I went to the Minnesota GOP convention in Rochester over the weekend.

The atmosphere could hardly have been more different than the 2012 convention, with its factions and intrigues and cliques full of giggly partisans with their secret handshakes and code words.

This year, the code word was “pragmatism”; the GOP base is sick to death of losing.

Dahlbmentum:  The big shock out of the gate?  The collapse of the Julianne Ortman campaign.  She fell under the statutory 20% minimum by the 5th ballot (candidates that don’t have 10% on ballots 2-4, and more than 20% after ballot 5, are dropped from contention).

But St. Louis county commissioner Chris Dahlberg came out swinging, leading the balloting from the first ballot through the end of Friday evening.

Friends from greater Minnesota tell me it could only have been a surprise to people in the Metro; Dahlberg has been working outstate delegates constantly and intensely.  And I think he was a protest vote as well; a backlash against the impression that McFadden – who had said he’d go to a primary if he didn’t get endorsed – was the hand-picked candidate of Norm Coleman and Vin Weber.

If you have any friends who were delegates, they will no doubt tell you all about it today, yawning as they do; the balloting continued until 2AM, with Dahlberg leading by 54-45 when the convention voted to suspend voting until 9AM Saturday; people were getting pretty exhausted.

It may have kept Mike McFadden in the endorsement chase.  We heard that the McFadden people had called out no-show delegates to get to Rochester, and with the morning’s first ballot the race was nearly even; by Ballot 10, McFadden and Dahlberg had switched positions from the night before, with McFadden in the fifties.  Around 1:30 in the afternoon – as the Northern Alliance was on the air – Dahlberg conceded.

So the Senate balloting ended half a day later than expected.

Maneuvering:  Then came the governor race.

The conventional wisdom called it a three-way race between Jeff Johnson, Marty Seifert and Dave Thompson (with Scott Honour and Kurt Zellers skipping the convention and going straight to the primary).

The first ballot reflected this; Johnson had a slight lead, but the top three were bunched in the low-thirties to high twenties.  Rob Farnsworth dropped out after Ballot 2 (he fell under 10%) and sent his delegates to Johnson (to whom it looked like most of them had already gone).

Ballot 3 saw Johnson extending his lead, with Seifert and Thompson falling further behind.

Here’s where it gets complicated.

After ballot 3, Dave Thompson withdrew and, in a superbly crafted concession speech, told his delegates to go to Johnson – strictly because Johnson and pledged to abide by their endorsement – and urged Seifert’s delegates to think hard about Seifert’s position (he’s always said he’d go to a primary if he wasn’t endorsed).

Not long after, Seifert took to the stage, and released his delegates, saying many of them had long drives home.

Jeff Kolb describes the strategy and the effect:

In his speech Seifert released his delegates and told them they could go home. The move was an attempt by Seifert’s campaign to block the endorsement of Johnson. Endorsement requires 60% of the votes that are cast, but that number needs to be more than 50% of the delegate count at the time of the last credentials report. So if enough people leave, it becomes impossible (or very difficult without some crazy rules wrangling) to obtain an endorsement.

The non-Seifert part of the floor erupted in anger.  And it turned out that there were enough votes left to beat the 50% requirement; Johnson topped 60% on the fourth ballot, for the endorsement.

Summing Up:  We’re basically going to go to the primary with the same exact governor field (sans Thompson), and a horde of pundits saying this year was the death of the endorsement process.  We’ll see, of course; if the endorsement gives Johnson the clout to win the primary, then rumors of its death may be exaggerated.

And I have a newfound respect for the likes of Tom Scheck, Rachel Stassen-Berger and Bill Salisbury, who have to not only cover this stuff for a living, but make it readable and listenable to boot.

So we’ll see you out on the primary trail!

21 thoughts on “Inconclusive

  1. If McFadden is the guy Mr. Berg had on his radio program this past winter, his squishiness would make a fully engorged sea sponge look like a granite block.

    Whenever Mr. Berg tried to pin the candidate-guest down on his views on the universal background check/de-facto gun registration scheme, the candidate would only reply, “First we need to beat Franken.” Mr. Berg posed the question a few times with no better result; the guy didn’t even offer a good dodge to a question he was clearly uncomfortable with. I’d at least give him points if he did.

