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Where Is That Army of Davids? The Era of Hyphenated Republicans

(This is one of my messages I wanted to convey to my fellow hyphenated Republicans)

Twin Cities morning radio is tough for a sports loving conservative. KFAN’s Powertrip is awful now that they fired Mike Morris….  And Davis & Emmer is like an old couple arguing over who’s great idea it was to buy the pulp free orange juice, oh and how badly all Republicans suck, every single day. The “why bother they are just like Democrats” rants may get ratings, and back slapping emails from a few people, but its not ‘moving the ball’ in Minnesota politics.

If they want to be shock jocks, fine, but I know that they aren’t the usual radio schleps who talk tough on air for show but go home and don’t care about anything. BOb and Tom are both activists and have influence and interactions with activists. On this morning’s David & Emmer show, they crossed an intellectual line for me, and exposed one of the major problems facing the Republican Party.

They decided to promote a poll from Public Policy Polling, about who, it says, Republicans prefer to take on Mark Dayton next year. The polling company appears to have been tasked with testing the waters on a host of issues to gauge support for liberal policies and officials in Minnesota. Favorability of Democrats, gun bans, gay marriage, you name it, Democrats had their poll show liberalism rules the day here in Minnesota. The press has been spewing it out religiously.

The poll also showed Norm Coleman as the leading Republican for the 2014 Governor’s race. Davis and Emmer railed on Coleman this morning and the notion of him being the Republican candidate. No solutions, no better alternatives, no suggestions on how maybe a rock solid conservative could beat Dayton (ahem). Instead, mashing of teeth, wailing, moaning, complaining, kicking and screaming, and threats of staying home…..

PPP polling is a Democrat influence poll. Sorry, but its an automated left leaning poll and if a Republican is citing it to tank a candidate they don’t like, they are as intellectually lazy as the biased media in Minnesota who is also using this poll to undermine all center right politicians and thought.

Perfect Is The Enemy Of Good Enough

Here’s the deal, unless all “factions” or sub caucuses with in the Republican Party: conservatives, moderates, libertarians, tea party, pro-life, hawks, doves, etc etc.-  let’s just call the “hyphenated Republicans”- commit to building an election system that can find, communicate with, and turn out 50% +1 of the voters each and every election, we have to be realistic on what kind of candidate we can run statewide. Bachmann can’t win the 5th, but Ellison can’t win the 6th. Same goes for Legislative candidates. The people who win in one place for a specific issue, can’t win on that in someplace else. Northern Anoka County is super pro-life, but Southern Anoka County is Pro-choice. Who’s more pro-life wins in one part, but loses in the other…. The same applies statewide. What works for a candidate in one area, hurts someplace else.

The litmus tests we have as a party, not so thinly veiled in our party platform, is hurting us, not helping us win elections. Can you hold a Republican who loses an election accountable? Yes, but the Democrat who wins won’t  listen to you. I know some of you are saying, “Good!” right now, but look at the State Legislature in 2013. All DFL controlled, Dayton is Governor and can do whatever he wants to do. Republicans can’t stop him because we are in the minority.

And why are we in the minority? Hint: It wasn’t messaging. We got out worked and out spent.

We have to win elections, most of them, in order to make Minnesota how we want it. 

If we are going to make sure  a few hundred activists in our party are 100% happy with the candidate they chose, it means we fight our battles surrendering Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth to the Democrats. Its what’s happened the last 2 cycles. They win those areas 80-20. Which is fine if we take tactical steps to counter that. Those steps are that we  need to turn out “our areas” 80-20 to make up for losing 30+% of the population by a 4 to 1 margin.

Think back to 2010, if you take Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth out of the mix, Tom Emmer won by 8% or so. In 2012, Ellison won 80-20 against one of the best Republicans ever. They knew it was a great year for themselves, yet they still put their foot on the accelerator and smoked us.

On the other hand, in a very bad year for Republicans in Minnesota, Mitt Romney got more votes than any other Republican with zero ground game and a state party that could barely pay its rent let alone run a statewide GOTV operation…. Sorry, but true.  Romney, the guy most activists and people demanding changes in the party love to hate, did better than anyone else on the ballot. That’s telling folks. Maybe our vision of the kind of Republican voters want isn’t the same statewide as it is, in our County District, BPOU, or CD. MAybe electability has to be taken into consideration in endorsements.

