My Republican Friends, The System is Broken

Election Day is one week away from today and by all available public polling, coffee shop talk, water cooler chatter and blunt common sense, the Republican endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate Kurt Bill will lose to U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.  First, I want to thank Representative Bills for running for the U.S. Senate. While I don’t agree with the strategy and messaging from his campaign, Representative Bills has taken on a monumental task in challenging Senator Klobuchar in her bid for re-election.  He has campaigned all across Minnesota, taken time away from his family and given almost a year of his life to this campaign.  But he will lose next week and Republican campaigns in Minnesota will never be the same again.

I decided to publish this post this week, before Election Day, because Republicans like myself will be door-knocking, lit-dropping and phone-calling for endorsed candidates all across Minnesota over the next seven days. But after Election Day, when the signs for Kurt Bills’ campaign will either be quickly removed from yards, or left to buried in the upcoming snow, Republicans will be burned-out from the 2012 elections.  The days and weeks after an election are like days after Thanksgiving; people are tired, stuffed from too much turkey and they want to rest. The last think they want to talk about are recipes on how to make a better turkey (or campaigns). 

So in the last week of the 2012 election cycle, I’d like to ask my Republican friends to think about what’s going to happen one week from today and understand that if we want the Republican Party to succeed in Minnesota, we need to recognize the system is broken.  I’m not trying to take time away any time from all of the hard work that needs to be done in the next seven days.  I’ve been watching from a far and have been so impressed with the hard work of so many Republicans across Minnesota.  

As Republicans gather to volunteer at campaign offices this week in one final push for our endorsed candidates, I’m hoping the timing of this post will encourage Republicans to take just a few minutes to think about our party and how it can be a successful statewide party for generations to come. I believe the Republican Party in Minnesota will have many successes next Tuesday, but the defeats our party will face, specifically in the election for the U.S. Senate, will be too great for us to ignore.

According to the latest polling in the U.S. Senate race, Representative Bills is polling at 22 percent, versus 65 percent for Senator Klobuchar. This is simply shocking.  Eric Ostermeier, who blogs at Smart Politics for the Humphrey School of Public Affairs recently wrote a post about how the GOP should brace for a devastating election night for the Bills’ campaign:

“Kurt Bills’ poll numbers show him with the second lowest support of any GOP U.S. Senate nominee since the DFL merger and third lowest since direct elections began 100 years ago.

Just two years after the Republican Party swept into control of both chambers of the state legislature and knocked off the longest serving Congressman in Minnesota history, the GOP is preparing for what might go down as one of their most lackluster election cycles this November.” Source: Smart Politics, October 19, 2012. Click here for the complete post. 

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“With some undecideds undoubtedly going to break for Klobuchar, the first term DFLer is now poised to become just the 12th woman to reach the 60 percent mark in a senate contest in U.S. history.” Source: Smart Politics, October 19, 2012. Click here for the complete post. 

I encourage you to read Eric’s complete post, as it should serve as a wake-up call for all Republicans in Minnesota. I don’t believe many Republicans appreciate how historically devastating Bills’ defeat will be. Below are some additional facts to consider:

  • A Republican candidate for statewide office in Minnesota hasn’t received more than 50 percent of the vote in 18 years.  The last Republican to receive over 50 percent of the vote statewide was former Republican Governor Arne Carlson in 1994.
  • During the same 18 years, 7 DFL candidates for statewide office or president have received over 50 percent of the vote statewide. 
  • The last Republican to win statewide office was former Governor Tim Pawlenty in 2006, almost 6 years ago.

In 1975, Ronald Reagan said, a “political party cannot be all things to all people. It must represent certain fundamental beliefs which must not be compromised to political expediency, or simply to swell its numbers.” I couldn’t agree more.  I don’t believe the answer is to abandon our party’s “fundamental beliefs”, but our endorsed candidate for the U.S. Senate earning less than 25 percent in a statewide election should be clear evidence that our party’s endorsement process is broken and the manner in which Republicans are running campaigns needs to change.

We are endorsing candidates for statewide office that can’t win more than 50 percent of the vote, or a simple plurality of the vote in a multi-candidate race. We are endorsing candidates for statewide office that can’t build the necessary grassroots campaigns needed to win on Election Day.  We are endorsing unelectable candidates, who can’t compete with the political machinery and messaging from the Minnesota DFL and their allies. The record is clear: we are endorsing candidates for statewide office that can’t win.  

