May 2008

State of the state party

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

No one is doubting that the state Republican Party convention in Rochester has been one of the more raucus in recent party history, particularly for a party that has been characterized by its discipline in the last couple of years.

Dissent from Ron Paul supporters certainly has played a role in how things have played out, but throughout the proceedings, state GOP Chairman Ron Carey has found himself in the crosshairs as well. The party faces questions about its bookkeeping and Carey himself was criticized for endorsing Mike Huckabee for president, which many in the party thought was inappropriate for a state chairman.

In a morning speech to delegates today, Gov. Tim Pawlenty gave a boost to Carey.

“Ron Carey has been working for this party with his heart and his soul for a very long time,” Pawlenty told the crowd, which gave Carey, sitting at the podium, a standing ovation.

Tony Sutton, state party treasurer, also addressed the struggle the party is facing, acknowledging “the party of fiscal responsbility was spending money like drunken sailors in Washington.”

“The key is remaining true to our principles and our platform because if we stray those checkbooks are going to dry up,” Sutton said.

Pawlenty’s comments were part of a more broad-ranging speech that included a boast about his record-setting career as the governor who has vetoed the most bills of any in state history. He called his vetoes “strapping on the political goalie equipment.”

Pawlenty also made an appeal for party unity in an election cycle that promises to be an uphill battle, dismissing Democrats as a group that “gives away free stuff. ‘You got a problem, we got a program,’” Pawlenty said of the Democrats.

Between Iraq and a hard place

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

As Republican state delegates arrived at the Mayo Civic Center this morning to hear speeches by Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former top Bush aide Karl Rove, many were greeted by young men handing out buttons that read “Republicans Against the War.”

They were Ron Paul supporters organized by delegate Ryan Sibinski, a Brooklyn Park salesman. He said that about 30 percent of the people offered a button had taken one and expressed support.

“There’s not a lot of opportunity to discuss these issues on the floor,” Sibinski said. “The Republican Party isn’t allowing that kind of debate.”

Paul, who spoke outside the convention hall Friday morning to a group of supporters, is running for the party’s presidential nomination this year and has set himself apart with his libertarian-style blend of opposition to the Iraq war, to higher taxes and to big government.

Paul supporters made an aggressive bid Friday to send additional delegates to the national convention in St. Paul, but GOP leaders committed to presumptive nominee John McCain used parliamentary maneuvering to block them. The infighting left a bad taste in the mouths of several Paul backers, including Sibinski.

“The biggest travesty is they did not allow Ron Paul to speak” at the convention, he said. It would be unjust if the same thing were to happen in St. Paul this September, he said.

Asked if he wouldn’t feel more comfortable with DFLers, Sibinski shook his head. “I’m not a Democrat,” he said. “I can’t agree with them on increasing spending.” That’s another reason why he opposes the war, he said.

T-Paw and Rove: Let the speculation resume

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

The twin headliners of today’s closing session of the state Republican Party convention, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former White House master strategist Karl Rove, broke bread together this morning before the proceedings got underway.

Seated in a corner booth in the restaurant at the downtown Radisson, they conferred intently, interrupted intermittantly by cell phone calls and party functionaries seeking a handshake.

Rove, who famously steered Pawlenty toward running for governor six years ago, has been an informal, unofficial adviser to presumptive GOP presidential nominee John McCain, who, in turn, has reportedly penciled Pawlenty in on his short list of vice-presidential possibilities. Pawlenty, a national co-chairman of the Arizona senator’s campaign, has repeatedly brushed aside speculation that he’s angling for the job.

The noise level in the restaurant made it impossible to eavesdrop effectively on their conversation, so speculate at will on what they were schmoozing about.

Coleman’s speech

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Here is the text of Sen. Norm Coleman’s acceptance speech to delegates at the the state Republican Convention:

Thank you, dear friends for the tremendous honor of your nomination. I accept it with a challenge to each one of you; let’s be a party and a people willing to take bold, adventurous risks, so we can pass a better world to our kids than we received from our parents.

81 years ago last week a 25 year old Minnesotan did something the world had never seen: he flew solo across the Atlantic Ocean. Listen to the words of that adventurous, young Minnesota hero, Charles Lindbergh: “It is the greatest shot of adrenaline to be doing what you’ve wanted to do so badly. You
almost feel like you could fly without the plane.”

I want you to know, friends I am flying today.


Boos for Obama

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Second District Republican Rep. John Kline briefly addressed the crowd at the Republican State Convention in Rochester on Friday, acknowledging the sometimes raucus nature of the proceedings during the day but encouraging party faithful to focus.

One of the strongest sentiments came when he brought up the name of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

“There are so many things at stake this year in this election, we don’t want to lose sight of that in our excitement here today. I love the enthusiasm in the room but lets remember:

If we end up at the end of this process with Commander in Chief Barack Obama (boos) I shudder for the fate of the Republic, and, I’m afraid in many cases, the fate of the world. There is so much at stake here we cannot let that happen.”

