September 29, 2005

Setting Priorities

I haven't had the opportunity to talk about last Sunday's appearance on Race to the Right, on KNSI AM1450 in Saint Cloud, with hosts Marty Andrade and Tony Garcia. I appeared as a guest, along with King and Andy Aplikowski of "Residual Forces", an excellent blog for inside Minnesota political baseball.

We ran down the list of District Six candidates. Now, I live in the Fourth District, so I only know so much about the Sixth race - but since there's nothing useful going on in the Fourth, it makes a nice academic exercise.

The question - what did I think about the candidates?

The correct answer: Who cares what I think? I don't live in the Sixth District! But as I see it - and I freely admit my opinion is neither fully formed nor especially informed - things shake out like this:

  • Jim Knoblach is a superb legislative technician. He's one of those people that are...well, my polar opposites, a politician who seems to excel at politics, the day to day technical grind of working out language and ironing out deals. Is that, and a power base in Saint Cloud, going to earn him a nomination in the Sixth, a district that runs from Saint Cloud along the northern suburban fringe of the Metro and all the way to Stillwater? I have my doubts.
  • Jay Esmay, on which more below. Jay plays the veteran card, and plays it well - it gives him plenty of up-front credibility. He has a relatively solid vision, although not a monolithically conservative one, which loses him a few points. But the vision seems, to the outsider's first glance, like the anti-Knoblach; it evinces little taste for or background in the knock-down drag-out of the compromise. It would seem in character; Esmay's background is in Special Forces Aviation, as well as Manufacturing management; neither field is known for gray areas. More - much more - below.
  • Michele Bachmann is, of course, a lightning rod for people with all sorts of agendas; the educational-industral complex reviles her leadership in the education reform movement - a movement to which I give lukewarm support (which is why Cheri Pierson Yecke's departure from the race is really a non-factor to me; I think most education reforms are akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Wilhelm Gustloff). And her social conservatism has every two-bit agendamonger in the five-state area jumping up and down and waving their arms and screaming "Hate! Hate! Hate!". All of which is good - and, in fact, could be a serious benefit. But while I tend toward social conservatism in most respects, I wonder if it's a big winner without a sincere, rigidly conservative fiscal vision - especially in a right-leaning, fiscally-savvy district like the Sixth? I think Bachmann needs to settle on a fiscal message and hammer on it, to overcome what Andy noted as some antipathy toward her in the Sixth's delegate base. The good news for Bachmann? Either way - whether she stays in the MN Senate or goes to Washington - Minnesota wins.
  • Phil Krinkie is sharp. He is to all appearances the sort of social conservative that will fly just fine among the Sixth's delegates, and he is the face of fiscal conservatism in the MN House; In Nick Coleman and Brian Lambert's fever dreams, David Strom runs Krinkie via a little remote control transmitter. This is very good. He's also a solid legislator with a concise vision that has taken a back seat to his experience, so far. Downside, say (as I recall) Andy and King, is the question "will he play in Saint Cloud?" Good question; a better one might be "If Krinkie or Bachmann win the nomination, will Knoblach and Esmay bust their asses for them in the northwest? And vice versa - if Jim or Jay win, will Michele and Phil hoof it to get them some name recognition in the metro 'burbs?"
During the first hour, Jay Esmay called in, essentially to correct (as he saw it) one of Marty's remarks.

I engaged Esmay in a brief conversation, one that some of the insufficiently perceptive in the audience have tried to gloss over, so I'll give you some context; to me, it seems like his campaign leans very hard on his military background, and on a vision of reforming the military. An important goal? Indeed, it is. It's a vision I agree with and support fully!

But I had to ask - did he think that was going to be the make-or-break issue among GOP delegates, the flashpoint issue that would solidify or scupper a nomination? And did he think it was going to be the issue that put a GOP candidate over the top against a DFLer in November '06?

His response seemed defensive - I'm paraphrasing closely, here - "Don't you think the war is an important issue?"

I doubt you could read my blog for ten seconds and miss that I believe the war is the most important issue facing this nation for the next five years or more. Not that I expected Esmay to have read my blog - but it seemed an odd assumption to make.

I tried to re-center the question; I do support the war, but it seems to me that "reforming the military" (as distinct from "winning the war") is about as vital an issue in the Sixth as Agricultural Price Supports are in the Fifth.

Furthermore, the question at the convention in the Sixth is not going to be "who supports the president in the war effort" - and I've talked with all of them except Knoblach, now - but "Who supports it most loudly and constantly". And it doesn't strike me that winning that contest is, perforce, going to lead directly to nomination.

So my advice to Jay Esmay, which you can add to a buck and get a cup of coffee: you need to add something to your comprehensive and very credible vision for military reform; that "something" is a vision for the boring stuff you didn't deal with as a Special Ops pilot; taxes; immigration; farm subsidies (the Sixth has a large rural population, and a larger one that depends on agribiz), crime, the economy; the pocketbook issues that affect people in between thinking about the war.

That, in fact, was the point.

Jay Esmay and Jim Knoblach haven't appeared on the NARN yet. While our people will be in touch with their people, be advised that we will welcome both of them at 1PM on any Saturday convenient to them.

Thanks, by the way, to Marty and Tony. It was a fun day, they are constantly improving as hosts (they've come a long way since the show was on "The Deuce"), and let's face it - being stuck around a table with a bunch of smart people, talking politics, is always a gas. I look forward to listening to their podcasts (KNSI's signal doesn't even reach the metro!) in the future.

Posted by Mitch at September 29, 2005 06:45 AM | TrackBack

"...and let's face it - being stuck around a table with a bunch of smart people, talking politics, is always a gas."

So the Elder must have been out of town, I'm assuming.

Posted by: JB Doubtless at September 29, 2005 10:13 AM

Elder was in town. WE were out - in St. Cloud.

Dude, you should do a show in Rochester.

Posted by: mitch at September 29, 2005 11:38 AM

Even if he was in town we did not have enough room for ANOTHER person.

Posted by: Tony at September 29, 2005 03:02 PM
Post a comment

Remember personal info?