Saturday, May 06, 2006

CD 6 GOP convention notes 

I forgot how to email a post and as noted Blogger is blocked at Monticello HS, so rather than a liveblog I am giving post-convention notes. As you may have heard me help announce on NARN a short while ago, Michele Bachmann won the GOP endorsement of the convention. After the third round result was announced all four candidates came to the stage, and the other three moved and seconded for a fourth ballot of unanimous endorsement of Bachmann. I didn't stay for the victory speech. Like Psycmeistr, I have mixed feelings. More on those in another post, but for now a recap of what I saw.

At the beginning of the day I talk to some people to find out more of what happened last night. Andy had posted some of the Friday frolics. I talked with Leo, and then others told me one of the things that helped stem the tide of the Bachmann attempt to move the agenda up to endorsement on Friday night was a speech Leo gave. Some may have thought it was a victory for the not-Bachmann forces, but at 130-127 I thought it might have been a test of delegate strength. It turns out I was right.

As I reported, Knoblach's people were getting out the word that this was going to happen, and therefore they wanted to get all their people there to stop it. Other campaigns had reason to get their people there too. I asked someone if perhaps the Bachmann people were doing a head fake to see what the reaction of the delegates would be and get a count. If all the other three campaigns could muster last night was 130 (which would be exactly 40% of the delegate count the next day), they had to think that was a good sign. I drove down thinking Bachmann would poll 50% on the first round. Now, I think, maybe closer to 55.

I then see an old and dear face: Cheri Yecke. The former candidate herself for this endorsement, she had endorsed Knoblach a few months ago, and now was back to second his nomination. We visit, and she asks me for more dogblogging. How's the job, I ask? One difference, she says, is that when she pulls up to work at the Florida Dept. of Education, all the cars in the parking lot have 'W' stickers. Safe to say that was not the case in MN.

The convention resumes; the chair of the convention is St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis (whose handling of the previous night's ruckus was questioned by more than a few delegates as making matters less orderly.) Guest speakers include Pat Anderson, Norm Coleman, and Tim Pawlenty. Coleman gives the loudest applause line: no money for the UN until Kofi Annan cleans up the joint. I think he really meant, until Annan quits. Pawlenty misstates that there are three great candidates. The crowd shouts back at him "Four!" �Well, yes there are four, and I�m sure they�re all good. I know three of them,� he replies. Not a good moment; there is obviously a desire to be respectful towards Esmay.

Andy, in his inimitable spelling-challenged way, runs down the speeches and does just about the same as me. I'm not as harsh with Bachmann's presentations, though I thought her choices of presenters -- Sen. Limmer and Michael Chapman -- show that her roots are still very much with the social conservatives, though she tries hard with her video to seem a fiscal conservative. Still, a very precise operation, much more so than the others. I'm taking bets on whether her son Lucas really did surprise her and her husband with the medical school admission.

Knoblach was unfortunately caught with a very dry throat, and the lights in the auditorium seemed to bother his eyes. Given how fast he reads his lines, he's nervous, perhaps about hitting the 30-minute time limit or just the enormity of the event. It marred what was otherwise a quite good speech. He does take a swipe at Bachmann at the end asking who could best beat Patty Wetterling, the presumed choice for the DFL. He's not long on specifics, but his broad themes are good.

I had to miss Krinkie with a call to make to NARN Volume I. I see Eric Black out there, and he's reading Esmay as having support. John Hinderaker tells me on the air he thinks it will be done early and that the opposition to Bachmann will melt away. It turns out he's right too, but the mood outside the hall is that it will be a many-ballot process with votes peeling off Bachmann after the first ballot. Interestingly to me, not many Bachmann people are standing around.

I go back in to watch most of Esmay's nomination. Leo and Tony are on stage and Leo gives a seconding speech. Second funniest line of the day comes from him, "I'm a Republican and I'm a school psychologist and I'm from Chicago, so I know what an underdog is." [UPDATE 10:15pm: My notes weren't so good, Psycmeistr says, but I got the gist of it.] Well, it was funny to me. Esmay has been peaking for awhile on the stump, and he hits his best notes today that I've heard. Played the Kline-and-Kennedy-were-nobodies-who-won card, plays his strength of defense (using a disabled veteran to nominate him), and displays grace and humor. His stump line: What candidate embodies the best of what our party stands for? He even gets off the bet lines about Wetterling, "We need to show Patty Wetterling says she�s a child advocate but she doesn�t protect the most vulnerable among them." He lucks out by going last; everyone applauds at the end. Ballots are handed out and retrieved, and we go to lunch.

