Primary Questions: Will Pawlenty’s Donors Support Johnson? Will Johnson’s Voters Support Pawlenty?

The Minnesota Republican gubernatorial primary is three weeks out, yet it is not too early to talk about two issues that are important regardless of who wins. This is because Republicans have to be united behind who the voters select to be on the ballot against the DFL candidate in November for us to have any chance of winning.

In the same way the country was in the balance in 2016, which too many Minnesota Republicans were too obtuse to realize, the state is in the balance in 2018. Only this time there isn’t an absurd Evan McMullin gubernatorial candidate that I can vote for in order to return the favor of their political autism. In fact, though, I wouldn’t do that because I’m not a barnacle in the local swamp who cares only about the success of their personal grifting endeavors.

Unfortunately, this mindset is largely responsible for why we haven’t won a statewide race in more than a decade. The same group of extravagantly untalented insiders and operatives are on full display this cycle as in previous elections. Most of them support a particular gubernatorial candidate this time around and it shows.

The race between Johnson & Pawlenty is likely closer than what conventional wisdom had ordained would be the case but that’s why it’s conventional: political thought on brain dead autopilot, hardly a recipe for political innovation and nimbleness. The best evidence for this is Pawlenty’s recent attack ad on Johnson, which backfired spectacularly.

Whatever is the state of the primary race at this moment, there’s going to be only one Republican on the ballot and with the stakes for Minnesota as high as they are, we don’t have the luxury of indulging our usual, feckless pastime: nursing primary wounds, some times for decades.

* * * *

Pawlenty didn’t get into this race because he thought he’d lose the primary. To the contrary, once he had, as promised, raised a million dollars he entered it, proclaiming himself and his retinue of minions as the “A Team.” The reason to vote for him, we were instructed, is because he held most of the money hostage. Pawlenty on the merits? He’ll be whatever he thinks you want to hear. Kindly fill out one of his innumerable surveys by which he can feign leadership.

It seems like a long time ago but he actually referred to himself as a “vision caster” at the outset of his race. Mercifully, even those inside the thick, hermetically sealed bubble that guides his campaign realized the phrase was too insipid for continued use. But fast learners they’re not, cobbling together the meaningless “fight for the middle” as his, for now, enduring campaign theme. I fear that will lead to slaughter in the general but I’ve gotten ahead of myself.

Minnesota’s donor class, on balance, is easily flattered, timid and not particularly astute politically. Yes, this is counter-intuitive given that they’re parting with large sums of money but it is nonetheless true. There are exceptions, of course, but not enough to make a difference.

Having invested in this project, for which they expect returns upon any victory, let’s not be naive, they’re not about to abandon Pawlenty. But what if, Hillary-like, he loses the primary?

Will those walking pots of campaign money give to Jeff Johnson? My fear is that they will not and that Pawlenty will do little to help Johnson should he win. The resentment at being denied what they believe they’re entitled to will carry the day. The mediocre elite that supports Pawlenty, for the most part, see non-supporters as deplorables. They were with Hillary when she called Trump supporters that and they’re (still) with her. There’s a reason Pawlenty doesn’t often mix with you rubes.

I hope I’m wrong. I’d like to imagine that we have a political milieu that can reorganize and rally behind who the voters select but I’ve seen no evidence of such an ability in more than a decade of observation. First time for everything, though.

* * * *

Whether Johnson’s supporters will get behind Pawlenty is a more difficult task than cajoling more cash out of Mr. or Mrs. or Ms. Money Bags. That’s because his supporters tend to actually believe things, as well as have a lasting distaste for how Pawlenty governed and then, when out of office, abandoned Minnesota Republicans. To their question of Pawlenty “What have you done for me lately?” there’s really no satisfactory answer.

Yet that’s the way it goes. I wish I could be more eloquent on the point but perhaps there’s no need. Your preferred Republican lost, now it is asked of you to support the winner. That’s what I plan on doing should Johnson lose the primary. It’s not about whether I like it or about “feelings,” mine or anyone else’s. “Feelings” are what the Left does. We shouldn’t.

It’s about Minnesota being in the balance and by any objective measure a Pawlenty governorship is to be greatly preferred to any DFL one. The math isn’t hard; do it.

* * * *

Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow recently said, in a conversation with Ann Coulter, that “being not on the Left is sufficient at this point. Of course in the primaries we’re trying to get the most MAGA candidate possible. But after that, you’ve got to be an adult. You can’t do what the Never Trump babies did.”

It’s not lost on me that Pawlenty is supported by most of Minnesota’s Never Trump babies. But let me be immodest for a moment: I was an outlier in my support of Trump and belief in his ultimate victory. I fairly begged those who had reservations about him to put them aside and stop Lady Macbeth from becoming president.

This calculus applies to our Republican gubernatorial primary. If my candidate loses, his supporters must get behind the winner and encourage him to be more conservative. We’re all Brian Sullivan now.

That same calculus applies to Pawlenty & his donors. Whether they’ll honor it remains to be seen.

* * * *

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

John Gilmore

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