Heck, think back to 2008 and Coleman. 237 votes is what Franken won by. Do you think maybe there were 237 Republican voters who wanted to send Coleman a message? Trashed him online, to their friends, and refused to help him because they were upset with him for not being as conservative as we were? I’m pretty sure the answer is ‘yes’. I didn’t actively ‘help’ him, or defend him very much, but I did vote for him. But it didn’t matter, he lost, and Al Franken became the 60th Democrat and now we are stuck with Obamacare. He got the broader public support, well at least enough to come really really close, but he didn’t have the support of his own base and that ended up costing him. Partially his fault, but also partially ours.

We are at a fork in the road as a party.

Do we stand on “principle” and look for the perfect candidate and cross our finger that the name on the sign and face is enough to win? A Russian roulette model, of sometimes it will work, sometimes it won’t gamble.

OR

Do we build the perfect election system and structure of the party and movement to elect which ever Republican is our candidate?

The fact is we can do both, we should do both, but that takes a commitment and buy in from all the “hyphenated Republicans”. If we were a party that while arguing over the degree of perfection we were willing to accept, but was still working data, finding voters, messaging, and fundraising – we could argue with ourselves like we do and currently are. But it needs to be our hobby not our drive and focus. It needs to be done at the end of the long days of working the voters, and can’t be considered the cure for what ails us.

If we are going to strive to make sure Davis & Emmer, The Queen B, Sue Jeffers, Craig Westover, and (yes) the old Andy Aplikowski’s are 100% satisfied, we’d need to cancel the debt now, quit fighting, and get to work. No offense, but that’s the write off 30% of the state plan. That’s the anti-Coleman-Pawlenty-Bush-McCain-Romney plan. 5 guys who did better than we care to honestly admit they did. Norm has actually won a statewide race (technically 2but we we lost the SOS race, so Norm got hosed in 08) . Pawlenty won twice. In 2004 Bush got more votes than any Republican, Romney 2nd in 2012. And the people who are currently threatening to take control of the party consider them Democrats and won’t support or vote for them. Do you agree with the hyphenated Republicans or the huge number of Minnesota voters?

The voters of Minnesota gave 2 guys we hyphenated Republicans can’t stand, more votes than any guy or gal we have ever endorsed. Please think about that. Its something I have come to learn and painfully accept. Maybe what I believe isn’t what 50% of Minnesotans want to hear, or maybe we need to build a better machine to communicate our “why” to voters so we can win.

 

The only person who can represent you 100% of the time is yourself.

Maybe we  hyphenated Republicans can have the guy or gal we want, but the party will still need to be strong enough and fine tuned enough to make sure we can win. We need to craft our message to the voter. We have t track what people say they want to hear, and have our candidate communicate on the voter’s terms. Not how a few hundred activists or a couple radio hosts want them to. That doesn’t mean changing our principles, it means finding, scientifically and professionally, how to explain why individual voters should vote for our candidates.

That’s what the party is for, winning. Not for debates, not so a Republican can hear us boo them, and not so we can pass a platform plank so we can go hammer a specific Republican you don’t like on Facebook or something. The What of the party is winning. We need to work on the How and Why. 

Jim Abeler is a great example. If Republicans push him out, guess what, he’ll run anyway from us and he’ll still win but now he’ll work against us and won’t listen. He has bi-partisan support. Is it better to have him in our tent, our relationship not perfect, but on speakable term so we get his vote for Speaker? Or should we chase him out of our party and into the Democrat one? Sometimes we have to deal with candidates we don’t like. There are other examples, but now that I share a Senate District with Rep. Abeler, I understand red side blue side so much more.

Sometimes you have to do what is necessary to win.

One way or another, we have to tackle the party debt.

There were about 50,000 Republican Precinct Caucus attendees in 2012. We are reportedly $1.7 Million in debt still. If each person who voted in our straw poll last year gave the Republican Party of Minnesota $35, it would bring in $1,750,000 and we could hire a field staffer or two. Woohoo!

Why is that important?

The most unifying message or issue the hyphenated Republicans have, is fiscal conservatism and financial stewardship. We claim to know the best way to run Government more efficiently, which gives us reason to cut taxes, spending, limited Government, etc. Blah blah blah. You and I know that, but how does the public see us?

Our own party can’t pay its bills, racked up crazy debt, and can’t perform the tasks it is supposed to. How can you blame voters for trusting Democrats more to pay the Government bills, avoid crazy debt, and perform the tasks they need or expect Government to do?

