Tom Emmer doesn't walk into a room so much as he overtakes it. He has an undeniable presence and the bearing of a successful coach, a man who understands the big picture and has a definite vision of what he wants to accomplish. He's the kind of man who takes bold steps and leaves footprints.
One thing about people who leave footprints -- they understand what footprints can do. So when Emmer spoke to the audience at Lakeside Homes in New Brighton on Sunday, it was especially interesting that the first thing he mentioned were the footsteps that state employees are allowed to take. Specifically, he talked about the implications of the state's weed inspection program, which allows a state employee to enter just about anyone's property to inspect and potentially mitigate a weed issue on that property. And since the enabling legislation was poorly drawn, that employee could be anyone from an actual inspector to the governor. This is just one program but is emblematic of a larger problem, Emmer believes -- Big Government is everywhere.
It's a telling anecdote and it speaks to a life experience at the business end of an intrusive government. Emmer is a small businessman first and a legislator second. Like many people similarly situated, he found that the depredations of government required a response larger than filling out forms, so he followed the model of Cincinnatus and put down his plow, running for office to represent the Delano area. He has served in the legislature since he was elected in 2004. His district includes Waverly, the home of the greatest of all DFLers, Hubert Humphrey.
Although Emmer and Humphrey have almost nothing in common politically, they share a common character trait -- both are happy warriors. You get the sense that, even if Emmer hadn't planned on a political career, he has taken to it and really enjoys the experience of being on the hustings. He speaks with great passion and conviction about the nature of leadership, about the importance of differentiating negotiation and compromise, about the importance of staying true to the principles of limited government. He speaks with obvious concern about the future that his seven children face, especially given the burdens that government has already put in place. It's a compelling vision and it's red, red meat for a conservative audience.
Emmer's vision has also gained a number of adherents. The perception has been that his opponent, Marty Seifert, has the support of the GOP establishment. Despite that, Emmer has managed to gain the endorsement of some key players within the party structure, including Lt. Governor Carol Molnau, Rep. Laura Brod and former United States Senator Rod Grams. It's a formidable lineup of support for a guy who has only been on the scene for 5 years. It's also a sign that, at least among GOP activists, Emmer is a formidable candidate and communicator.
Political figures come in many variations and Emmer's opponent is a very different type of politician. The question for Republican delegates is this -- because Tom Emmer is a dynamic communicator of conservative values, he is an exceedingly attractive candidate within the GOP caucus. But will that visionary style, painted in bold strokes, translate to the larger electorate? We'll get to that in the coming days.
Tom Emmer's website is Emmer for Governor.com.
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