With one day to go, Dayton, Emmer and Horner embark on high-energy, ’round-the-clock last pitches

The candidates -- Tom Horner, Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer -- met in debate Sunday for the final time.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
The candidates — Tom Horner, Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer — met in debate Sunday for the final time.

It’s still not officially over. The three gubernatorial candidates — Mark Dayton, Tom Emmer and Tom Horner — will make one last high-energy pitch today to inspire their voters to get to the polls Tuesday.

Dayton, the DFLer, will be in a plane most of the day, going from Duluth to Hibbing to Moorhead to Worthington to Rochester before returning to the Twin Cities for “midnight madness” rallies in Minneapolis and St. Paul, both of which will start before midnight.

Emmer, the Republican, is jumping into his campaign motor home and touring 19 cities in 25 hours: Anoka, Minnetonka, Lakeville, St. Paul, Winona, Rochester, Mankato, Alexandria, Moorhead, Brainerd, Duluth, Virginia, Grand Rapids, Bemidji, Park Rapids (at 2:30 a.m. Tuesday), Wadena, St. Cloud, Monticello and, finally, home to Delano at 8 a.m.

The Independence Party’s Horner is sending out three buses, starting at 7:45 this morning. Former Sen. Dave Durenberger will carry the IP flag through St. Cloud and into northwest Minnesota. Jim Mulder, the lieutenant governor candidate, will head northeast, and Horner will go south.

Now, it’s get-out-the-vote time
One more push, this time to get out the vote.

But, for the most part, this campaign, which has been going on since Dayton announced he was getting into the race 20 months ago, hit its final peak over the weekend when it ended with a couple of more debates and sighs.

The sighs from Republican and DFL operatives was one of relief over their two candidates surviving 26 debates and another three or four forums without making a major blunder. Given the personalities and temperaments of Emmer and Dayton, that was no small feat.

The Horner sighs were different. He and Mulder did everything third-party candidates can possibly do to succeed. But the polls indicate they will fail, which is hard to swallow.

“The people that follow things most closely — the reporters and the former governors — said we had the best approach,” said Mulder as he entered the Fitzgerald Theater Sunday for the campaign’s final debate. “But in the end, people seem to vote out of fear.”

Perhaps nothing so summed up the Horner campaign as a scene outside the Fitz Sunday afternoon.

When Horner arrived, there were four men and a guy dressed up as a bull standing on the corner to show their support for Horner. The candidate approached them, thanked them, posed for a picture with the bull and headed into the theatre.

In fairness, there was little enthusiasm for either Emmer or Dayton outside the theater, either.

Final debate proves anticlimactic
This last debate, broadcast live by Minnesota Public Radio, traditionally is a big one. Not this year. This year the candidates were competing against the Vikings and Halloween.

Besides, anyone who has paid any attention to the campaign already knew what the candidates would have to say because they’ve been saying pretty much the same things at all the other debates and forums.

As usual, the candidates stayed on script. There was some cheering among the partisans for their respective candidates.

But the biggest cheer may have come moments before the 4 p.m. debate when moderator Gary Eichten made an announcement to the crowd: “Favre started and is still upright.”

Big cheers. (Favre, however, wasn’t upright by game’s end.)

The debate had been scheduled for late afternoon instead of evening, because there once had been concern that the Twins would be playing in the fourth game of the World Series at Target Field on this night. (That possibility seems so long ago, doesn’t it?)

But if the aura around the debate was flat and the answers were predictable, the last few days of the campaign were filled with cheers, beans and red meat.

The beans came at a massive DFL feed in Virginia Thursday night, where 800 people came out to show their support for U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, the Democratic congressman who apparently has decided that Republican challenger, Chip Craavack, needs to be taken very seriously.

“Biggest event I’ve been to up here since Rudy Perpich was governor,” said Rep. Tom Rukavina in a Sunday night phone conversation.

Rukavina was moderator of the event. More than 800 people jammed the Miners’ Memorial Hall and, according to those at the scene, Oberstar was on top of his oratorical game.

Dayton was on hand because, obviously, he has a personal stake in the outcome of the Oberstar-Craavack race. Every vote for Craavack is a potential vote for Emmer in the 8th Congressional District. Recall, it was the 8th — particularly the Iron Range and Duluth — that allowed Dayton to survive in his close primary win over Margaret Anderson Kelliher, who had been a clear winner in the metro area.

“We wanted an old-time rally, and that’s what we had,” said Rukavina. “Tell you what I think. Those Tea Partiers have fired up the base like I haven’t seen it fired up in a long time. Those polls can talk to 600 people, but if you go to Eveleth, 80 percent are going to vote Democrat. Same thing everywhere else up here. We’ll have a helluva turnout on Tuesday.”

The bean feed gave considerable comfort to the Dayton campaign staff.

Red meat and red-hot rhetoric
On Saturday, red meat was served at a Republican rally in Blaine.

It was hard to get a read on the rally, which featured Govs. Haley Barbour of Mississippi and Chris Christie of New Jersey.

Oh, the rhetoric was red hot … perhaps sometimes too hot, even for this conservative crowd.

Actor Jon Voight had the crowd, and party officials, almost gasping with some of his lines.

“Obama is not a Democrat, he’s a radical socialist, more sympathetic to our enemies than our allies,” Voight said. “Obama’s destroying our country, state by state.”

Actor Jon Voight and Rep. Michele Bachmann were on hand for Saturday's GOP rally in Blaine.
MinnPost photo by Terry Gydesen
Actor Jon Voight and Rep. Michele Bachmann were on hand for Saturday’s GOP rally in Blaine.

And: “The only means to our survival is coming up shortly,” he said. “We must bring in true Americans who can save the nation. We must bring in Michele Bachmann. We must bring in Tom Emmer.”

At another point, he even said that President Obama is responsible for the deaths of American soldiers.

When Voight left the stage, Tony Sutton, the chairman of the Republican Party, seemed almost at a loss for words.

“Wow, how about that?” Sutton said.

And he quickly moved on. Voight’s name did not come up again in the long rally.

The crowd was responsive — especially for Emmer. But, given that it was the biggest Republican rally of the campaign and was held in the heart of Bachmann country, it wasn’t particularly large. The hangar, which was said to have a capacity of 2,000 people, was less than half-filled.

What does that turnout portend for Emmer?

DFLers said, after a series of  get-out-the-vote rallies, that they had more people out door-knocking Saturday than Republicans had at their rally. Their GOTV efforts — door-knocking and phone banks — through Tuesday, they claim, will be far greater than similar efforts being mounted by Republicans.

All we know for now is that there are no more debates in what likely was the most debate-filled gubernatorial race in the state’s history

All of these debates proved that even when people with widely divergent views meet face-to-face, civility can prevail.

Emmer, for all his reputation for bombast and anger, talked about how the debates had been “a fantastic opportunity to discuss the issues with these two fine men all over the state.”

Dayton also praised the debates.

“I think they’ve been terrific for all of Minnesota,” he said. “A great antidote for all the seven-second sound bites and negative commercials.”

Horner said the only thing that could be changed about the debates is that they should be spread out more across the state, which is where the campaigns are headed today — across the state for one last effort to sway the undecided and get their supporters to the polls.

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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