Big news day presents obstacles for Newt Gingrich and Tom Emmer in getting out Republican message

Former House Speaker New Gingrich and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer make their case to the media.
Minnpost photo by Terry Gydesen
Former House Speaker New Gingrich and GOP gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer make their case to the media.

Just as former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was arriving at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Minneapolis for a Tom Emmer fundraising event this afternoon, two Republican Party officials were hustling the other direction.

Michael Brodkorb, the deputy chairman of the state party, and Mark Drake, the party’s communications director, were headed to the state Capitol, where Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner was introducing an array of former Republican legislators who were announcing their support for Horner. The looks on the two men’s faces indicated that this was serious business.

Certainly, the Horner announcement dimmed the luster of the Gingrich visit to Minnesota, for it seemed to be further indication that the Republican Party is divided between longtime (more moderate) and newer (conservative) party members.

Following the fundraising luncheon, Emmer and Gingrich met with reporters for about 20 minutes.

Emmer, Gingrich downplay ‘defections’
Both tried to dispel the notion that the split is serious.

Emmer wasn’t particularly diplomatic about it: “You’re talking about people who disavowed being Republican some time ago. … They openly supported Obama.”

He went on to say that defecting Republicans were the same pols “that got us into the problems we’re having.”

Gingrich didn’t seem quite so ready to toss overboard the defectors in Minnesota — and elsewhere.

“There are a number of people (old-line Republicans) who can’t imagine re-thinking government,” Gingrich said. “There are a number of old-time traditionalists who keep saying, ‘You’ve got to be practical.’ If we were practical, we never would have balanced the budget.”

(Time out for context here: On Tuesday, Vice President Joe Biden was in town to rally support and raise money for Mark Dayton. He gave President Bill Clinton credit for balancing the federal budget. Today, Gingrich was saying that he and Annette Meeks, one of his staffers in the 1990s, were responsible for getting the budget balanced. Meeks now is Emmer’s running mate.)

Annette Meeks
Annette Meeks

Gingrich, the consummate no-new-taxes conservative, appeared to be well-versed on the Horner movement in Minnesota and proceeded to tie the Independence Party candidate to those longtime Republicans who aren’t true anti-taxers.

“There are some who say we need some taxes increased,” Gingrich said, adding that if Horner raises “half the taxes Dayton would raise, Minnesota would still lose half the jobs. … The real danger is Dayton. He’ll raises taxes by billions.”

Electing Dayton, Gingrich said, would make “Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas richer.”

With a nod to Emmer, Gingrich said Republican candidates must continue to “campaign on principles.”

What does that mean?
Of late, Gingrich, who is campaigning across the country, is blasting the Obama administration.

“Obama’s model is to kill your job and give you a food stamp.”

He praised Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who may end up as a foe of Gingrich in the race for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

“Your unemployment rate is lower than the national average because he cut taxes, cut regulations and encouraged business,” Gingrich said. “The states with the lowest unemployment rates have the lowest taxes.”

Both Emmer and Horner, however, have said that the Minnesota tax climate is not friendly to business.

Over and over, Emmer rejected the notion that his campaign is pushing moderates to Horner. He repeatedly said that “the people I’m seeing” agree with the Emmer-Meeks message.

Vin Weber sees Horner hurting Dayton more
Vin Weber, a former Republican congressman and now party consultant, attended the Gingrich-Emmer fundraiser and media conference.

Vin Weber
Vin Weber

Despite the Horner campaign’s announcement today, Weber said he believes that, on Election Day, Horner will hurt Dayton more than Emmer.

“I’ve watched the last couple of [gubernatorial] cycles,” Weber said. “I don’t think he [Horner] is taking more from the Republicans than he is the Democrats. … In the end, I think Horner will hurt Dayton more.”

But it would seem that today’s Horner news will give the Dayton campaign and the DFL more fodder to paint Horner as “the second Republican in the race.” Most of Horner’s key endorsements have come from Republicans, or, if Emmer’s view is correct, “former” Republicans.

Certainly, Horner’s news conference was just one element of tough-luck timing for Emmer.

Getting Gingrich to come to Minnesota was a big deal.

According to Weber, Gingrich is one of the top two headline-grabbing superstars in the party, along with Sarah Palin.

“He [Gingrich] has fewer downsides [than Palin],” Weber said. “He does a brilllant job of framing the message.”

But today, the media competition was not only 13 Republicans coming out for Horner but also the Vikings’ trade for Randy Moss and the first game of the Twins-Yankees playoff series.

All of that means diminished media time and space for the Gingrich-Emmer message to surface.

