Congressional Republicans Learn From Trump. Can Minnesota’s?


President Trump famously had to defeat sixteen opponents in the presidential primary. In the general election, he had to defeat not only Hillary Clinton and her media supporters but also much of the Republican establishment, unwilling as it was to cede power to an insurgent outsider who threatened their ordered way of selling out the country. For most of last year Congressional Republicans proved themselves incompetent on issue after issue, none more so than their spectacular failure to repeal Obamacare.

Now though, and especially since the passage of Trump’s tax cuts, Congressional Republicans have come round to the realization that Trump embodies an authentic appeal to middle America, one that cuts across both political and ethnic divides. Black unemployment is at an historic low. Hispanic unemployment has dropped significantly. Real wages have grown for the first time in living memory. Enforcement of our immigration laws are intimately tied to these developments.

The Heritage Foundation, for those who still care about it, has declared Trump’s administration more conservative than Reagan’s. Trump’s judicial nominees are unanimously praised as sterling exemplars of conservative jurisprudence. Mitch McConnell recently said “2017 was the best year for conservatives in the 30 years that I’ve been here. The best year. On all fronts. And a lot of people are shocked. Because we didn’t know what we were getting with Donald Trump. He was doing fundraisers for Chuck Schumer three or four years ago. But this has turned out to be a very solid, conservative, right of center, pro-business administration. And we’re seeing the results of it.”

Trump’s poll numbers are also touching an all time high, a metric always to be taken with caution. The generic ballot question that asks if voters would prefer a Democrat or a Republican was 15 points in favor of the former just two months ago. This week, Republicans led by a point.

The Russia collusion hoax has collapsed entirely. What we’ve discovered is a shocking abuse of power by the FBI, the CIA, the DOJ and the Obama administration designed to overturn the results of a legitimate presidential election. More disturbing revelations are coming but the trajectory is clear.

Democrats imploded in the face of Trump’s brilliant gambit on DACA and immigration reform. Unable to countenance real reform despite an amnesty three times the size of their asking, Democrats ended the week betraying a constituency they had previously, albeit briefly, shut down the government over. This is what winning looks like.

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With an abundance of good to excellent news coming from Trump’s Washington, what are Minnesota Republicans doing with it? I suppose that depends on which Republicans we’re talking about.

At the gubernatorial level, most of the candidates seem to have embraced the changes that Trump is delivering. No candidate should blindly follow any president, of course, and Trump is no exception. On balance, however, there is far more to embrace than there is to run from.

The best I can offer is to have the general election be a referendum on the future of Minnesota. Whichever candidate Democrats put on the ballot, their policy prescriptions are essentially the same. They are also the policies that have failed in state after state. The results are in, no need to wait.

Republicans should contrast what they want for this state with that offered by the DFL. The economy remains the single most important issue to voters and it is a distinct advantage we should exploit. Wisconsin, for example, routinely outperforms Minnesota on any number of economic indicators. The direct comparison should not be avoided.

Minnesota House Republicans run in a myriad of districts. I would not presume to tell them one size fits all because it assuredly does not. Yet even here, general themes of economic prosperity will likely prove the best bet. Idiosyncrasies of candidate personalities and issues within districts will shape those races and will determine their ultimate outcome.

At the senatorial level, different challenges present themselves. Jim Newburger struggles against Amy “Senator for Life” Klobuchar, while Karin Housley seems unable to wage a serious campaign against a surprisingly Leftist-positioned Tina Smith. The latter race should be winnable but to date Housley shows no sign of taking it to Smith, content instead to run a typical race with no imagination or energy. Both will struggle with fundraising.

Congressional Republicans fare better. They should win in the First and Eighth Congressional districts, with the Seventh being a possible but unlikely pickup. Jason Lewis & Tom Emmer will win while Erik Paulsen languishes in the Third, unable to comprehend that simply doing what he’s done before may not be enough this cycle to return to Washington.

The usual caveat that it is still early applies because it is. On the other hand, the window for improving campaigns sufficiently to win is closing fast.

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Democrats will try to make Minnesota’s election a referendum on Trump. Minnesota Republicans would be wise both to let them and not let them do this.

Don’t let them make it about Trump when they lie and distort his record. Minnesota Republicans aren’t good on going on offense but if they want to win any statewide races this cycle, that’s precisely what they’ll have to do.

Do let them make it about Trump when talking about the economy, rising wages, lower taxes and general optimism. These are issues that can propel Republicans to success.

Trump has already provided a roadmap to victory in the state he narrowly lost. Republicans here are skittish by nature and few can be called leaders in any meaningful sense. For the faintest of hearts, there’s no need to invoke his name, only his winning policy issues and contrast them to the backward, failed policies being peddled by the Democrats. For those of sterner stuff, saying his name and doubling down on progress is what voters long to hear in many parts of Minnesota.

Minnesota Republicans are particularly abject when it comes to the local media that covers them dishonestly. Few push back against contrived or DFL created narratives and pivot to their message. It’s too much for me to hope they attack the media when warranted; I’d settle for them being less weak and fearful of it.

Of course, had Republicans who voted for Evan McMullin voted for Trump, he would have won the state. Those people will have a disproportionate effect on our races. I don’t call them the dumbest Republicans in the nation to be incendiary, I say it because it’s the truth. In Minnesota, though, saying what you think is the truth is immediately labeled “mean.” This pathology accounts for most of the state’s ills, political and otherwise.

With luck, Minnesota Republicans will emulate their Congressional colleagues and learn from Trump. If they do, they’ll achieve something they’re not used to: winning.

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In addition to Alpha News, John Gilmore is also a contributor to The Hill. He is the founder and executive director of Minnesota Media Monitor.™ He blogs at and is on Twitter under @Shabbosgoy. He can be reached at