48 hours after it ended...
....I'm getting around to my MN GOP convention post mortem.
I was present not only as a credentialed member of the media (thanks AM 1280 The Patriot!!!) but also as a delegate. Because of that dual role, I never publicly revealed whom I was supporting in the US Senate and gubernatorial races because a) no cares what I think and b) I want all the candidates (regardless if they're my top choice) to appear as guests on my radio show. But for purposes of full disclosure, I supported Mike McFadden for Senate and Dave Thompson for governor.
Since my friends Mitch Berg, Walter Hudson and Jeff Kolb all did a bang up job with their own analyses, I don't have too much more to add. However, I will offer up just a few thoughts.
- I don't like the state party endorsement process. There, I said it. What happens is (at least in the Minnesota GOP) you're leaving it up to approximately 2,200 people to determine a candidate to run in a general election (assuming the other candidates abide by the delegates' wishes, which isn't always the case). This kind of system can be easily manipulated, as we have seen from the Ron Paul crowd in 2008 and 2012. The fact is more people go vote in primary elections in an election year than attend caucuses on the first Tuesday in February, local Senate District conventions in March/April and statewide conventions in May combined. The comeback I often here is "Well, these delegates are the most committed, therefore they should have the most say." But I guarantee there are thousands more engaged political activists who are willing to work on behalf of candidates and perform their due diligence before voting. Are you trying to tell me their voice is somehow less important because, in some cases, they have neither the time nor financial resources to burn at a weekend convention?
- With all that said, I was heartened that we delegates chose to endorse McFadden for US Senate despite his declining to abide by the GOP endorsement. To me, that smacks of a little pragmatism, something libertarians/TEA partiers/conservatives within the Republican party are not always willing to enact. But McFadden has raised more than $3 million, which is vital going up against perhaps the most prolific Democrat fundraiser in Senator Al Franken. Sure, McFadden seems pretty rough when he's on the stump and really hasn't thrown out a lot of red meat in terms of addressing specific issues. But I have to say that I never heard McFadden more personable and likable then when he spoke after the fifth ballot. He essentially conveyed that while he appreciates the sacrifice delegates made to be in Rochester, McFadden would fight to the bitter end for the endorsement (he was pretty hoarse at this moment due to his working the delegates between balloting). He also shared how he put his family at risk by leaving his job to go out and raise the necessary financial resources to compete. We learned the hard way how vitally important money is after Kurt Bills was our nominee for US Senate in 2012. While Bills was a quality candidate, his paltry fundraising numbers left him no chance against a popular, well funded incumbent in Amy Klobuchar. Since McFadden's most viable competitors, Julianne Ortman and Chris Dahlberg, vowed to abide by the party endorsement, he'll have little trouble overcoming Jim Abeler and David Carlson in the August primary.
- Speaking of Ortman, did you hear about the kerfuffle involving her campaign manager Andy Parrish and blogger (as well as a friend of mine) Jeff Kolb? I was literally getting in the middle of the two when this happened.
- Gubernatorial candidate Scott Honour was only at the convention briefly on Saturday to announce his running mate: MN State Senator Karin Housley. Even though Karin is a friend of mine, I had no clue this was coming. In fact, she texted me late Friday evening as she followed the convention on Twitter. As we conversed about the Senate endorsement battle going on at that time, she happened to ask who I was supporting for governor. I told her I was in the Thompson camp. Her final text was something along the lines of "tomorrow will be interesting." I had no idea that less than 12 hours later she would be named a lieutenant governor candidate. Huh.
- A lot of invective has been thrown at gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert for his conduct during Saturday's endorsement battle. Seifert never fully committed to abiding by the party endorsement until meeting with the nominations committee over the weekend. He ultimately said he would not abide. Then when it was apparent his support was waning after the 2nd and 3rd ballots, his supporters started to trickle out since Seifert was going to a primary anyways. After the aforementioned third ballot, Thompson, whose support also began to fade (he started with nearly 30% on the first ballot then slightly dropping in the two subsequent ballots), gave perhaps the most gracious concession speech I have ever heard. He then went on to say that opponents Seifert and Jeff Johnson would make great candidates but that he urged everyone to get behind whomever supported the endorsement process, which was Johnson. Shortly thereafter, Seifert gave perhaps the most passive aggressive, take-all-sides-of-an-issue speech that I have ever heard. While he said he respected the process (reminding everyone of his own gracious concession in 2010 when opposing Tom Emmer for the GOP gubernatorial endorsement), he felt compelled to go to a primary since one was already triggered by Honour and Kurt Zellers. Even though he conceded that he would likely not win endorsement, Seifert did not withdraw from the race. Had he done that, Johnson would have been the only remaining candidate and thus could have been endorsed by voice acclamation. Not only did Seifert not withdraw, he then told his remaining delegates to go home, since many live in outstate Minnesota and thus had a long drive ahead of them (it was about 9:00 pm at this point). It was then that some in the crowd became unruly, thinking this was a tactic to perhaps cause the convention to fall below quorum. It didn't work, and Johnson was endorsed by over 90% of the remaining delegates.
- Many feel that Seifert's actions on Saturday (which caused him to express his regret over how he handled himself) may well end his political career because he has no chance of winning the primary election in August. Again, how many were really off put by Seifert's tactics? About 1,500 maybe? With literally tens of thousands going to vote in a primary (many of whom not wanting anything to do with politics until then), how many even have a concept of what happened at the state convention? I mean, their delegate friends can express their outrage over the whole thing, but how well will it resonate. If indeed Seifert loses in a primary, his political career will likely be done. But would a potential loss have anything to do with his attempts to undermine the endorsement process (actions which caused GOP chair Keith Downey to say that was "uncalled for")? I just have a hard time believing that's the case.
-Because I am completely soured on the process, I do not plan to be elected a delegate to any future state conventions. However, because I am a delegate this year, I will work within the confines of the system and fully support all the candidates who received endorsement at this year's convention. Thankfully, all are terrific candidates with legit shots to win in November.
The real work is just beginning.