking the very damaging and destructive agenda of King Timmy down the road, down the hill, and over the cliff into the economic abyss (for all but the wealthy “Chamber of Commerce and big bank executive types, of course, who are his truest backers).

  5. Submitted by RB Holbrook on 09/30/2010 - 09:32 am.

    Somehow, I doubt the reason that Dayton’s lead is growing is that Emmer is not coming across as nasty enough. I strongly suspect it has more to do with his inherent weakness as a candidate, his difficulties telling the truth, his “recipe for failure” policies, and his truly bizarre legislative record.

  6. Submitted by Dennis Tester on 09/30/2010 - 09:47 am.

    Somebody must have told Emmer that independent women and liberal men get frightened when a conservative speaks forcefully. You have to smile and speak softly to the sensitive folks, Tom.

  7. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 09/30/2010 - 09:53 am.

    Mrs. Brucato has quite a partisan background, which to her credit she does not try to hide.

    But this makes me recall the old caution: Consider the source.

    Even if Tom Emmer takes the advice of his handlers to “smile when yuh say that, pardner,” enough of the crazy things that he has said in the past are already out there in the public record.

    The constitution? Just a piece of paper that we can ignore because we are sovereign individuals? This absurd position should be enough for anyone to cross Mr. Emmer off the list of people who are gubernatorial material.

  8. Submitted by Ralf Wyman on 09/30/2010 - 10:09 am.

    Emmer’s ability to shoot his mouth off is likely a factor in why he’s not doing so great.

    But Minnesotans understand that you can’t just cut your way out of a 5 billion dollar crisis. To use the worn kitchen table analogy:

    This family is seriously under-earning relative to expenses. There’s no way to make the mortgage payments just by cutting out movies and steak dinners. Those were over 8 years ago.

    Then Johhny went from St. John’s to the U of M. Now his younger sister is on work/study at Metro State. Pretty soon, the youngest is going to go right to work from getting her HS diploma.

    Meanwhile, the family dropped their health insurance due to cost.

    All this because dad (that’s you, Tom) won’t step up and work some over time for a while to increase family income.

    The long term result? Less educated kids who have lower lifetime earnings potential, risking loosing the home to forclosure, and no way to pay for any health emergencies (or a flooded basement).

    Minnesota is wisely saying get a new job, Tom. But not as our Governor.

  9. Submitted by Jim Meyer on 09/30/2010 - 11:41 am.

    I don’t know if Bachmann has totally ditched Jim the Election Dork but her new ads with her main issues and her face were far far more powerful. We all got what we wanted if Jim got laid off, and her campaign may be stronger for it.

  10. Submitted by Tony George on 09/30/2010 - 12:52 pm.

    I wish Tom Emmer would make a few more comments about reducing waitresses’ and waiters’ wages.

  11. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 09/30/2010 - 01:22 pm.

    The middle is where the majority of voters reside. It’s ironic that a far right GOP candidate which is endorsed by the tea party and half term governor Sarah Palin is moving to the middle.

    Mr. Horner must be having a meaningful impact on the moderate GOP voter which Mr. Emmer desperately needs to capture…

  12. Submitted by Jo Marsicano on 10/01/2010 - 12:06 pm.

    Well, I must say, that while Emmer’s bull-in-a-china-shop persona was a turnoff, the real reason I’m against him is his policies.

    He’s far right, and for me who’s solidly to the left, no amount of personality refinement is going to change my mind.

    It could sway independents, though, and those of us on the left cannot let down our guard.

    I’ll be phone banking for Dayton next week.

    Go progressives!

  13. Submitted by rolf westgard on 10/03/2010 - 09:02 am.

    Good article Cyndy.
    Emmer is a great candidate for the Halloween season. He scares almost everyone.

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