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Seifert's gold medal

October 5, 2009 - Per Peterson
To Marty Seifert, last weekend's straw poll of Republican candidates making a gubernatorial run in 2010 was a little like the Olympics — finish in the top three and you could find yourself on the podium when all is said and done.

Finish out of the top three, he says, and it’s likely a candidate will have little chance of taking home the state’s top political prize.

If that’s the case, Seifert, R-Marshall, won the gold medal.

Seifert, one of nine Republican candidates looking to break away from a crowded field at the state party convention in St. Paul, was the top vote-getter out of all the candidates in the non-binding straw poll. Seifert took 37 percent of the votes, followed in the distance by state Rep. Tom Emmer, who pulled down 23 percent of the vote.

"It's a good indicator of where everybody stands at the present time," Seifert said. "But for us, instead of relaxing, we're going to work double now. To get endorsed, you need 60 percent, so everybody has a road to climb. We want this to be the floor, not the ceiling; we want this to be the foundation block. We know where our big strengths are and we know where we have to work real hard at."

The poll is looked at as an early indicator of candidate support, with the winner walking away with momentum and a potential fundraising advantage. In a way, it’s like preseason football — the games don’t count, but they do give an indication as to what fans can expect. Seifert, who said he’ll be sending out 20,000 fundraising letters mentioning the results, said the poll gives supporters and voters a look at who has the best chance of standing on that podium next year.

‘‘Donors, volunteers and Republicans in general want to bet on a winning horse,’’ he told the Independent after Saturday’s convention. ‘‘They don’t want to be on the horse going to the glue factory.’’

The candidates were looking for votes from the almost 1,200 delegates who gathered for the off-year convention. All but one of those nine candidates met Friday night in a debate to let those delegates know why they’re the right person to replace Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who will not seek a third term.

If the poll is any indication, Seifert and Emmer — who recently visited Marshall and says he's riding a bike on his campaign tour while other candidates are driving a "fully loaded Cadillac with leather seats and Sirius radio" — are the head and shoulders of the party's race. Of course, that could change next year if Norm Coleman decides to make things interesting and throw his hat into the Republican ring. Could, but Seifert says it might not make as big of a difference as many people would think.

"If he gets into the race, we won't change our style or drive of getting more volunteers and donors," said Seifert, who also said his gut tells him Coleman won't even join the race. "I think that I wouldn't have anymore trouble getting endorsed with or without him in the race. I don't know that it would affect the race as much as people think."

Seifert may not change much about his campaign if Coleman joins, but it would be foolish for any candidate to think Coleman entering the race won't affect the final outcome. Despite Seifert's big weekend and apparent overall strength in nearly all parts of the state, Coleman has the name, he has the money and he has the supporters to become the state's next governor.

If last weekend's poll results did anything, they gave Seifert and his team confidence enough to overcome what he says is a disbelief factor in southwestern Minnesota. Governor Seifert? To people in and around Marshall, those two words might sound strange together.

"Locally, I think there were some doubting Thomases in this area," Seifert said. "I think the convention is convincing people people that I could be elected governor of this state. Before, I think people were thinking, "I just don't know if someone from the area could be elected governor."

The Minnesota DFL Party calls the poll nothing more than an "interesting exercise that didn't change by one iota the basic challenge that all the Republican candidates must face: that every one of them have supported Governor Pawlenty's disastrous governing style, which has plunged our state toward a $7 billion budget deficit. They have been loyal soldiers in the Republican assault on Minnesota—ballooning the state’s budget deficit, kicking Minnesotans off health care and reducing aid to our local communities. Luckily Minnesotans will have an easier choice next year — Tim Pawlenty-light or a DFL candidate who represents leadership, courage and responsibility.”

Both parties hold endorsing conventions in April, but the nominees won’t be decided until a September primary.


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