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Tom Horner's Centrism Is A Personna - Not the Real Deal

Category: Tom Horner
Posted: 09/13/10 04:31

by Dave Mindeman

Governor candidate Tom Horner has been characterizing himself as a true middle of the roader...the classic centrist.....that viable third alternative.

But if Tom Horner is a "moderate centrist", what the hell is that? Well, judging by what Horner is talking about, I'd say he is really running under the old I-R (Independent Republican) banner.

Horner has been getting a number of features in newspapers of late. They seem intrigued by the idea of Horner as the alternative candidate. The other two parties are repeating some of the older partisan themes and in the case of Emmer, those papers are getting frustratingly little on what he will do with the budget.

But is Horner really this centrist candidate? His past history would say no. Horner is a public relations guy. He knows that words matter and is skilled at putting out a message that sounds better than the underlying practicality of what he is saying.

For years I listened to him do political analysis on MPR. He was the Republican partisan....and he could spin talking points in a dizzying array of ways.

His budget ideas follow the old line (I-R) Republican ways. He may not be hard core conservative, but it is GOP none the less.

You notice that he acknowledges that new revenue is needed to balance the state budget. Past Republicans like Dave Jennings, Dave Bishop, or Gov. Quie followed similar solutions. They resisted tax increases but never ruled them out when needed.

However, Horner follows the old GOP line of protecting the rich. He uses the same tired argument that taxing the higher income brackets will stunt job growth and penalize small business. He follows that mantra even though factual evidence says that this is not true.

Instead, Horner wants to use regressive taxes on clothing and services. As well as tobacco and liquor. Horner tells us it is necessary and quite frankly, a case can be made for these types of changes if they were included in a package of tax rebalancing. But, if such rebalancing is to be achieved, then the rich still must contribute to get back to a structurally balanced budget policy.

Horner doesn't do that. Oh, he talks about reforms and that meaningless word - redesign. But he knows better than anyone else that this is just another PR ploy. It closes or excuses the gaps in a plan that doesn't fully meet a massive budget deficit.

And he talks extensively about re-investing in education....yet, he follows the Emmer ploy which delays the education funding shift for a full 2 years (if not longer). He talks about higher education help as well, but no sign of tuition coming down in a Horner administration.

Of course, Horner, as an old line (I-R) Republican courts the business community. They were the best friends of the old I-R party. And Horner may have made some progress in that regard. He makes himself available to Chamber of Commerce members at every opportunity. We don't know what he is promising them, but it sounds like some of them like what he is saying.

When you look at Horner's Issues page, you get a lot of feel good words and platitudes, but not very much in the way of concrete solutions. For instance on education --

We can?t keep asking school districts to do more with less. But that doesn?t mean that education deserves a blank check

Sounds great....but there is no solution there. He even talks about raising teacher salaries (with what?) and holding school districts accountable (where the problem isn't).

Similar words spew forth on a variety of topics. Lots of talk about investments, redesign, and wise choices. But a good used car salesman can use all the right words as well.

Horner did come out with a reasonably detailed budget plan. It was the first real policy chance he has taken. And he probably had to take that issue on, because Emmer continued to stall and Horner didn't want to be classified in the same way.

But even at that, he used "safe" words and sometimes vague calculations that require us to imagine "reform and redesign" actually bringing in positive budget numbers.

Horner has a slick manner about him. Lots of arm waving and distraction....along with a plethora of words, words, words. In public relations, the job description is to make their clients look better than they are. To distract all of us from the negatives by oversimplifying the positive.

Horner will use these P-R tools to implant in our minds that he has planted a flag on the middle ground. That he is that centrist that everybody has been looking for.

But Horner hasn't really changed much. His party changed a lot, but Horner himself still has that old I-R label on his sleeve. He is no centrist -- he is just a public relations centrist personna.

He can fool a few newspapers obviously, but as this campaign heats up, Tom Horner's campaign will be just another house of cards.
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Hahn Puts A Cloud On the Horner Campaign

Category: Tom Horner
Posted: 07/01/10 17:10, Edited: 07/01/10 17:12

by Dave Mindeman

The news following the Tom Horner IP campaign today is another curious one to deal with. Longshot opponent in the IP primary, Rob Hahn, may have just improved his position quite a bit....thanks to another Horner misstep.

Hahn has called on Horner to withdraw from the campaign. Why? Well, it revolves around Diane Traxler who holds an ownership/partner position with the Bill Morris polling firm Decision Resources and also a leadership position in the Horner campaign....at least for now.

Now this is not illegal although it skirts the boundaries of ethics, and in addition it was all on the public record...so technically, they were not hiding anything....but, still...gee whiz...it just doesn't look right.

Horner dismisses all of this as just attacks on his candidacy. Yea, well, I don't think there would be much too it, if it hadn't been handled quite so shakily.

