It was day for staring down the unknown at the Tom Emmer campaign as a staff, buoyed by adrenaline, faces a recount fight that could end as it started: with a slim margin of defeat.
It was also a day of “could haves.” “In any effort where we are staring at a recount, there’s always the ability to say there were things we could have done better,” said campaign Chair Chris Georgacas.
One campaign insider identified a few tactical bungles that, if contained, could have resulted in a higher comfort level today.
The tip-credit brouhaha gets cited as one that lingered way too long before Emmer was forced to back-pedal. Emmer’s suggestion that servers make six-figure incomes and that their employers should be allowed to drop their hourly wages accordingly drew sneers even though Minnesota is only one of seven states that doesn’t have some kind of tax adjustment like this on the books.
The second vote-costing move involved Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s refusal to take federal money for state health care costs. Emmer agreed with that position. Politicos and medical executives say that in Rochester, home of the Mayo Clinic, there was a price to pay. Pawlenty won the district by a 17-point margin in 2006; Emmer took it only by 8 points. Rochester is too critical an area for Republicans not have a commanding lead.
On a more strategic level, Phil Krinkie, president of the Minnesota Taxpayers League, says the Emmer campaign wasn’t humming in the well-oiled way of the Mark Dayton campaign. “It was like an adolescent who just can’t find the balance,” he said. “Dayton knew what he was doing. He knew how to win the primary then moved to the center for the general.”
Georgacas explains it this way: “When Cullen [Sheehan, campaign manager] and I came on board in early August there were a lot of things that had to be fixed. We had to work on them systematically, but I think that we moved as quickly and aggressively as we could to fix things in a campaign that were not going well.”
Surprisingly, given the lack of victory at this point, there are some satisfied Emmer supporters. “We think the no new taxes really resonated with voters, especially when you factor in the [Tom] Horner voters,” said David Olson, president of the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce and chair of Mn Forward, a PAC that backed Emmer. “I think people think he did pretty well and a lot people think he’s got a chance to pull it off.”
The conviction among close observers of the campaign is that Emmer did not underperform. “The thing that was most remarkable in my mind is how disciplined a campaigner he was within days of our getting involved,” Georgacas said. “By late August, we knew we would win by 41 to 42 percent.”
Meanwhile, Emmer himself will likely not have a media presence for the next day or two. Georgacas describes him as philosophical but full of verve and fight and solidly behind the party effort.
Georgacas on the recount
Emmer got 43 percent to Dayton’s 44 percent. Georgacas has a more measured assessment about the prospects of turning yesterday’s results upside down than GOP Chair Tony Sutton. “I think there are serious and legitimate questions about the accuracy of some of the returns from Hennepin County,” he said. “With the history of two years ago, a lot people have learned a lot and can better appreciate the ambiguities of the voting process.”
Less clinical is his assessment of the Emmer campaign right now: “There won’t be a sense of closure until the recount process and its results are delivered.”
Conservative women makes gains
A self-described “baby PAC,” Voices of Conservative Women grew up last night. The group’s director, Jennifer DeJournett, says of the 15 candidates the organization supported, 10 women won their races in the Minnesota House and Senate. “We had an amazing night,” DeJournett said. “This is our dream true.”
Voices of Conservative Women officially organized a year ago but didn’t begin serious campaign work until last May. The group focuses on women candidates for the Minnesota House and Senate and local governments, and the issues are strictly economic. “We do not talk about social issues at all,” said DeJournett.
She said the strategy is to give conservative women the opportunities and support experienced by liberal women candidates. “The liberal ladies have done a fabulous job at this,” she said. “We looked to see how they were doing it.”
Weaver would work with Dayton
Charlie Weaver, president of the Minnesota Business Partnership, was in a practical mind-set for a Mark Dayton victory. Although the Partnership was an active supporter of Tom Emmer through the PAC Minnesota Forward, Weaver says they are prepared to work with Dayton if he eventually wins. “Jobs are still the most important issue,” he said.
Weaver pointed out that Dayton met with the business group and indicated he wanted to work with the CEOs of the large Minnesota companies that make up its membership. Weaver does not support the Dayton plan of raising income taxes to cover the state’s $6 billion budget gap but said that other tax revenue could be in play, like raising state sales taxes, provided there was also a lowering of business taxes.
Bachmann looks ahead
Around 1:30 a.m. this morning, Michele Bachmann had shaken off the hordes of well-wishers who earlier necessitated a couple of burly bodyguards to keep her from getting trampled. After the national media had shut off the cameras, after the crowds had thinned considerably at the GOP election headquarters in Bloomington, Bachmann sat in a corner of the ballroom quietly taping a thank-you to her supporters.
Bachmann says she is ready to move forward. She has her agenda ready as she likely moves into a leadership role, if not official position, within the U.S. House. “What Americans want now is certainty,” she said. “The economy has recovered,” now Congress needs to follow through, she added.
Bachmann identified her four top priorities: extending the Bush tax cuts (“Without them all Americans will see a tax increase of some kind”); a “full scale” repeal of the health care law passed earlier this year; more border security; and “a clear message to the Environmental Protection Agency and the president” that there will be no cap-and-trade legislation to address climate change.
Bachmann says she’s ready to offer her own bill on health care reform, which, she says, has an emphasis lacking in the current law: cost containment. “I want every American to buy whatever health insurance they choose, across state borders, with no minimum coverage requirement,” she said. “And it must contain tort reform. That will lower health care costs.”