Here’s the bad news, the chances of the big money people stepping up and just taking care of that debt (for us little guys who want to pick the candidates) is nil. In many of the big donors’ eyes, its the base’s fault we were $2 million in debt. And I tend to agree. We elected Sutton, Brodkorb, and Carey who ran the party into the ground operationally while paying friends for terrible work, pushed divisive issues, did and said dumb things, and so on and so on.

If you ran your business like they ran the party, would your bank continue to extend you that line of credit? No, and the big donors didn’t. Just like us conservatives who were mad about the Twins Stadium, or Vikings, or you name it stopped donating, the big money people stopped donating to the party that was hemorrhaging money and not getting results (winning).

There’s something to be said for one time, short term, operational debt to run a special TV ad, or fight a recount (if its truly one that you can win). But if you hire failed consultants, lawyers, unproven vendors, and wage a recount war you know you can’t win, just because you want to do it better this time to show the base that you need to reelect you as chair, that you’ve learned something, well, kiss the big money good buy.

Its not personal, its business. 

And that get’s me to another reason you can say it is the base’s fault. Look who we have endorsed. Some candidates we have put forth have embarrassed us all. Some have had serious skeletons, others have no filter between their brain and their mouths. Some run terrible campaigns and some blame the big donors for just not handing them blank checks.

Its the Davids vs. Goliath battle for the party.

We need to do some serious soul searching as a party. But we also need to understand that just picking the right candidate doesn’t mean everything else falls into place. Kurt Bills is a great example of just because one group of hyphenated Republicans is happy, others were not, push out, or excluded from the advisory and vetting process. Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.  If you pull the party one way, you lose people on the other side of the spectrum. If you forcibly drag the party right, and you lose some people WE NEED in the middle, you get further from 51% than closer.

Emmer vs. Seifert is another example. Emmer ran a terrible campaign. Again, sorry to my friends who were on it, but its true. He should and could have won. Unforced errors, poor strategy, and refusal to fight back left him at the mercy of Dayton’s ability to ID Emmer in the minds of voters.  But anyone who thinks Dayton wouldn’t have unloaded millions on Seifert is a fool. Maybe his marginally less rock solid conservative record would have faired better in voters’ eyes, but Emmer’s DWIs were not why Alida Messenger spent millions and millions in 2010. She wanted to win and did whatever it took to do so. Who we picked didn’t matter. And her war chest will be back in 2014, so we better get out schtuff together right quick.

And that my friends, is where pickles come from. 

Back to that How, What, Why video.

What: The 2014 goals for the Republican Party of Minnesota should be winning back control of the State House and defeating Mark Dayton.

How: Even if we did somehow pay off the debt, we will need money to run the operations. We need staff, new systems in place, and we are going to have to be able to run ads. In a perfect world we should try to raise at least $6 million over the next 2 years.

Why: Because Republicans believe in a different kind of Government than our opponents, where decisions that affect the lives of Minnesotans are made at their kitchen tables, not in committee rooms at the Capital…..

Do you have a plan?

Is anyone out there actually talking about a plan to do that? To fix the party, rebuild it, and elect Republicans? We have less than 2 years.

Are Davis and Emmer harping on ways to raise money for the party to build the party into something that can actually do what they want it to?  Because no offense, the biggest problem we have is the lack of money to do what we need to do to win elections. Even if what the hyphenated Republicans say we should do is right,  and would attract voters, we don’t have the ability to great them, track them, and turn them out to vote. The Democrats, through Obama & Dayton’s campaigns have done that.

We know what we need to do to be competitive in Minnesota. Few people are willing to say it publicly like this, but its the truth. We need to model our system on what the Democrats have. Not the message, the machine.

Everyone always wants to have a chair who says, “They are the answer” but we can hire or buy what we need to win. But we have to have the money to do that.

We can argue about what we should say and even what we think the voters want to hear, but if we don’t commit to winning elections we are simply arguing about where commas should go in our Party unit Constitutions. We are arguing with people whom we agree with 95% of the time, but focus all our time, effort, and money on the 5% we disagree on. Give or take….

We are controlled by people who complain about $15 convention fees. 

Less than 1%

Its sad to say money is our biggest problem, but its the truth.  And, its our fault. We chase away “the money”. We have people, like Davis and Emmer, or Legislators, or activists who shake their finger at people who can write really big checks. They tell them to take a hike, we don’t need em. We push amendments that make them uncomfortable, make it hard for them to open the Corporate PAC checkbook up, but we don’t care because we have principles and by gosh if that means we lose, so be it. Do we have to build them stadiums? No, but maybe they wouldn’t run to the Democrats if they we could take the majorities, Governor, Attorney General, Auditor, and secretary of State….

