June 1, 2006
Republicans meet

Republicans begin meeting in Minneapolis tonight for a state convention they're hoping will hold no surprises.

Unfortunately for those of us in the news business that's not a very exciting prospect. Conventions are more fun when the outcome is up for grabs. (At least it seems like it in retrospect. It's not really much fun sitting up all night through countless ballots)

For this one though, there's no suspense at all. Even so, Gary Eichten and I will be there with a cast of thousands to provide live updates on the radio starting at 7 p.m. Thursday.

At about 8 p.m. Rep. Mark Kennedy will be endorsed for U.S. Senate. MPR's Tom Scheck has a story today raising the big question of whether DFLers will be able to tie Kennedy to George W. Bush and his mid-30's approval rating:

Kennedy has wide support from the national leaders in the Republican Party. President Bush reportedly raised $1 million for his campaign during a one-day visit to Minneapolis last December.

Vice President Cheney and others in the administration have also raised money for him, as have three dozen Republican senators and congressmen.

Despite all of that money, Democrats, like DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez, say Kennedy will have a difficult time winning in Minnesota. Melendez says the president's low approval ratings will have an impact on Kennedy, who voted for the president's policies more than 90 percent of the time.

"George Bush himself is not on the ballot this year, but Mark Kennedy is about as close as you come in the state of Minnesota to a proxy for the Bush administration," Melendez said. "I believe that some of the disappointment and disgust with the Bush administration will transfer to Congressman Kennedy."

Democrats will endorse Amy Klobuchar for Senate a week from Friday at their convention in Rochester. Ford bell says he will challenge her in the September primary.

Tomorrow GOP delegates will endorse Tim Pawlenty for a second term as governor. The only suspense is whether the convention will hear from Sue Jeffers, who says Pawlenty isn't conservative enough. MPR's Laura McCallum had this back and forth in her story yesterday:

"My turning point for wanting to challenge Tim Pawlenty for the Republican nomination was the stadium," said Jeffers. "But every time I looked at that billion-dollar bonding bill, I asked, who is looking out for the taxpayer?"

Jeffers says other fiscal conservatives are unhappy with Pawlenty's record. Pawlenty doesn't seem threatened by Jeffers, and he questions her GOP credentials, since she's also running as a Libertarian.

"If you're going to run for the Republican endorsement, then you should commit to run as a Republican. Just a novel thought," Pawlenty said. "But I don't think she's in that situation, and I think once the delegates get to know her a little better, I think I'll do pretty well."

And even though the Democrats haven't settled on a candidate yet they were organized enough to send a bevy of candidates out to bad-mouth Pawlenty at three press conferences around the state Wednesday. Different groups of DFL office seekers were in Duluth, St. Cloud and St. Paul as part of a unified effort unlike any we've seen from the DFL in a great while.

And then there's Peter Hutchinson of the Independence Party, who will try to win his party's his endorsement before a Saints game at St. Paul's Midway Stadium on June 24. Here's his quote from the Star Tribune:

Independence Party candidate Peter Hutchinson, a consultant and former state finance commissioner, chided leaders of both of the larger parties for "flying around the state, patting themselves and their parties on the back. Up in the thin air, they can't see that politics is broken."

Broken? Or just getting started? Hutchinson now has an IP opponent. Pam Ellison issued a statement last night saying she's running.

"I represent the majority of Minnesotans who do not identify with any of the mainstream political parties. I personally believe that the political parties have become another barrier between a responsive government as it was created to be and the citizen."

Posted by Mike Mulcahy at 6:50 AM