Let me also be very clear: there are good people who are working on Kurt Bills’ campaign. I haven’t agreed with everything they have done, but that’s OK.  I don’t believe that because I don’t agree with every decision made by Bills’ staff that they can’t be helpful assisting in helping steer the party in the right direction post-election.  I have been and always will be a fan of Mike Osskopp.  Do I agree with all of his decisions? No. I’m also confident Osskopp doesn’t agree with everything that I’ve done.  But if I want our party to succeed, I want to hear from Osskopp about the challenges he faced managing Bills’ campaign because if there is one person aside from Bills that wants to win next Tuesday, it’s Osskopp.  Everyone has value.

I hear from so many Republicans how they think 2014 is going to be a huge year for Republicans, as both Governor Mark Dayton and U.S. Senator Al Franken will be up for re-election. I hope I’m not the first Republican to write this, but both Dayton and Franken are going to be as tough as hell to beat (more on this next week, after the election).  A Republican candidate thinking about running in 2014 needs to throw out the campaign playbook designed by the architects of the Emmer & Bills’ operations. There is some overlap in the staff and as I tweeted on July 2, “sometimes getting the band back together isn’t a good thing…”  

But here’s the reality: I believe only one or two candidates could be endorsed for governor or U.S. Senate by the Republican Party of Minnesota in 2014 and have a chance of winning the election. I’m not going to name the candidates, so don’t ask.  But unless major reforms are implemented and the Republican Party of Minnesota overhauls their endorsement process, I believe the Republican candidates with the most statewide appeal will not commit to abiding by the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement and they will run in the primary, bypassing the endorsement.  As a passionate defender of the endorsement process during my time as Deputy Chair of the Republican Party of Minnesota, it’s disappointing to see the party’s endorsement at the statewide level become almost a hindrance, rather than an asset.  Republicans need to hit the pause button on the endorsement process and unless dramatic changes are made, we should consider not endorsing a candidate for the U.S. Senate and governor in 2014, allowing all Republican candidates to run in the primary. 

Finally, our party has evolved dramatically over the last few years.  One organizational advantage I see the Minnesota DFL has over the Republican Party of Minnesota is the cohesiveness between Democrats of different generations.  All political families have disagreements, but I’ve notice over the last few years how Republicans have repeatedly cast aside those Republicans who have fallen out of favor because of policy positions. We have kicked our party elders to the curb.  To quote Ronald Reagan from 1972, the “person who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is a friend and an ally — not a 20 percent traitor.” I’ll be the first to admit, that in the past I have been too focused on the actions which calculate into the 20 percent allocated to the actions of the traitor and not on the 80 percent actions of a friend of the party.  In retrospect, this was the wrong approach.  There is a fine line between the two quotes from Reagan I used in this post and I haven’t done a good job of balancing the two beliefs.

In order to be a successful party, we need to have a focus on the 80 percent we all have in agreement.  We can be a political party which includes the ideas of Tom Emmer, Al Quie, Jim Ramstad, Norm Coleman, Tom Horner, Tim Pawlenty, Arne Carlson and Kurt Bills. To achieve this level of success, we need to look ourselves in the mirror and be honest with our party’s strengths and weaknesses.  Next Tuesday will provide that opportunity, as we will have successes and failures.  To my fellow Republicans who will be appearing on the ballot next week, I wish you the best of luck and thank you for running.  But next Tuesday is not the end, it’s only the beginning as Minnesotans will be giving our party a big reality check.

 

20 Comments

  1. I too am extremely worried about the future of the MN GOP. I agree that many of the new faces in the GOP do not know how to ‘get it done’. They got their guy in there, and then…. dropped the ball. However, does not the “GOP establishment” hold 50% of the blame?

    The experienced players in the GOP should have realized that the Bills Campaign would need help – a massive amount of it. At the convention, I decided to support Pete Hegseth. All three gentlemen (Hegseth, Bills, and Severson) are stand-up men – fantastic public servants. However I thought Pete had the best chance of beating the incumbent.

    When the final vote was in, I was still optimistic and happy for Kurt Bills and for our members. I still think he’d make a wonderful Senator. I have volunteered and supported Mr. Bills. But along the say I have not seen too many others ‘come on over’. The established GOP gets mad (as they should) when “Ron Paul” folks seek to sabotage the Romney ticket after the endorsement. I am sick to death of the crap I see out there. But hasn’t the same thing been happening in reverse to Bills?

