Gov. Tom Emmer would be the booming sales guy working the front of the room while somebody — presumably Lt. Gov. Annette Meeks — is in the back room sweating over the details.
Remember that scene in the restaurant where Emmer went jaw to jaw with restaurant workers in the wake of his off-the-cuff comment about servers making $100,000 a year?
That’s Gov. Tom Emmer. A little chaos, some yelling — and hey, no hard feelings.
It was following that episode that party elders grabbed control of the campaign and put a shorter leash on the candidate. Emmer has toned it down throughout the campaign, but there are times when he seems ready to burst out of that tight-collared campaign suit and reveal the blood-spattered hockey sweater underneath.
Unlike most politicians, there was nothing particularly calculated about Emmer’s rise from a back row seat in the Legislature to his run for governor. No one was more surprised than Emmer as his star rose throughout the months before the Republican Convention.
Truth be told, the party’s old guard — and not just the moderates — were pulling for Marty Seifert to win the nomination. But Emmer was the man for his times among the party’s rank and file. They loved his eloquence, his passion, his core beliefs, his family.
Much like the late Paul Wellstone, Emmer has the strength of his convictions and a love of the crowd.
Wellstone, painfully but quickly, learned that if he was to have any influence in Washington, he’d have to learn to play the political game. Gov. Emmer would likely go through the same process. The question: Would he burn all of his bridges before he learned to pick his fights?
He admits, somewhat proudly, that his weakness is “lack of patience.”
There are a few things he could do quickly:
• He would battle, more dramatically than Pawlenty, any intrusion of “Obama-care.”
• If the DFL maintains control of the Legislature, he, like his predecessor, would slash the size of bonding bills.
• He would write “veto” on virtually every spending bill and every sort of bill that might place new regulations on business.
• He would block any legislation that would expand the rights of gays.
But at this point, he is not a student of government. In his first months in office, there would be wall-cracking crashes between the governor and the armies of agency bureaucrats that keep government, as we know it, working every day.
His efforts to whack away at the number of separate departments and agencies — from more than 20 to six — would be blunted at every turn. So, Gov. Emmer likely would solve the resistance by isolating most agencies and embracing a handful of others. Put a like-minded person in charge of the Pollution Control Agency, and you don’t have to fret about regulations. Put a like-minded person in charge of the Department of Education, and Education Minnesota’s Tom Dooher can yell all he wants.
Do not underestimate Emmer’s convictions. He deeply believes there’s too much government.
He believes that mining companies, given more freedom to operate, would not pollute. He believes that all farmers are “the best stewards” of the land and wouldn’t let manure pits overflow into rivers.
He believes that doctors, hospitals and churches would find a way to provide health care for the poor. He believes that schools can provide better educations with fewer state funds “if we just let teachers teach.”
He believes it’s not important to be surrounded by diversity because “we are all the same. … We want the same outcomes, we just have different ways of getting to those outcomes.”
You want to argue about it?
“That’s what we do in a democracy, and when it’s all over, we remember that we’re not Democrats or Republicans, we’re Minnesotans.”
Want to argue some more?
Fine, at the end of the day, come over to the mansion and have a beer and argue some more.
Mark Dayton: A serious man taking serious work seriously
Tom Emmer: A salesman with gusto, and a bit of a hockey brawler
Tom Horner: A bipartisan army of one ready to engage public and tackle tough issues