What I Saw At The Minnesota Republican State Convention

"Are we controlled by the wealthiest donors? Or is the party controlled by you and the grassroots activists around the state?”

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Yesterday I attended the Republican State Convention in Duluth. I went that day only, wearing a media pass no less (have I arrived?) because the gubernatorial endorsement was the only contest that mattered. Other races dealt with at the convention were important, to be sure, but the outcomes were largely as expected. The electronic voting system failed both days which was unfortunate but paper ballots proved to be less time consuming than feared, especially Saturday in which several statewide races with only one candidate were approved by voice acclamation.

Jennifer Carnahan, Barb Sutter and Kevin Poindexter gave us a convention that was on the whole well run and successful. They have our thanks.

Cold and rainy in Duluth, the speeches and floor demonstrations for each gubernatorial candidate were well crafted and executed professionally. Mary Stephens Giuliani and Phillip Parrish gave their best efforts but by the third ballot it was clear the convention was with Jeff Johnson and awarded him the endorsement.

I felt there was genuine unity at the close of the convention. This wasn’t guaranteed and so I was glad to see it. Republicans have real opportunities this cycle to win in Minnesota and it’s imperative we don’t, well, blow it.

Johnson pointedly styled himself the grassroots candidate and for good reason: he is. Looking to the future he said “I believe this primary is about the heart and soul of the Republican Party. Are we controlled by the wealthiest donors? Or is the party controlled by you and the grassroots activists around the state?”

This is the heart of the matter we face if we want to win the governorship in November. If a republican doesn’t win, the state is lost. Yet in much the same way the media used to select our presidential candidates for us, this cycle the donor class wants to select our candidate for governor. They tried it in 2016 with Jeb! and they’re trying it now with the “vision caster.”

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The DFL convention in Rochester was a disaster, unfolding deliciously in real time. Attendees in Duluth regaled each other with updates as to the latest cluster. Attorney General Lori Swanson was denied the endorsement by some white gay guy. I guess in the matrix of intersectional nonsense that has seized the Left, sexual orientation trumps incumbency. Before arriving in Duluth, I tweeted that I was going to attend as a black, lesbian, quadriplegic.

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Pawlenty consigliere Brian McClung glided in and out of the convention, affecting remote importance, some minions in tow, others on the convention floor trying to create momentum for no endorsement, a fool’s errand but one thought worth the candle by those who have no understanding of present political times. The image of a fish out of water, gasping, came to mind.

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Pawlenty supporters tried to raise expectations for Johnson by insisting he had to win on the first ballot, but the effort was transparent and futile, embarrassing to anyone with a modicum of self awareness, which they assuredly don’t possess. That’s the problem with someone like Pawlenty, who believes himself a leader instead of an opportunist, and his insular circle of mediocre advisors: that going through the motions of what Mark Steyn has called “the sheer artificiality of modern politics” will be sufficient to win over the rubes in the primary. Pawlenty’s contempt for them is only marginally less than for the convention delegates.

Donors support him because they see a familiar mark, a patsy of their own, one who will deliver for them not voters, although they’re careful to play to his ego by insisting to him that he possesses a gravitas invisible to others. It’s the ultimate confirmation bias.

Right now Pawlenty would lose to Tim Walz, who likely will defeat Erin Murphy in the DFL primary. He’s a poor candidate and it remains to be seen if he can improve. Name recognition and money is the entire case for him, certainly not the record of his abysmal years as governor, against which he shows no sign of knowing how to defend. He didn’t win a second term so much as got lucky.

Pawlenty plans to ignore Johnson entirely between now and the primary. Forget about any debates. Arrogance as a strategy is unwise but it’s probably the most authentic thing about him to date. Funny how that works.

The problem is that Jeff Johnson isn’t about to ignore Tim Pawlenty.

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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. He can be reached at John@alphanewsmn.com

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