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 (12)

  1. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/06/2010 - 05:14 pm.

    “Unfortunate timing?” I don’t think so, especially from someone with such a strong P.R. background as Mr. Horner. This was timed (and, from my perspective, delightfully so) to drown out Gingrich’s visit to Minnesota.

    As far as Mr. Emmer’s comment that the “people I’m seeing” agree with the Emmer Meeks message: of course they do! Most people are well aware of how hidebound in his attitudes and how argumentative he tends to be. No one who disagrees with him is likely to go anywhere near him, let alone reveal that they disagree with him if they do.

    As the election grows closer, I’m coming to believe, more and more, that Mr. Emmer’s support is the inverse of the old aphorism. In his case, it’s an inch wide and a mile deep.

  2. Submitted by James Hamilton on 10/06/2010 - 05:15 pm.

    I thought Emmer claimed a lock on the conservatives. If so, why is he bringing Gingrich to town? I’ve never thought of Newt as appealing to moderates.

  3. Submitted by Kevin Whalen on 10/06/2010 - 06:12 pm.

    What budget did Newt balance? I must be confused…

  4. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 10/06/2010 - 06:36 pm.

    Gingrich’s congressional career ended in 1998 when he abruptly resigned from Congress after poor showings from Republicans in elections and after being reprimanded by the House ethics panel over charges that he used tax-exempt funding to advance his political goals. This person has no future as a political leader and has an unpleasant past. Has the American political picture come to this?

  5. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 10/06/2010 - 06:59 pm.

    It’s funny how these Republicans rely on amnesia as a key component of their rehabilitation. Well, I was there and I saw what he did. The man was nothing but toxic influence on the American political landscape. He’ll appeal to Emmer’s base. Fortunately, that base is actually quite small.

  6. Submitted by John Olson on 10/06/2010 - 07:06 pm.

    Yes it has, Richard.

  7. Submitted by Bill Gleason on 10/06/2010 - 07:39 pm.

    Horner’s folks had a good day. First they deflected attention from the Gingrich visit by getting a bunch of well known GOP folks to endorse Horner. And then they pulled off the coup at the Twins game of having a plane pull a Horner banner over the field. Tom Horner seems to be running rings around the GOP in the PR department.

    Once people realize that Emmer has no chance, there may indeed be a stampede of moderate Republicans to Horner.

    Taco Tony, eat your… taco.

  8. Submitted by sid olson on 10/07/2010 - 11:22 am.

    I got a big chuckle out of “Vin Weber sees Horner hurting Dayton more” comment. DAH – would a GOP consultant say “Vote for Horner”! Might sound good to the GOP baSE but serves no other purpose lol.

  9. Submitted by Sheila Ehrich on 10/07/2010 - 11:55 am.

    Where was MinnPost’s coverage of Biden’s visit to town? Did I miss it? Or are the brief comments in this article meant to be the coverage?

  10. Submitted by Corey Anderson on 10/07/2010 - 01:50 pm.

    MinnPost’s coverage of Biden’s visit:

  11. Submitted by Arito Moerair on 10/07/2010 - 02:23 pm.

    “The states with the lowest unemployment rates have the lowest taxes.” — Gingrich

    That is a VERY dubious claim. There are states like North Dakota that have low taxes AND low unemployment. But that is also a sparsely-populated state, which probably has more to do with unemployment. Then you look at states like Florida, with low taxes and HIGH unemployment.

    Gingrich casually linking taxes and unemployment is so typical of the low-information campaign these wingnuts spread. If high taxes were the cause of unemployment, and the jobless problem could simply be fixed by lowering those taxes, every state in the union would do it.

    It doesn’t work that way. But god forbid anyone know the truth. Minnesota has low unemployment in part because (A) we are not a rust belt state (so our economy is diverse as a result) and (B) we have a very educated work force. Taxes have absolutely nothing to do with it.

  12. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 10/07/2010 - 04:18 pm.

    Just a side note… North Dakota is a low tax state with low unemployment (at the current time) because the oil fields in the Western part of the state are being pumped like crazy. Drilling new wells is also creating large numbers of jobs.

    It’s such a boom that rents in the Williston area have skyrocketed and a fair number of employed workers spent last winter living in tents (there’s simply not enough housing available).

    Sadly, the state is hanging on to most of the revenue so local roads in western North Dakota are falling apart, even being allowed to revert to gravel because all the heavy equipment traffic is destroying them and the local counties and townships don’t have the resources to repair them.

    But of course the oil companies shouldn’t be expected to pay for the infrastructure they destroy, should they? That might raise corporate income taxes.

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