I decided to sit on the floor in the entryway of a hall where the four campaign convention HQs are. That's a break. Esmay walks by and says "guess how many votes I got?" He gives me his count, which turns out to be right when I confirmed it later: Bachmann 183, Knoblach 58, Esmay 45, Krinkie 40. Bachamnn is 12 votes shy of endoresement. Down the hallway I see Krinkie, Bill Walsh, Keith Becker (formerly a St. John's CR now working on Krinkie's staff) and others huddled over a PDA. I see worry. Later I see Krinkie standing alone in the hall. He looks like he knows this isn't his day. Esmay is still pumped, Knoblach and Bachmann are gladhanding delegates.

I grab Andy and get him to give the results on air (he had just gotten off KTLK but not with the results, yes!) He tells me the funniest line of the day -- apparently one of Krinkie's nominators says something negative about Esmay. Andy's vice chair says to him, I can't believe he did that. You don't kick the puppy. That's hysterical, and turns out to be right.

At this point the party is using resolutions to occupy/entertain the delegates while they run additional ballots. One particular fellow from my district keeps getting up to the mic to speak for or against resolutions. Because I'm not a seated delegate, I'm in the guest section with Tony, Prof. Debbie Daniels of the U of M, and it turns out Peter Zeller of the Center for the American Experiment. Debbie and I sit on the MAS board, and she's both an avid reader of this blog and a NARN listener. She too wants more dogblogging. (You will get your wish.) I start milling around and talking to other reporters. A group of Knoblach supporters are huddled around with one woman crying. I think she's related to Jim, but I cannot be sure. Soon Bachmann people walk by and signal with four fingers -- they're four votes short. Sure enough, when the announcement comes, Bachmann 191, Knoblach 63, Krinkie 36, Esmay 35. Immediately the third ballots are handed out. I grab Tony to come on the air with me to give the results, and from what I can hear on my end of the phone Tony, Mitch and Ed are pretty involved in Tony's declamations of Bachmann.

One theory I heard from an experienced observer was that Bachmann had parked votes for the first ballot with Esmay. What is interesting in the second ballot is that, as opposed to the buzz that Esmay had momentum, he didn't gain votes in the second round. Moreover, I am still unsure what the crying and worried looks among the Knoblach camp were about. Larry Schumacher comes by about this time and we exchange notes, as I do earlier with Eric Black.

One more think hits me. We still see the three lesser candidates haning around the 130 mark, which was the number voting on the early endorsement question Friday night. The second round shuffles votes to Bachmann and Knoblach from the other two. If they can't get the three together into the 150s, no one of them has a shot at 195.

Nevertheless, it was apparent by this time that Bachmann would go over the top the next ballot. There was nothing else to be done. Resolutions, frankly, are boring. And lucky for us on the air, the third ballot came back quickly. Seeing the time on my watch as 2:47, I didn't wait for a vote count and ran out to call it in. Courtesy Larry (you'll have to scroll*), Bachmann 198, Knoblach 68, Krinkie 33 and Esmay 24 (26, says Tony -- that would add to 325, so it makes sense). Schumacher also reports:

Bachmann (and her delegates) left the convention shortly after her endorsement. The business of the convention continues, but without about 50 percent of the delegates.

She also answered questions from the press for only a few seconds before being shepherded away.

She declined to answer a question about what the fall campaign will be about.

Knoblach says he won't buck the endorsement, and I hear others won't either. Indeed, one person told me Krinkie still hasn't decided whether to seek re-election to his state House seat. Phil, if you're reading this, please run again. Every legislature needs a Dr. No.

Esmay? Men of character handle defeat well. All three had shown character, but none more than Jay, who needs to keep blogging. He closed his nominating speech with his answer to the question we asked him at Andy's district's forum last November: What's the one principle you won't compromise? "Sleep." I believe Jay will sleep well tonight.

*Note to SCTimes. On a blog, you absolutely need permalinks. Also, you've got to have the blog easier to find. Larry's got the hang of this thing, and you have a chance to be ahead of the curve in the blogosphere.