Friday, November 17, 2006

Pawlenty road trip, Part VIII

Monday, 6:00 pm: Owatonna

Joe Repya rouses the crowd, Owatonna. (c) North Star Liberty.
Senate Minority Leader Sen. Dick Day (R-Owatonna) met the rally in the parking lot of the Owatonna Cabella's. After the rally, we grabbed dinner at Wendy's.

Monday, 8:00 pm: Rochester

Rochester. (c) North Star Liberty
A light rain stopped as we arrived at Peace Plaza in Rochester, down the block from the glass-sided Mayo Clinic building, which shined like a jewel after dark. A dozen or so Hatch supporters with signs greeted the bus. (Look closely and you can see one in the photo.) We had a good turnout of media and "regular people."

Monday, 9:45 pm: Croatian Hall, South Saint Paul

The grand finale of the bus tour was held in the Pawlenty family neighborhood in South Saint Paul, at the Croatian Hall, where the Governor announced his first campaign in 2001. Although the rally was replete with Republican Party higher-ups and candidates, the rally had the feel of old home week, with one of the Governor's brothers at the side of the old-fashioned proscenium stage at the far end of the room, opposite the front door, across a well-worn wood floor. The smallish hall was packed, of course, with loud and enthusiastic supporters, and the atmosphere was warm in more ways than one.

Friday, November 16

I am nearly over the shock and awe of last week's stunning victory of the DFL in Minnesota, and the Democrats nationally. As one of the pundits observed, voters must have been pretty angry at the Republicans to vote out the incumbent secretary of state and the state auditor (how many voters even know what the state auditor does?). Yet with defense of marriage amendments passing in seven of eight states, a death penalty provision passing in Wisconsin, and the election of John Kline and Michele Bachmann to Congress, reports of the death of conservatism are greatly exaggerated.

Rather than seeing support for Ronald Reagan conservatism and a rejection of complacent, RINO Republicanism, Republican leaders here and nationally, including reelected Governor Tim Pawlenty, are taking this opportunity to steer hard to port. How disappointing to those of us who see party membership and grassroots activism (precinct caucuses, door knocking, lit dropping, bus riding) as a means to the end of advancing a vision that is different from that of the liberal left.

The challenge for the conservative, smaller government, lower taxes, free enterprise, family values base, will be to decide who's driving the Republican bus from here to 2008 and beyond (and maybe even who owns the bus).

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