    The entire thing has me second guessing why I even bother. Neither “group” seems to want to help merge the 80% agreement. I have no solution, other than to beg the leaders of the party to come up with one – quickly.

  2. Michael Brodkorb is, above all else, intellectually agile.

  3. ***But next Tuesday is not the end, it’s only the beginning as Minnesotans will be giving our party a big reality check.***

    Hate to break it to you, Michael, but:

    Far too many “activists” won’t get it.

  4. How about instead of saying he’s gonna lose. Every republican goes out and has 2 or 3 discussions a day with undecided or typically liberal voters on why bills would be a better choice for them… I have little problems with what i’ve seen the Bills campaign do. I have a large deal of frustration with the lack of emphasis i’ve seen the MN party give in support for Bills once he was endorsed, I am on several party email lists and in fact I guarantee I’ve received less then 1 email from the party including bills in the list of people directly mentioned in “effort emails.” I realize that a lot of people are bitter than he came out of nowhere and stole the nomination, but I’ve always heard far too much negative 20 percent emphasis from people in the conservative half.

    I still to this day stand beside my belief that of the 3 men running Bills was the guy to endorse. After all he did outpoll the others in the primary without spending any advertising money. Plus republican & a school teacher, can you get a better marketing opp in Minnesota?

  5. How about instead of saying he’s gonna lose. Every republican goes out and has 2 or 3 discussions a day with undecided or typically liberal voters on why bills would be a better choice for them… I have little problems with what i’ve seen the Bills campaign do. I have a large deal of frustration with the lack of emphasis i’ve seen the MN party give in support for Bills once he was endorsed, I am on several party email lists and in fact I guarantee I’ve received less then 1 email from the party including bills in the list of people directly mentioned in “effort emails.” I realize that a lot of people are bitter than he came out of nowhere and stole the nomination, but I’ve always heard far too much negative 20 percent emphasis from people in the conservative half.

    I still to this day stand beside my belief that of the 3 men running Bills was the guy to endorse. After all he did outpoll the others in the primary without spending any advertising money. Plus republican & a school teacher, can you get a better marketing opp in Minnesota?

  6. The problem is at the BPOU level. It always has been, and unless we radically change the brand of the party it always will be. The vast majority of the party grass roots activists DO see that 20% traitor factor as grounds for removal of the party. The Ron Paul insurgence doubles down on the “run on MY principles alone, and if I lose, so be it” attitude that further fractures and weakens the party. When invoking Arne Calrson’s name (as you aptly point out was the most popular Republican in this state for the last 20 years) is grounds for being branded a RINO and black balled, you have serious problems. Above all else, the current state party was left in shambles, broke, marginalized and ill equipped to do anything at all for legislative candidates…

  7. As someone who blogged opposite Michael Brodkorb for a few years back in the day and has followed his problems since, I have to stress that Michael is extremely, extremely good at one thing in particular: getting people to take their eye off the ball and redefining what the sides of a problem are – and then giving people the space to choose if they agree or not based off the reality of the problem that was defined for them.

    This piece is no exception.

  8. Have you considered the possibility that Bills will lose not because he’s Bills, but because Amy Klobuchar is popular? Perhaps NO Republican campaign could have beaten Klobuchar this year.

    She’s pragmatic and fairly centrist. She is not a red-meat politician like the GOP wants in the senate. She’s the type of politician we need more of. We need fewer diehard partisans.

    Think about it.

  9. The system is indeed broken, and it’s the Republicans who broke it. So why should they get credit for that?

  10. None of my business obviously, but that’s never stopped me from commenting before. The GOP had other, stronger candidates, Pete Hegseth for one. But no candidate could have beaten Amy, and the perception of that would have always limited access to the national support a Republican candidate would have needed to be competitive.

