At a recent meeting of the Senate District 41 Republicans, right in the heart of Edina at Calvary Lutheran Church, a meat loaf dinner was followed by politics for dessert.
Michael Brodkorb, deputy chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, was rallying the troops. This is a good time for conservatives, he said, because we are a party united while the Democrats are fractured. True. Even as Brodkorb was speaking, Democrats were meeting to discuss how to keep their voters away from Independence Party Candidate Tom Horner.
But there was a hint of fracture as well in the reliably Republican Senate District 41.
The first question for Brodkorb came from a woman who offered that many of her friends said they didn’t like Tom Emmer because of the DWIs on his record and that they knew other Republicans who shared their concerns and were voting for Tom Horner.
In a crowd of 40 or so, hers was the only comment along that line but it wasn’t the first time Brodkorb had heard it. His response revealed an almost equal measure of concern. Everyone involved in this campaign takes the matter of drunk driving very seriously, he said. And it was clear he meant it. But, he added, advertising from opposition groups “tried to turn Emmer into a monster” and that as Emmer makes his campaign appeal to all Minnesotans, “I don’t think the campaign is going to be decided by a driving record.”
Still, it’s the puzzler of this campaign. Emmer’s driving record was public record before his endorsement. Any political operative would have assumed that the opposition would hit him with a negative ad before the confetti was swept off the convention floor. Why weren’t they prepared? Why didn’t the Emmer campaign create a TV ad from this YouTube video in which Emmer appears to offer real contrition?
Party insiders acknowledge their frustration at the lack of response which made Emmer seem aloof to the problem of drunk driving and the severity of its consequences. There’s also the matter of mystery. Why weren’t all of Emmer’s key supporters aware of the issue (even if the charges were 30 and 20 years old)? Someone once told me that every campaign needs a priest, the person who knows all the secrets.
In the end, Brodkorb’s assessment is correct. Voters will make their choice based on issues that may more directly impact their lives. Unless that voter is a Republican whose life has been touched by a drunk driving tragedy.