Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich overrode the Minnesota Republican Party and insisted that the media be allowed into today’s $1,000-a-plate Tom Emmer fund raiser where he was the featured speaker. Smart move.
Gingrich is one of the more compelling speakers of any political stripe and certainly an eloquent defender of conservative causes. With Emmer at his side, the effect was tag-team political theater.
Gingrich does not give standard stump rhetoric. Where else would you hear a political speech with references to Albert Camus and George Orwell?
He takes the conservative mantras of smaller government, lower taxes and personal responsibility and wraps them in nothing less than indicators of the future of American civilization.
“What we are faced with is a cultural crisis with a financial consequence,” he told the crowd. The housing collapse and the Wall Street collapse are cultural mileposts that indicate the need for “very dramatic changes if we want our children to live in the freest and safest and most prosperous future.”
National speakers of Gingrich’s caliber are hard acts to follow, and that was Emmer’s task before the group of 150. He didn’t get much of a launch. Gingrich referred only briefly to Emmer, paying most of his local respects to Emmer’s running mate, Annette Meeks, a former Gingrich staffer, and Vin Weber, a congressional colleague.
But as one silver-haired speaker replaced another, the audience stayed largely attentive, some listening carefully. Emmer’s call for action — “boots on the ground,” as he put it — was striking home.
“Help us with your time, with your money, with your vote,” he implored, sounding like a man who does want to be the next governor of the state. “He has more confidence,” observed one attendee. “There’s a clear distinction.”
Later, at a news conference, Emmer was gathering momentum. He elbowed Gingrich aside to take the first question from MinnPost colleague Doug Grow. He dismissed Republican supporters of Independence Party candidate Tom Horner as “people who can’t imagine re-thinking government.”
He wholly rejected any contention that the GOP base was divided. “It’s not about what jersey you’re wearing, it’s not about what party,” he said. It’s about “a pretty easy choice to make,” referring to his tax-and-spend position versus his two opponents.
“We share a message for Minnesota,” Emmer said of Gingrich as the pair wrapped up events.
In fact, there was only one discordant note of the afternoon. Gingrich, who during lunch predicted a 50- to 60-seat gain for Republicans in the U.S. House, seemed genuinely puzzled at MinnesotaPoll numbers showing support for candidates who support tax increases. “Actually, I’m surprised,” he said.
His only explanation: “This is a state where it’s not yet real and personal.”