We have blinders on. We skip stones into the pond, and love the pretty ripples, but can’t see the waves crashing on the shore across the lake. The party spends tons of time and money holding conventions, catering to its Delegates, but those Delegates don’t help fund the party. Those convention fees barely cover convention costs, but those conventions determine the direction of the party. And many times, that is away from what the big money is willing to invest in.

We need to find somewhere between a million and 1.5 million Minnesotans to come vote for whoever our Governor and US Senate candidates are. Why is the state party focussed almost entirely on what the 4000 State Convention Delegates want? Its less than 1%. Its less than half of 1%. I get grassroots, but ….

Its not always issues. Its not just the Amendment, stadiums, or specific things. Sometimes its just the person or candidate. Maybe its the Chair, maybe its the Congressional Candidate, maybe its the Speaker, majority leader, or even the Communications Director. Sometimes what we as hyphenated Republicans decide at our conventions is not only a minority opinion in Minnesota, but is unfavorable to large donors. And yes, we do need them.

Put up or shut up

It takes millions of dollars to run a statewide organization, air TV ads (good ones too), mine the data, and turn out over a million voters. Are the hyphenated Republicans who are planning to seize control of State Central, BPOUs, and CDs, also willing to put their money where their mouths are? Are they willing to say “good riddance” to the large donors but still want all the fancy toys they paid for. Again, no offense, but low convention fees don’t exactly translate to filling the treasury.

The people who have lots of money, didn’t get it by simply throwing it around to who ever asks or demands. To them, a donation to a candidate or party, is an investment. If the return is a middle finger from us hyphenated Republicans, they won’t give again.

This sounds like I am saying that we have to cave to big money, forget our principles, and we are all RINOs now. Its not. I think we can find a balance. A measured set of expectations on all sides. The Democrats and all their minions, front groups, and special interests all know that if they just win a bunch of elections and gain all the power, they can hash out the details of what actually becomes law later. They design the plan to win first, carry it out, and deal with how much of their agenda they can actually pass.

Mission Incomplete

But we hyphenated Republicans want the agenda pledged to up front by Republican candidates and party leaders, before we  will even consider backing them or helping the party. We want our promises in writing. Platform, TPL pledges, scorecards, etc. We demand the whole truth and nothing but. But look at our record. We’ve lost 3 straight major elections. Our party hasn’t got 2 pots to even bang together.

But we with hold money and time because it didn’t work out like we expected. Like magic, when we leave that convention, an army of interns and robots swoops in and presto-bammo we win. Far too often, we think once the conventions are done, our work is done and mission completed. We voted for the people we were told to, the candidate we liked, or the party officer candidate who said what we wanted to hear.

Its almost like we aim a car at the parking ramp spot, tie off the steering wheel, set a brick on the gas pedal, and expect the car to run out of gas before it rams into the other cars or right off the ramp itself.

We expect perfection from the party and candidates, but we give it nothing but marching orders to work with. We expect them to cater to us and us alone, and even if they aren’t our Representative or Senator. We hyphenated Republicans are Delegates, we will put our finger in their chest and tell them how it is,  so by gosh they had better do as we say or else….

Which is fine. Everyone has a right to be a pain in the butt, and the party and candidates have the right to say, they have more important things to deal like their real mission, winning elections.

But let me be brief

If we are going to chase away the big money, we hyphenated Republicans will have to all pitch in to make up for it. We can push the Pillsbury-esque donors and their 6 figure donations out of the party, but guess what, that doesn’t mean we just can go with out the 6 figures of revenue  and still have a  effective and functional party. That means no ads, no field staff, no database upgrades, no support for the candidate YOU wanted.

What it means is that if you get on your soap box or radio show demanding perfection, and chasing away anyone who would prefer good enough to win, you have to make up for the losses you cause.

Our problem is far more than just messaging or who we chose to lead us or represent us. Our biggest obstacle to winning is ourselves and our expectations we have. Until we come to that realization, we will not be ready to govern even if we can win.

If we can’t accept any Republican that we can’t agree with 100% of the time, we will never win back control. And with out control, we can’t affect the lives of Minnesotans. We’re simply spectators to the destruction of the Democratic Progressive agenda.

Or something.

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