For months, the state’s Republican Party has been pounding on Tom Horner, denouncing the Independence Party candidate for governor as just another liberal.
Now, the DFL is firing away at Horner, claiming he’s just a Republican.
The DFL today put up a web video that shows Horner himself saying he’s a Republican.
“I reflect the philosophy I’ve always defined as a Republican philosophy,” Horner says on the video. Additionally, it shows Horner talking about his proposal to broaden the sales tax while reducing and — ultimately — even eliminating corporate income and capital gains taxes.
But the video is only one part of a major move DFLers are making in an effort to bring wayward party members back to Mark Dayton and away from Horner.
The video comes out at a time when the Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a progressive group, has been mailing literature reminding people that Horner is a lifelong Republican.
DFL meeting tonight aims to rally the troops
And it comes at a time when a number of DFL leaders — including a handful of people who were candidates for governor — are meeting with party members who “are on the bubble.”
Former DFL gubernatorial candidates — including Margaret Anderson Kelliher, Matt Entenza and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak — are listed as hosts of tonight’s private event being held with wavering DFLers. The idea is to point out that there are clear differences between Dayton and Horner.
Rybak, who has made nearly 50 campaign appearances for DFL candidates, including Dayton, since June, is honest about the need for this sort of push. Five weeks from the election, there remain many DFLers who are having a hard time rallying behind Dayton.
“There are people who supported me, people who supported Margaret, who are on the bubble,” Rybak told MinnPost. “I understand that very well. There are some things I agree with Horner on. But Mark has the only realistic approach to balancing the budget and investing where we need to invest.”
Beyond that, Rybak said, people do need to be reminded that Horner is not Tim Penny, a former DFLer who ran as an IP candidate for governor eight years ago, or Peter Hutchinson, a liberal-leaning IP candidate four years ago.
“Tom Horner hired me for my first job in journalism,” Rybak said. “I’ve known him for years. I like him. I agree with many of the things he says. But I also remember that for eight years of the Bush presidency and eight years of Tim Pawlenty, he was defending Republican policies that were devastating for our state and the nation.”
Rybak said he doesn’t know for sure “what Horner we would see a few months from now. There’s no question who Mark Dayton is. We need less spin and more direct courage.”
In a sense, this sudden attention from the DFL is a validation of the legitimacy of the Horner campaign. All along, he’s pointed out that he’s the man in the middle, willing to accept ideas from both sides of the aisle.
Horner expects continuing barrage
“I think you will see this continue from both sides for the rest of the election,” an amused — and unsurprised — Horner told MinnPost this afternoon.
“Neither [GOP candidate Tom Emmer nor Dayton] can consolidate their bases, so you have the Republicans out there trying to position me as a liberal and the DFL trying to position me as a conservative. I would expect in the coming weeks you will begin to see some TV spots along those lines.”
Horner continues to say that this two-sided attack shows that his opponents are more extreme than IP opponents in the past were. It was harder for both Penny and Hutchinson to pitch a big tent on the middle ground, Horner said, “because the Republicans and the Democrats both ran to the middle. When you have two moderates running, why do you need a third?”
That’s not happening this time around. And both Emmer and Dayton are having trouble rallying the centrists in their own party.
“There are Republicans saying, ‘I will not vote for Tom Emmer’ and DFLers saying, ‘I don’t want to vote for Mark Dayton,’ ” Horner said.
These new attacks from the DFL and the continuing shots from Republicans are “all upside for me,” Horner said.
Doug Grow writes about public affairs, state politics and other topics. He can be reached at dgrow [at] minnpost [dot] com.