Johnson’s Master Stroke, Pawlenty’s Sanctuary State Card & Other Thoughts

Proving me wrong that Minnesota politics is boring, Jeff Johnson pulled off a master stroke on Friday. Set for what everyone thought would be the announcement of his running mate, Johnson instead personally introduced former Pawlenty Lieutenant Governor Carol Molnau, who promptly endorsed him for governor. Taking dead aim at what Planet Pawlenty thinks is their strong suit, swiftboating brilliantly if you will, Molnau said she was doing so because Johnson was the most electable candidate.

When asked why Pawlenty shouldn’t get the job again, she replied: “I just haven’t thought about Mr. Pawlenty at all.” Fatality! as the kids on Twitter say.

It’s hard to overstate how well done this was and the damage it did to the pretenses of the Pawlenty campaign. Delegates and primary voters can readily understand what it means when someone who was in office with you, not for one term but two, not only declines to support you in your comeback bid but goes over to your leading contender.

AP reporter Kyle Potter tweeted out a set of comments from Molnau back in 2011 that were deadly. “He surrounds himself with people that say ‘yes’ and tell him how good he’s doing, but he doesn’t have a lot of people who can take the chance at critiquing him, and that’s a problem he’s had for a long time.”

This explains why Planet Pawlenty thinks he’s right for the times despite any evidence. Maybe he’ll win the primary and prove everyone wrong. But his is a top down, donor driven, poll driven, focus grouped campaign. He’s working hard to fake authenticity.

Johnson, by contrast, continues to show his mettle, to play against type. No one saw this coming and it dispels the safe, lazy, conventional wisdom that Pawlenty’s entry into the race dooms him. The rap on Johnson is that he’s dull, usually made by people whose own personality could be confused with warm dishwater.

Johnson is a demonstrably better candidate than he was four years ago. His call for a moratorium on forced migration and resettlement in Minnesota was principled, brave and correct. Immigration is going to be nationalized by Trump in the midterm elections and Johnson shouldn’t let Pawlenty co opt him on this issue.

Championing merit based immigration is one way to keep this from happening. The Regressive Left will name call anyone who wants to bring common sense to the issue but let them. When Canada & Australia both have merit based immigration, the average person understands what’s going on. In Minnesota, the issue is a winner.

Johnson’s coup in receiving Molnau’s endorsement puts everyone on notice that he’s not about to surrender to the forces of the establishment’s candidate. One can easily see Johnson appearing with President Trump when he visits Minnesota. One can’t say the same of Pawlenty. Therein lies not only a difference but a winning difference.

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In his ongoing quest to be a candidate of substance in touch with the political zeitgeist, instead of a Manhattan bank lobbyist who had nothing to do with Minnesota republican politics for the last half dozen years, Tim Pawlenty released another video, promising to oppose Minnesota becoming a sanctuary state. I wasn’t expecting that and on balance it is a good video, shrewd even. The obvious concern, of course, is that this is a craven attempt to make it appear he shares some of the concerns of Trump voters.

He is in some ways, and doubtless without knowing, acting on my advice to the weak willed among Minnesota Republicans who still find Trump outré: run strongly on his issues and you won’t often have to mention his name. I really am here to help.

Pawlenty lately has been looking past the sale and addressing his public comments to Tim Walz or the other two candidates in the race for the DFL nomination. To a degree this is understandable, shrewd (that word again) but the approach can easily be seen as presumptuous: of course you rubes are going to make me the winner of the August primary if I don’t win the endorsement next month outright.

When I guest hosted my friend Sue Jeffers’ radio show last weekend, I invited Pawlenty to call in and speak to her audience, no questions from me or callers. His people declined, which I understood given what I’ve previously written here. Still, I thought it was a missed opportunity by the author of the presidential campaign book “Courage to Stand.”

I said on air that Republicans have to unite behind our eventual candidate in order to win the governorship. The stakes for Minnesota are too high for lasting divisions this cycle. I can’t shake the feeling that Pawlenty is doing and saying anything that will help him win, but this is politics and winning is the goal. Yet to assume that he’ll stick with those positions once in office requires us to consciously forget the ease with which he abandoned prior positions when he ran, laughably, for president.

