Debating Walz, Johnson Lays Out His Path To Victory

Johnson's excellent debate performance pleasantly surprised even Pawlenty supporters.

Once the mandarins of conventional political wisdom got over their shock that a two term governor with oceans of money and universal name recognition lost to the underfunded and much derided “endorsed” candidate Jeff Johnson, they moved on to stentorious observations that he would be no match for DFL primary winner Tim Walz. Possessed of a seriousness that bore no relation to their track record of predictions which failed to come true, these local pundits, in and out of media, proceeded to blythely repeat the very same factors that were supposed to have resulted in a crushing Johnson defeat as the very reasons for a preordained Walz November win.

The lack of self-awareness was terminal. Surely I couldn’t be the only one noticing the fatal flaw in what passed for their logic: a political environment they grossly misunderstood was immediately capable of being grasped by these same sorts and judgments rendered as to the ultimate outcome of the gubernatorial race. Nice work if you can get it but it’s as wrong as the Pawlenty campaign thinking attacking Johnson was a good idea.

Tim Walz is eminently beatable for a variety of reasons. First, though, Republicans have to check their impulse to respond to narratives that not only don’t correspond to reality but are in fact designed to thwart their political success. To an unfortunate degree, we internalize what the opposition and the media (not that there’s a difference) say about us. The evidence for this is everywhere and could constitute a separate column.

For now, though, it’s enough to resist the currently forming narrative that locks in Johnson and from which our lazy political class and media will draw from now until election day. Minnesota Republicans have proven all too good at self-fulfilling prophecies. This is the cycle to break that habit.

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Jeff Johnson showed Friday night that not only wasn’t he buying any of that narrative, but that he’s truly a substantively better candidate this time around. I’ve been saying this for a long time, although some on social media suggested this was just so much self-serving justification on my part because I supported him. In Friday’s “Almanac” debate he took the fight repeatedly to Tim Walz, who resembled nothing so much as a word salad on repeat. That is, when he wasn’t flip flopping on many issues.

My non-hot take on Tim Walz is that he can’t run as who he really is, even assuming we can figure out who that might be. Johnson proved adept at giving debate viewers a sharp contrast between their views for the future of Minnesota.

Taking nothing away from that, I must say Walz cheerfully boxed himself into a series of untenable, if not ridiculous, positions, an unexpected treat given that this race only started five days ago. Walz said he was for increased taxes on gasoline. He’s all in on the climate change hoax. He’ll never meet a surplus he can’t spend if he wins. Minnesota should become a sanctuary state.

By contrast Johnson answered questions directly and crisply, without the SJW bloviating apparently required of candidates on the Regressive Left. He won’t raise the gas tax. He won’t require mandates that do nothing to affect climate change and opposes Minnesota becoming a sanctuary state.

He took on the most cherished totem of the Left, the diversity industry. Johnson rightly said that the hyper focus on race was not good for either Minnesota or the country. People, to paraphrase him, should be selected by merit and accomplishment instead of immutable characteristics. Many of us have waited a long time for a prominent Republican to say just exactly that.

Johnson strongly defended his previous call for a refugee moratorium, adding “I will end our participation in refugee resettlement. Go to Saint Cloud. The cost has been tremendous and our previous governor told people who were concerned to move out of Minnesota.” Finally, someone with the political courage to state the obvious. This message will find a common sense reception around the state, including much of the metro area.

He paired it in the debate with another Leftist sacred cow, pointedly noting “The left and Tim Walz talk about immigration only in terms of illegal immigrants. Tim wants to be a sanctuary state. I think that’d be a disastrous…. we need to enforce the law.” Again, this is an issue that can help Johnson become our next governor.

So too can Walz’s flip flopping on his NRA support: one minute promoting his “A” rating and more recently, his deliberately manufactured “F” rating. Democrats may be stupid enough to buy this obvious and transparent ploy but my hunch is that most of Minnesota’s voters are not. Johnson witheringly called it “politics as usual.” That phrase attached to this issue should be a constant in his campaign.

Addressing the business climate, Johnson scored what the kids call “a fatality,” saying “It’s fantasyland to say businesses don’t leave Minnesota because of our taxes and regulations.”

Johnson has quickly, masterfully, framed the race early: what kind of Minnesota do voters want? Spelling out clearly the differences between his and Tim Walz’s answer to that question got off to a rousing start. One senses Johnson knows it.

Smartly, Johnson flatly said the governor’s race isn’t about Trump because it isn’t. That won’t convince liberal voters but his statement was designed to address a broader voter base. Trump’s policies writ large have helped Minnesota but Johnson is offering his ideas tailored to the severe challenges facing us. Voters will understand and appreciate the difference.

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On election night, Walz said: “You know what’s coming…let’s all be very honest, it didn’t matter who they picked because the divisive message will stay the same… I’ll send my first message to the other side: I congratulate Jeff Johnson on winning, but there’s just a few things he needs to know: This veteran walks proudly in my progressive values, this teacher stands up to bullies, this coach builds championship teams, and … this governor won’t back down.”

The newly minted Republican candidate for governor is not about to let voters forget just how far left Walz went in the primary of crazies to win. The DFL ticket, including the repulsive Keith Ellison, represents an extreme ideology that would turn Minnesota into California. Johnson stands foursquare against that future and has shown at the outset he’s neither afraid to make that case nor uncertain about which voters will choose.

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In addition to Alpha News, John Gilmore is also a contributor to The Hill. He is the founder and executive director of Minnesota Media Monitor.™ He blogs at and is on Twitter under @Shabbosgoy. He can be reached at Wbua@nycunarjfza.pbz

Photo credit: MPR News

John Gilmore

John Gilmore is an author, freelance writer & former opinion columnist for Alpha News. He blogs at & is @Shabbosgoy on Twitter