GOP delegates send McCain backers to the convention in St. Paul

Friday, May 30th, 2008

The leadership of the Minnesota Republican Party decisively beat back an insurgent challenge this afternoon by supporters of presidential candidate Ron Paul, dashing their hopes of sending Paul delegates to the national convention in St. Paul three months from now.

With 14 delegates up for grabs, Republicans backing de-facto nominee John McCain took all of them, after several hours of sometimes-bitter arguments and confrontations on the floor of the GOP’s state convention.

Boos, shouted protests and parliamentary maneuvers consumed several hours of the convention’s first day, delaying the formal endorsement of Sen. Norm Coleman. At one point, a shoving match broke out between a McCain supporter and a Paul backer.

Marianne Stebbins, a longtime party activist who headed Paul’s campaign in Minnesota, failed to be named a national convention delegate. Taking the podium before voting began, she implored her fellow Republicans: “We do think the party is losing its way … it’s strayed from its core principles. We’re hoping to recreate the 1964 Goldwater movement – he lost, but won the Republican Party back.”

Some Paul backers complained party officials unfairly stacked its slate of preferred candidates, a vetting process defended by party chairman Ron Carey. Serving as a national convention delegate “is not an entry-level job,” he said. “We looked at people who truly had quality, not just people who raised their hand at the last minute.”

Despite the raw emotions on display today, it wasn’t immediately clear how long the obvious fissures in the party will persist.

Not surprisingly, among the GOP heavyweights elected as national delegates were Coleman, Gov. Tim Pawlenty and House Minority Leader Marty Seifert.

Judicial elections

Friday, May 30th, 2008

The state Republican Party’s Judicial Election Committee presented a report on judicial elections but made no recommendations about endorsements. It had been widely rumored that the party would come forward with endorsements but party officials said they did not have time to do proper evaluations.

Judicial elections are a hot topic, particularly with two Minnesota Supreme Court justices on the ballot in 2008.

“When you’ve got judges legislating from the bench this becomes even more important,” said state Sen. Amy Koch, one of the co-chairs of the convention.

Throughout the day, former Gov. Al Quie made the rounds. He is an opponent of judicial elections and made his views clear, even while waiting in line for food.

GOP chairman Ron Carey said the party wanted to move forward with endorsing judicial candidates but needed to make sure they had strong candidates and an appropriate reason to run against a sitting judge.

No Ramstad

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Republican Third Congressional District candidate Erik Paulsen was working the crowd throughout the day at the civic center in Rochester. He’s expected to be one of several congressional candidates to speak tomorrow. But one person won’t be there to hear it – current Rep. Jim Ramstad.

Ramstad’s office cautioned about making too much of his absence, saying he had a personal scheduling conflict.

Paulsen, who once worked for Ramstad, said his former boss often avoided things like state party conventions.

A post-mortem on Ron Paul’s apparent setback at GOP convention

Friday, May 30th, 2008

With Minnesota’s Republicans on the verge of choosing their delegates to the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, party chairman Ron Carey this afternoon defended the party’s treatment of presidential candidate Ron Paul and his supporters.

Party officials banned Paul from addressing their state convention today, a move Carey called “consistent with our party’s rules. “We have our presumptive nominee” in John McCain, he added.

Paul’s backers, who Carey estimated represent no more than a quarter of the delegates at the convention, were easily turned back in their attempt to change the convention rules, which would have made it easier to win some of the 14 national delegates that will be chosen later today.

Paul supporters in other states have been able to win delegate spots in an attempt to win Paul a speaking role at the national convention. “In other states, they fought tooth and nail,” Carey said. “Here, it was over and done with in five minutes.”

Even so, the convention was slowed to a crawl this morning with endless bouts of parliamentary wrangling. “They’ve had endless points of order that were not true points of order,” Carey said. “It was an intentional slowing of the process.”

He was somewhat conciliatory toward Paul’s supporters. “We want the Ron Paul people to be part of the party – they are part of the party. But the game’s been played and it was won by McCain.”

McCain’s back, and so is Golnik

Friday, May 30th, 2008

Last winter, when John McCain’s political fortunes were ebbing, so were Ben Golnik’s.

In the summer of 2007, the young Golnik was on McCain’s campaign payroll as the Midwest political director. But as the campaign floundered and appeared terminal, Golnik was busted back to McCain’s volunteer Minnesota coordinator, gamely holding together the franchise in the Gopher State until the Arizona senator moved to the front of the line.

Now Golnik is back as McCain’s regional campaign manager for a territory stretching from Minnesota to Idaho, including the Dakotas, Montana and Wyoming. Since most of those states are reliably red, Golnik figures he’ll spend most of his time in Minnesota.

Wearing a red McCain baseball cap, he’s roaming the state convention floor today and feeling good about his guy’s chances, despite an undercurrent of Ron Paul support.

“I think the party’s clearly united behind [McCain],” Golnik said.

On Monday, the McCain campaign will open an office on Transfer Road in St. Paul. Golnik says that up to 10 staffers will be hired in the next week. And the senator himself is planning a trip to the Twin Cities on June 19. “We feel pretty good,” Golnik said.

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