Friday, July 9, 2010

On Saving The Emmer Campaign From Itself

MC believes it is vital that Tom Emmer be the next governor of Minnesota. While we supported Marty Seifert (but did not endorse) during the endorsement battle, MC promptly closed ranks behind Emmer, attending the Unity Breakfast, welcoming home the plane that took the statewide ticket around the state and in numerous other ways since Emmer/Meeks became our ticket. Unfortunately, we have become concerned, as have legions of other activists and Republicans across the state, about the campaign and its ability to formulate and stay on a winning message. In short, to run a campaign that will win in November.

Initially the campaign message was something about taking back Minnesota. Given that we have a Republican governor currently in the office Emmer seeks, we were unsure what this meant. This message was followed by a lengthy period of radio silence. Apparently the thinking was better no message than one that made no sense. The absence of any message, however, and for a relatively lengthy time, had many asking MC if the campaign was still functioning. We assured them it was. Not that all was well: Emmer opined recklessly that the Arizona immigration law might be worthy of replication in Minnesota. We grimaced and soldiered on. Next came the Freedom & Prosperity theme. Here, we thought, were things only Democrats could oppose. We tease our Democrat friends. But it was a theme, we thought, that could have some traction.

Then came the Eagle Grille and the self-inflicted statement about servers making $100,000 a year. Why a relatively obscure tax issue like the tip-credit came to the fore is beyond us. Why the campaign staff did not realize it had a calamity on its hands baffled us. Why it still believes it does not despite the evidence makes us want to waterboard them.

The DFL immediately seized upon the matter and painted Emmer into a mean Republican corner, one who will slash away at workers who earn minimum wage, one who wants to coddle business per se, one who wants "gut" state government and who has no plan of particulars but who speaks in bromides and platitudes. Great.

Showing the salience of the blunder, there is now a website devoted to servers who don't support Emmer. More, one can print out flyers that excoriate Emmer on this issue (yes, yes, we KNOW it is unfair, fair isn't the point; welcome to politics) and can be left with your tip when you dine out or have a drink at a bar. Well played squishes!

When your opponents seize on an issue to this degree, ought not the campaign pause and think: "Perhaps we have dug ourselves a hole and should stop digging?"

But no.

Compounding the disaster by orders of magnitude, the campaign decided to announce it will hold a town hall forum next Wednesday at a Mexican restaurant in Roseville to address the very issue that has proven toxic to it: tip-credit and servers. MC has it on good authority that any number of politically experienced and savvy people urged the campaign not to do this. We are witnessing a perfect storm of political tone-deafness. One wag left a comment on a local newspaper website wondering if at the town hall Emmer would ask his server for their papers. Ouch.

When you are explaining in politics, you are losing. MC didn't come up with that; doesn't everyone in politics know it? One Emmer staffer told MC that they thought the issue would be a "net win" for the campaign by the end of next week. When told of this, an accomplished political operative told MC "Riiight." One friend of MC suggested out loud that there was a DFL plant in the operation; nothing else could explain the missteps. We dismissed that out of hand and he's prone to black helicopters anyway. Another activist thought the "truth" of the tip-credit could be explained away on Twitter. Reader, we despaired.

Nor will taking to local conservative talk radio repair the damage. Self-selected conservative audiences are neither the problem nor the solution. The damage lies in those to whom the DFL is adroitly getting out their spin on the subject. It does not matter if Emmer is right on the substance; as a political issue it is causing him to lose support among Independent and moderate Democratic voters. And we don't buy the idea that the entire hospitality industry is happy with the way this issue has been presented. We know for a fact of much unhappiness within that group. Net win?

Not being glass-half-empty liberals, however, MC believes the campaign can right itself and move forward to victory in November. But the change has to be immediate, if not sooner. And the person who came up with the town hall seppuku should be tasered. We suggest the following, by no means complete, list of ideas:

1. Cancel the seppuku. Sure Emmer will be mocked but such pales in comparison to being tagged as the guy who wants servers to make $2.13 an hour. Such tagging has been ongoing all this week.

2. If the death wish can't be scrubbed, then Emmer should come out for making tips and gratuities tax-free. Who cares what it does to revenue? Just get on the right side of this issue politically.

3. Stop running for the endorsement. Emmer won. He can't win with the narrow base that propelled him to victory. He's in a general election race now and any campaign staff that can't grasp the obvious ought to be waiting tables. We jest! Don't shoot!

4. Run on winning themes and speak of nothing else: lower taxes for all, less nanny-state interference in our lives, reduced state spending and the legitimate fear of the intellectually lazy DFL in control of the executive and legislative branches.

5. Don't take the post August 10th bait from Mark "Renoir-Toulouse Lautrec" Dayton. He'll run a class warfare campaign and the tip-credit snafu only plays directly into that. Like most Democrats, he hasn't had a new idea in decades. Point out he's to the left of our wholly incompetent affirmative action President.

Finally, one friend of MC suggested something brilliant: bring in New Jersery Governor Chris Christie and campaign for real reform and not just tinkering around the edges. New ideas scare Democrats; so scare them! Voters will reward you. Look at what he's doing in his state and think about what could be applied here to good effect. If Christie can have such success in New Jersey, MC holds out hope for this state of government workers.

We hope the Emmer campaign takes our suggestions in the good faith with which they are offered. MC could no longer pretend that things were going well. We are not purists who don't mind losing. We are Republicans who want to win.