Decision Resources (which involves Bill Morris and Diane Traxler; gets 20% of Horner's former firm's, (Himlie-Horner) business, and Morris is a personal friend and Traxler works directly with the Horner campaign) has a little too much to do with Horner. And it is getting harder to believe that a poll giving Horner an outlier number of 20%, when every other poll is in the 12-15% range, is accurate.

Decision Resources gave Horner a heads up on the numbers as well. Before all the other campaigns and behind only the Pioneer Press which was promised the exclusive media first results.

Horner, Morris and Traxler all are well aware that a surprising poll number could be utilized for great positive spin. It could boost fund raising and give Horner a much needed uptick at an early and critical stage of the campaign.

Of course, the Republicans went ballistic because their candidate suffered the most in the data. And they did their usual lawsuit thing which most of us dismiss as ho-hum procedures these days. (Incidently, the case has been dismissed today). But the brouhaha has gotten to the point that legitimate questions are being offered. Horner's campaign offered a deflective comment on the situation:

Horner's campaign spokesman, Matt Lewis, declined to comment on Hahn's allegation and the hearings. He did release this one sentence statement: "As a former news producer, Mr. Hahn surely knows that when information is released to the media it is public information."

Which probably means they are looking for a more plausible explanation...and quite frankly, they better figure one out.

An IP candidacy can only thrive when its candidate can embrace and make believable, his or her "outsider" status. Change in the two party system can't come from a person who works the system and depends on political ploys and gimmicks. The IP normally would reject such a candidate and I guess they will be moving toward a decision on that in August. Rob Hahn now has a case he can make... a legitimate case. And Horner must find a way to re-establish himself as not part of the status quo.

Horner may weather the storm. It may all go away, kinda. He has made a living in public relations and he certainly knows how to spin things. But really, doesn't that just prove he is more of an insider than he says he is?

Horner will minimize all this, but all this attention could have been avoided by simply letting the Decision Resources poll run its natural course without taking an early shot at getting publicity by proving to everyone that Horner had inside information. And he could have disclosed his personal relationship with Morris and the dual role of Traxler immediately. Even if it was "public" information -- the slow release of "discoveries" did not help the cause.

I'm not sure how all this will play out with Horner's credibility. Personally, I don't think it will play well.
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Tom Horner: An Additional Gubernatorial Question Mark

Category: Tom Horner
Posted: 05/04/10 19:46

by Dave Mindeman

Tom Horner...who or what is he?

Republicans say he is a disguised Democrat. Democrats say he is a purged Republican. Huh...maybe we really do have the ultimate Independent candidate here.

Although his place on the November ballot is not assured until after this Saturday (or maybe even the August primary), the speculation about how a Horner candidacy will affect the Governor's race has already begun.

So, let's add to it.

Horner was chief of staff for Sen. Dave Durenberger in the '80's. Sen. Durenberger was at his side today when he made his official announcement. He was also flanked by former Democrat Tim Penney, who also was an Independence Party candidate for Governor.

Durenberger was clearly from the moderate wing of the Republican Party in Minnesota. A wing that has all but disappeared amidst the ultra conservative take over of the Minnesota GOP. Horner went on to be a GOP analyst, often the radio voice of the "old" GOP on MPR.

But as Horner says, he stayed put and the GOP moved away from him. Far, far away.

Horner has policy ideas which are very pragmatic. He doesn't shy away from the tax word and he clearly doesn't believe that government has all the answers. In those terms, Horner really can appeal to a lot of centrist Minnesotans.

But, in a way, he is the anti-Ventura candidate. Where Jesse would be flamboyant and blustery, Horner comes across as controlled, mild mannered, and, yes, let's just say it...boring.

A person well versed in policy and legislative manners may have a difficult time getting attention if he is unable to attract a media following. That is Horner's challenge.

The tendency for the media will be, first, to follow the Democratic contest. That will occupy the political news crowd until August. And, when there are lulls in the action there, I'm sure a good quote or two will be found in the prattlings of Tom Emmer.

Horner will have to be working an almost guerilla like campaign. Working under the radar...exploiting the Durenberger network, (if it still exists) and carving a base niche among the "old" GOP.

Depending on what happens in the Democratic primary, Horner will have to be ready with an appeal to disaffected Democrats. Something that is yet to be seen.

Unlike the past Independence Party candidates, Horner's natural attraction will be from Republicans. And finding GOPers willing to listen to him may have become easier with the endorsement of Tom Emmer. Emmer, and the Tea Party crowd, are certainly in no mood to cajole back any of those "unprincipled" Republican scalywags that they just kicked out. And, that part of the "old" GOP has always been reluctant to vote Democratic. Horner offers them a comfort zone that could siphon votes away from Emmer.

Horner's true effect on the November election will be what type of appeal he will have to Democrats who supported Penney and Hutchinson in past gubernatorial contests.

That will depend on which Democrat emerges and the perceptions of the Minnesota electorate.

We are reducing the number of possibilities to occupy that Governor's mansion in 2011, but the results are still very much in doubt.

More fodder for the mix.
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