In lightning speed for a political convention, Rosemount economics teacher Kurt Bills was endorsed Friday as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate on the second ballot at the Minnesota Republican convention in St. Cloud.
Bills, a first-term state representative, prevailed with 64 percent of the vote of 2,100 delegates.
Within minutes after thanking his supporters, his family and his competitors, Bills was telling reporters of his plan for the days ahead. “I’m going to show up Monday morning for my advanced economics class,” he said. “After that we are going to riding this bus that will be touring around the state.” His theme, he said, is to bring “econ 101” to Washington.
A few thoughts:
- I didn't endorse anyone, because my view didn't particularly matter. I would have ranked Bills third of the three contenders. I thought that Doc Severson had more experience and it's been clear that Pete Hegseth has some amazing political skills and a compelling personal narrative. Bills has neither of these things, but he does have enthusiastic supporters and a good, if somewhat limited, message. More about that anon.
- The victory, as should be obvious, is very much a victory for the Ron Paul supporters who have effectively taken over the apparatus of the Minnesota GOP. Paul's libertarian variant of conservatism hasn't necessarily earned him the support of the rank-and-file GOP members, but his supporters had a plan and have executed it brilliantly, with Bills as the beneficiary.
- I support the notion of bringing "Econ 101" to Washington. Really, I do. The notion that a principled economist could make a difference in the Senate is appealing to me. But if we really want to send an economist to Washington, the GOP should have endorsed King Banaian instead. I'm not sure that the electorate is going to want to listen to an economist, especially when Amy Klobuchar is going to run a soft-focus, I-Care-About-You sort of campaign. Bills will have to figure out how to puncture that balloon without coming off as a purveyor of "eat your spinach" or somesuch.
- Now that the Paul folks have won, they need to start being a little more conciliatory. I have no sympathy for a lot of the moderate Republican political types who were pushed to the side, but they did and do represent a constituency. There are a lot of Minnesotans who are broadly conservative, but not especially focused on the issues that Paul supporters typically cite. I see a lot of disdain among certain Paul supporters for such people, especially in the "warmonger" and "neocon" taunts that get thrown around. Winning an argument and winning an election are separate things and in order to get Bills elected, some of that sort of rhetoric needs to be, ahem, ratcheted down. Remember, "neocons" vote.
- On that score, remember this -- while Severson and Hegseth will abide by the earlier pledges not to run against Bills in the primary, that doesn't preclude another candidate from entering the race. We won't really know if Bills has a clear path until June 5. So I'd strongly encourage the Bills campaign to get busy with the fence-mending.