Trump’s Card: Johnson Or Pawlenty?

President Trump is holding a rally in Duluth on Wednesday this week, the first in a state he didn’t win in 2016 and the first since his triumph in Singapore. My Alpha News colleague Christine Bauman has put in for media credentials for the two of us. If we get them, I’ll be there.

There’s a lot going on with this rally, not least of all the underscoring of the President’s determination to win Minnesota in 2020. There’s no doubt that he’s the heavy favorite to be reelected, given the lack of a substantive agenda by Democrats, to say nothing of having no candidate who can win Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.

Pete Stauber, Republican candidate for Congress from Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District, will surely benefit from the President’s appearance and will likely be on stage with him. Stauber is an outstanding candidate and is the odds on favorite to win in the general election.

Republican endorsed gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson said he was attending the Trump rally. To date, I’ve not heard that Tim Pawlenty is. There, in a nutshell, is the Republican gubernatorial primary on August 14th. Smartly, Johnson said to local media that he desired and would be honored by the President’s endorsement, for the obvious reason that Trump’s endorsing tweet alone would guarantee Johnson a primary victory. He was smart to go public because it puts this race, and Trump’s decisive influence on it, on the radar.

Just back from denuclearizing the Korean peninsula, President Trump tweeted his support of Katie Arrington over incumbent swamp creature Mark Sanford in the GOP primary in South Carolina. Katie won, leaving Mark to hike the Appalachian Trail for real this time. Local MNGOPe types were weirdly silent on Twitter, the ones who bray that “the establishment always wins.” Only this time it didn’t. Worse for them, the establishment is becoming Trumpian.

Trump remembers well what Pawlenty said about him: “unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit.” This bit of aliteracy made his comms team think highly of themselves. To be fair, it takes little.

We’ve seen instances in which this sort of criticism has been overcome and when it has not. Pawlenty is pulling out all the stops in order to convince the President to stay out of this race. Yet with the mood solidly behind him in Minnesota, Trump may well conclude that with his primary support of Johnson he has a loyal ally in 2020 and Trump can help fund his general election campaign. In other words, President Trump won’t ignore Johnson after the primary, he’ll help him win in the coming Red Wave.

Pawlenty this week tweeted praise of Trump’s diplomacy in Singapore vis-a-vis North Korea. It must have killed Brian McClung to send it. The artifice of Pawlenty so far bodes poorly for his chances in November. The talking points, the constructs, the shop worn & no longer operative conventional wisdom advantages are wearing thin even now. A tweet from Trump strikes fear, rightly, into the heart of this brittle campaign.

Pawlenty recently released his list of “co-chairs.” This is supposed to have some effect among the primary voter rubes, an appeal to authority whose authority never existed in the first instance and which in the Age of Trump has been vaporized. Those co-chairs are the reason Republicans haven’t won a statewide race in more than a decade. His “grassroots” leaders are anything but, a rogues gallery of the politically incompetent who voted for Evan McMullin.

* * * *

Pawlenty wants Trump to stay out of this primary race and for good reason. Johnson wants the opposite, for equally good reason. It’s even money what the Emperor will do.

On Pawlenty’s side, he can call in chits from the still extant swamp in DC, telling Trump’s inner circle that the Republican Governors Association is all in behind him, with their two point something million dollar media buy already “reserved.” Reserved media can be cancelled in a flash with no penalty. Rubes aren’t supposed to know this; the threat of it going away is the salient point. Think of it as a fake bargaining chip for an artificial candidate.

Jeff Johnson, on the other hand, can appeal to what Trump himself experienced: generally discounted, not the Establishment favorite but with a wide base of grassroots support. The question of money for the general largely vanishes once Trump has endorsed your candidacy.

Don’t look for any endorsement when he comes to Duluth this week, though. It’s far too early and the President wants to showcase Pete Stauber, as well as hold forth to the American people on Singapore, the IG report, trade, immigration, the economy and wherever else his mind goes to once off the TelePrompter. His rally had to be moved to accommodate the crowds expected. What does it say about his chances in the general that Pawlenty is staying away?

* * * *

Pawlenty and his supporters disparage the endorsement system, mostly because they no longer own it. They say it’s a small group of 3,000 who ought not be allowed to speak for all Minnesota Republicans. Friday the Pawlenty campaign congratulated itself for raising 1.7 million dollars. This mostly consisted of 274 people willing to write checks for the maxxed out amount of $4,000. But yes, the Vision Caster said, more openness and democracy was his goal. Pawlenty’s populist approach is as inauthentic as his painfully robotic tweets in support of President Trump. No one believes either but they’re counting on you not noticing what’s being stolen: your party.

Team Grifters™ genuinely believes that with a lot of money they can blow by the primary because TIM PAWLENTY. That really is how they think. I know these people, literally. It rises to nothing else except for programming the candidate for what his handlers think those awful people who voted for Trump want to hear. Those handlers loathe Trump, didn’t vote for him. Fortunately, you’re stupid enough to be conned because of television, radio and social media ads. Again, I give you their literal thinking.

Speaker Kurt Daudt said after the MNGOP convention in Duluth that he thought Pawlenty made a mistake by not participating in it and would find the primary more challenging than he thinks. This outburst of truth telling was quickly walked back but it remains true. Honesty looks good on the Speaker. He should try it more often.

Pawlenty’s campaign is already a disaster: insular, tone deaf, phony, filled with Never Trumpers. Pawlenty comes across as the Stepford Candidate. If I’m stuck with him, I want him to win. But if what we’ve seen so far from his unasked for political reappearance is any clue, he’ll lose in November, a political crime for which neither he nor his supporters will accept ever responsibility. They’ll blame the rubes, they always do, it’s all they know.

Pawlenty’s campaign is an anti-Trump coup. Everything else in the nation’s politics can change, but not for the dumbest Republicans in it. Yet for them, the night of August 14, 2018 just might turn out to be as unpleasant as was the night of November 8, 2016.

John Gilmore

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