Minnesota Republicans’ Upcoming Gubernatorial Food Fight

Minnesota republicans need an honest discussion of their shortcomings that have kept them from winning a statewide election in a decade. If it involves Twitter and other social media political food fights, all the better.

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Last week former Republican Party of Minnesota chair Keith Downey announced his candidacy for governor. He joined Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and state representative Matt Dean in that contest. Others are expected to announce, most likely before the start of the Minnesota State Fair at the end of August.

I don’t have a candidate in this race and look forward to the field filling out, with each candidate telling voters why he should receive the endorsement. I suspect there will be a primary, but that’s getting ahead of where we are.

Yesterday I was the guest host on the Sue Jeffers Show and invited all three men to come on separately and speak to her audience for five minutes without interruption or any questions from me. Two of them good naturedly wondered if I could do that. I’m happy to report that I did indeed. I’m grateful they took the time to join the show. Their comments can be heard here.

What interested me is that Downey, after his announcement on Twitter, was immediately attacked by Rep. Kelly Fenton. She tweeted “Minnesotans can’t afford to wait for the Republican Party of WI to do his job for him.” Take that. This was followed by “Fun fact: He was chair of a statewide senate campaign that got 31% of the vote” which itself was followed by “His own district voted against him for senate, what would be his path to victory for governor?” Sounds like talking points we’re sure to hear more of.

Warming to the task at hand, she went on to tweet “The only electoral wins Downey has been a part of are the ones where other people did his job for him.” You could be forgiven for thinking these tweets were scripted by people other than Fenton. Finally, Fenton tweeted “Didn’t he get the memo? There is a saying out there: ‘Party Chairman is where political careers go to die.’” This is what passes for clever in the depths of the paranoid, thin skinned & easily threatened republican House swamp.

Fenton is our Chuck Schumer: never get between her and a camera. She also proposed expanding early voting this last legislative session before adults intervened and the provision was stricken from the final election bill. Even before assuming his Twitter attack dog role, with relish it would seem, Fenton was rumored to be a possible lieutenant governor running mate for Speaker Kurt Daudt.

In response, Downey tweeted acidly “Bitter @kellyfentonmn: MNGOP Deputy Chair ’12, lost House & Senate. Horrible GOP brand. I won Chair, cut her pay, built MNGOP, won ’14 ’16.”

Responding thusly brought out the kind of reinforcements who insist women are the equal of men until they aren’t. For those keeping track at home, the score is five tweets to one.

Rep. Anne Neu, a close personal friend of the Speaker’s, chimed in gratuitously and upped the ante at the same time, tweeting “Downey cut already meager salary and hired most expensive ED in the country, who had NO political experience. #WarOnWomen” Unfortunately, this both proved and revealed too much.

First, the focus on money gives the game way. The permanent deck chairs of the Minnesota republican Titanic care more for a paycheck during any given cycle than actually winning. My observation in this regard isn’t directed at Neu per se, but the larger political milieu, the same people who work on failing campaigns but who get hired over and over. The House caucus is a repository of these pods. There are others.

Second, the hashtag employed isn’t just a cheap talking point from our identity politics besotted democrat friends, it’s stale. No one uses it anymore. Sad! Even in an intramural Twitter fight establishment republicans message poorly. Quelle surprise.

Third, Trump became president with no political experience. More please. Political experience in the land of Minnesota republicans means hiring people because they’re friends, not because they’re good at playing the political game. Think of a conveyor belt of cucks and you get an inside sense of republican politics in this state. It works for them, though, because those are the only kind of “republicans” allowed on “Almanac” and “At Issue.” Believe me.

Professional Female™ Jennifer DeJournett wasn’t about to be left out of the pile on, especially when the scent of faux woman persecution was in the air. Bravely she tweeted “There is no one in politics that I admire more than my good friend & fellow MEPSS alumna @kellyfentonmn she led when our @mngop needed her.” This is the Twitter equivalent of women going to the bathroom together.

Matters ended there but this slight eruption of pique gave me hope that the usually insufferably boring politics of this state might be less so this coming cycle.

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In the days following I linked to a Downey tweet that noted Wisconsin’s economic coup in getting FoxConn to build a large factory and wondering why Minnesota lost out. My only point was to note that he was the first candidate to do so. I’m keen to see our side make a sustained economic argument, especially direct comparisons to Wisconsin. Some took this as an endorsement of sorts when it was nothing of the kind. Only the dumbest republicans in the nation punish someone for the mere act of observing.

At another point, I linked to a Jeff Johnson tweet that compared recent economic growth data between Minnesota and Wisconsin. Excellent. On this issue, I’m from the school of “some is good, more is better.”

While I’m at it, here’s a winning theme, free to a good campaign home: put Minnesota on the ballot. Put the choice of what kind of state we want to become front and center: economic and cultural. Be not afraid of going there. All DFL candidates promote policies that have demonstrable track records of abject failure in other states. We should tie these failures around their necks until they stop breathing.

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A brawling republican endorsement fight is just what we need and is long overdue. There are many abscesses in the party that need to be lanced and drained. Mediocrity has anesthetized most political players in the state, allowing us to think we’re doing well when in fact on the national level Minnesota republicans are the butt of many a joke.

Does Downey’s tenure of the RPM preclude him being the nominee? Let’s have that (already underway) discussion. Does Jeff Johnson having already run for governor as our nominee preclude him? Let’s talk. Does Matt Dean have what it takes to win in a general and is his over emphasis on healthcare enough?

Kurt Daudt will surely run. Does his “historically productive” legislative session pass the laugh test and warrant a job promotion? We’re about to see.

I’ll strongly support our ultimate nominee because I view losing the governor’s race next year as an extinction level event for Minnesota republicans. Those whose primary concern is a paycheck cycle-to-cycle doubtless see it in less apocalyptic terms.

Unlike the Speaker, I’ll support him to the end if, say, something from his private life is revealed at the last minute by A Better Minnesota. He was unable to do the same for Trump when the calculated media hit job of the Access Hollywood tape was released.

Every state that borders Minnesota is governed by republicans. It doesn’t have to be that way but it will take something new from the red team here to change that. It’s long past time that republicans stop fooling themselves by excusing gross political incompetence as the result of a superior opposition party.

The race for the endorsement should consist in large measure of this discussion. Some might think of it as political vivisection while others would, rightly, see it as an essential intervention to save the life of the patient.

Trump’s issues can be capitalized upon to great effect by republicans in Minnesota without even mentioning his name. It is, after all, what Tim Walz is already doing.

Image credit: Woodbury Bulletin

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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 MinnesotaConservatives.org and is on Twitter under @Shabbosgoy

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