    I hope it wasn’t McFadden. My memory and radio reception are equally as bad. If so, I’m surprised that the Second Amendment was not on the GOP convention short list of issues. That’s troubling.

  2. As a delegate, I supported Mr. Dahlberg during the Friday Night balloting, but having a chance to sleep on it, and wanting to beat Mr. Franken in November, I figured it was better to support Mr. McFadden and his money in the morning.

    As for the Governor balloting, I was disgusted by the classlessness of Mr. Seifert’s speech. It boiled down to pretty much saying, “Well, it’s getting late, and I know I can’t win, so I’ll head to the primary anyways.” Very annoying, especially after Mr. Thompson (who isn’t related) gave a very nice one.

  3. One of the morning hosts on the “other” talk station ripped Seifert a new one this morning. It was quite remarkable. Someone else tried to say something, and the host said “I’m not finished”. Everyone else just shut up and let him finish his rant. it was one of the most pointed and angry political degradations I’ve EVER heard on any talk show. It was between 8:20 and 8:30am today if you want to grab the podcast and give a listen.

  4. I was pretty turned off by Seifert, too! His attitude seems to be that everything is about him and him alone. Sounded too much like a spolied Democrat – it doesn’t matter what the delegates say, damn it! I’m going to primary anyway! And Republicans wonder why they keep getting beaten bloody!

  5. Bill – I heard Ben’s riff as I was driving to work.

    Remarkable is a good word for it.

  6. MBerg: How will the base react when the GOP establishment replaces Johnson with either Seifert or Honour in the primary?

  7. MBerg: How will the base react when the GOP establishment replaces Johnson with either Seifert or Honour in the primary?

    The base will be voting in the primary. Honour might be able to buy it, but Seifert screwed the pooch on Saturday.

  8. Mitch: I looked for you there buddy but didn’t find you. Though I am a strong supporter for Jeff Johnson, I think they were a bit tough on Marty. He was the class act of the 2010 convention and I think got a lot of bad advice on when to get into the race. He was correct to go to the primary though I think his name has been a bit forgotten in the last 4 years. I will not forget his classiness 4 years ago and think he just picked the wrong time to say the wrong thing. The GOP though did a fine job to pull together. I can’t wait to see more from Chris Dahlberg and also Mr. Mills who has a wonderful unpredictability about him.

  9. What percentage of the primary voters will the base represent?

    We’ll find out on primary day.

  10. MBerg, Do you know the attendance numbers (delegates) for the GOP convention in Rochester? It’s been reported attendance was low when compared to the nearly 7000 Republican activists that could have attended. A much larger turnout at the primary would represent a real challenge to Mr. Johnson as his delegate support was minimal at best (4th ballot).

  11. Emery,

    Where did you get the number “7,000” for potential attendees? I’ve been to several of these, in good and bad GOP years. The number of attendees is always within a standard deviation of 2,000 or so, and I”ve never heard 7K, ever.

  12. According to teller, the allowed seating was 2224. That was the max number of delegates and/or alternates that were allowed to be seated on the floor.

    If every single delegate or alternate that had been elected showed up, there could be 6,500 – but that has never happened. Going to the convention isn’t easy or cheap for anyone more than a few hours from the hosting city; most BPOUs have a pretty fair idea of the delegates that can/will attend, and which alternates will be needed and when.

    Attendance was better than in 2012, IIRC.

  13. Brodkorb is clearly on the Honour’s payroll. How much are they paying you Mike for consulting services?

  14. The number of delegates allotted to the convention was 2224, and that number never changes, regardless of whether delegates or alternates are seated and voting.

    As for Mr. Seifert, he is off my list because he is incapable of simple math. Between Mr. Johnson and Mr. Thompson, they held some 73% of the delegates, and far more than 50% of the voting strength. Mr. Seifert was just stupid to do what he did, because he would have had the same result by keeping silent. There was no need to insult the delegates and the process.

  15. I’m guessing that means alternates included. But as Mitch said, there were only 2224 voting chairs available on the floor. The other 5500 potential activists that might have shown up would have only been spectators “in the convention hall” (a.k.a. in the bleacher seats, not on the floor), with no input on the process or votes to cast. I was one of those in 2010. I learned a bit about the whole convention process, but in hindsight, I could have/should have saved my $50 and not gone since I was not a seated delegate/alternate.

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