  11. Cheri Paczosa says:

    The Tax Pledge, ALEC, uncompromising, shutting down any DFL discussions in committees n on the Floor, stupid constitutional amendments-Model ALEC bills, Tim Pawlenty illegal allotments, Pawlenty himself, new Repl legislators being mostly trained according to ALEC rules, ur infidelity relationship n using taxpayers $$ to sur–ridulous n cx laws if legal via Statutes!!! Eliminate above n be respectful to long held offices of legislators, citizens, schools…..or I’ll b damned if I EVER believe another Republican! Romney is an absolute JOKE! Thank u for listening! ~~Cheri Paczosa

    • Nicely said, Cheri, just a few additions. The party that: panders to super profitable corporations (which don’t vote but I suppose that will be the next personification the GOP will try to get for legal-paper entities) rather than taking care of the people, who do vote, deserves to lose; stonewalls every effort to create jobs in an historic recession, deserves to lose; does everything it can to use the tax code to preserve the greatest division in wealth since just before the Great Depression, deserves to lose; threatens to privatize the commons (education, roads, clean water-it worked so well in Iraq-NOT) deserves to lose and wasted an entire session during the worst recession we’ve seen since the great depression passing social experiment legislation (Constitutional amendments for what should be laws and anti-women’s health care) definitely deserves to lose. Try going back to the bedrock issues of the Republican party instead of these reactionary issues from the 1900’s and I will vote for Republicans again, just as I and many others did for Jim Ramstad and Arne Carlson.

  12. It’s fine to have a philosophy , but when it crosses over to ideology, you have a problem.

  13. Well written. the folks who need to receive your message unfortunately will think it is someone else you are referring to.

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  17. Back in 2008 when we still lived in Saint Paul, my husband and I, both new voters and Independents, voted Republican for the first time. We supported a young Marine veteran who knocked on our door named David Carlson for State House. It was refreshing to see someone intelligent with personality and convictions and a mind of their own in politics; he definitely didn’t come off as the run of the mill Republican. We even put his red, white and blue sign up next to our “Educators for Obama” yard sign.

    Although we moved to the Western TC now, we still followed Carlson from facebook and twitter and were pleased to see him take on Kurt Bills in the primary. For the second time in our lives, we both voted Republican. I see Pete Hegseth and Dan Severson mentioned in the comments who never made it to a ballot this year, but I don’t see Mr. Carlson mentioned in your analysis who with minimal resources nearly grabbed 40% of the state vote, and singlehandidly brought Bills down to 51% with the best tv ads I’ve seen ran this year. You mention there needs to be new candidates who run new campaigns, and I don’t see anyone doing that better than Carlson.

    If Republicans really want to win in 2014 against Senator Franken and not take another loss as is well established in your article, they should look to support and push forward Mr. Carlson. Especially in this environment, and with Conservatives putting their money on divisive social issues, the only way we see a Republican winning against Franken or Dayton is if there is a Republican who can appeal to more than just the same old conservative base.

    After what you predict tomorrow happens Mr. Brodkorb, it should be clear that we need new voices who can bring in new voters. We both feel let down by the President and are willing to look at new candidates and solutions, but the GOP just keeps putting up the same tired candidates that keep losing races.

    We are voting to give Romney a chance, and I’m voting for Amy, although my husband says he’s writing in Carlson because he’s disgusted with Amy and Bills. I hope David Carlson runs against Al Franken in the next election and has the support, we want Franken gone but outside of Carlson I don’t see anyone that will win our houses vote or any of our friends. Either way the commercials are over tomorrow… Get out and vote Minnesota!

  18. @Chris haha! The perfect candidate, if you mean for Ron Paul wackos who want to create the Gold standard! There’s a reason he might not get into the 30% and it’s not because he’s misunderstood!

    @Jenny, Carlson’s solid, as a Vietnam Marine vet I voted for him also. Grunt Marine with a Masters and Gopher alum, and a good dad can’t go wrong. I see it being between him and Hegseth possibly, hopefully Hegseth goes for Governor and Carlson for Senate, that would be ideal, we don’t need them battling each other.

    If I had to vote for one or the other I’d take Carlson, Pete’s great but a GOP mouthpiece who backed down with Bills and he had the biggest purse he should have contested endorsement. We need leaders in Washington who will stand up for what they believe regardless of what the power brokers tell them to do. Carlson obviously will fight no matter what and he put up numbers in this election against the odds imagine if he had party support to fight Big Al.

    I don’t see Pete like that, thankful for his service but he’s an Ivy League Republican too concerned with getting on the next Fox and Friends where Carlson’s a Minnesota guy who will get city and Dem votes and fight to the death, that’s what Marines do. But most importantly, I think he can actually win.

    It was too bad Carlson never got a debate, I wanted to watch him go at Kurt Bills. If we had a decent candidate for Senate this time Romney would have been here earlier and put something into this state, having Bills on the ticket was a killer and everyone will see that tomorrow. What a waste but at least it was for Amy, we can’t make the same mistakes against Franken!

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