He spent much of last weekend calling into greater Minnesota radio stations and this weekend appeared at the MNGOP CD 8 convention in Duluth. On a surface level, he appears to be making a stab at winning the endorsement. I see no downside to the attempt.

More top down support for his candidacy was announced this week: three prior chairs of the Republican Party of Minnesota came on board. Endorsements, and their putative powers, are a thing of the past. When it comes to cutting edge political savvy though, Pawlenty’s campaign is rote, formulaic and traditional to a fault. We’ll see if it works.

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In other developments, House Republicans refused to show you who funds their numerous junkets, rejecting an amendment that would require such by DFL Rep. Tina Liebling. Remember this the next time one of them prattles on about transparency and “servant leadership.” It’s a racket and a con but good work–or all expenses paid travel–if you can get it.

Master of Junkets™ Speaker Daudt recently cried in caucus, an interesting albeit desperate maneuver to stave off challenges to his leadership. It’s a hard job, sniff, if any of you want it you can have it, was the jist of his crying jag. Nothing inspires respect in a leader like blubbering and as to others having his job, he should be careful of what he says, especially after November.

The House bonding bill clocked in at approximately one billion dollars when all was said and done. Dayton wants 1.5 billion in bonding so if your card had 1.25 billion on it, you may already be a winner. Remember that the next time you get an HRCC fundraising letter asking you to contribute so they can reduce the size of government. The Left hates you and wants you dead; your own so-called “kind” thinks you’re idiots.

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The RNC effectively took over the MNGOP this week, with Kevin Poindexter becoming the Executive Director, which had been vacant for a short time after the departure of Matthew Pagano. Preya Samsundar, a dearly missed former colleague of mine at Alpha News, has moved from the party into a communications position with the RNC. Trump lost Minnesota by less than 45,000 votes and he isn’t about to simply let it slip through his fingers in 2020. There are some things only a state party can do and the RNC has made sure that Minnesota’s Republican Party will now be in a position to do them. Jennifer Carnahan remains the party’s figurehead, free to continue tweeting her enthusiasm for “The Bachelor.”

Should Jeff Johnson prevail and be our nominee, he shouldn’t expect much help from the party because he’s not the RGA’s candidate. That’s just the way it is. Which raises a question someone should ask Pawlenty and on video or audio tape: if you lose the nomination, will you stay in Minnesota to actively campaign and raise money for the republican ticket? He’ll say yes but at least we’ll have it on the record when he, most likely, doesn’t.

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Lakeville city council member Luke Hellier was revealed as an apparatchik for hire, together with Public Affairs, when Blois Olson on Twitter exposed his involvement in creating a fake and misleading Facebook page concerning density and traffic issues in a Minneapolis development project. No word on who their client is.

Like basement mold that can’t completely be eliminated, there’s a stratum of Minnesota Republicans who make their living by offering their patently modest skills to the highest bidder. Their work doesn’t have to be good, in fact being good threatens those that would hire you. At times, it can even backfire spectacularly as with Connolly Kuhl’s mailer attacking Melvin Carter, effectively costing Pat Harris the Saint Paul mayoral race. Or the Minnesota Jobs Coalition, and its self-dealing 1858 Group, and their leaden touch in the Minneapolis city council races.

Connections not competence is required, which allows the mold to survive intermittent attempts to eradicate it. Mostly it remains the business model for the dumbest republicans in the nation. But it works for them, not you, which is all they care about.

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Speaking of mold, Greg Peppin’s gubernatorial creation of a candidate, Mary Giuliani Stephens announced her running mate, Rep. Jeff Backer, who is himself a client of Peppin’s. You almost have to admire the shamelessness of the permanent swamp in Minnesota Republican politics. Almost.

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Meanwhile, Trump’s approval rating among blacks doubled in the last week to 22%. The Kanye effect is real and there’s no need to buy into him as a rock ribbed conservative, not that they have conserved anything since 1988, according to Charles Murray in my interview of him for Alpha News.

No, Kanye commands our attention simply for being a high profile cultural figure who as a black man has decided to think for himself and publicly support President Trump. Republicans don’t need a large share of the black vote–I’d take 15% in a heartbeat–for things to change permanently in this country.

That’s the opportunity but as Kanye is learning firsthand, it doesn’t come without risk. And risk is the last thing Minnesota Republicans will ever take.

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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: KARE 11

John Gilmore

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