FREE SPEECH ZONE | College Republicans at the Dayton rally


The College Republicans looked a little cold. They were standing across from Macalester College where hundreds of young Democrats waited to enter the Field House and hear Vice President Joe Biden stump for Mark Dayton. Three blond ponytailed girls, a couple of clean cut college boys and a skinny fellow wearing a green seed cap, eleven GOPers held signs that read HONK for Emmer and Where are the jobs Joe?  

Snelling Avenue’s traffic noise muffled the catcalls, which were few and polite in the Midwestern way. No drivers honked for Emmer. Still, Jake Loesch, Executive Director of the Minnesota College Republicans claimed to be undaunted, if chilly, standing there on the curb. A good-looking young man, Loesch graduated from UMD with a political science degree this year. He is on the GOP payroll.

“We need smaller government,” he said. “Tom Emmer is going to cut taxes and hang a sign on this state that says open for business.” Loesch delivered his line with an open-palmed gesture, as if he were hanging a notice on the giant doorknob of the North Star State. 

Asked to contrast Republican Tom Emmer’s plans for job promotion with Democrat Mark Dayton, Loesch stuck to the theme of smaller government and lower taxes. “From what I see of Mark Dayton, it’s same old, same old.” How would Emmer succeed where eight-year Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty had failed? “Work in a bi-partisan way,” Loesch said. There’d be tough decisions and meetings where people rolled-up their sleeves, phrases you’d hear on both sides. “We don’t really get anywhere by being extreme,” he concluded.  Among the passing cars, an old station wagon honked.

“I’m gay! I’m gay and I want to get married!!” a thin, be-speckled man crossed Snelling Avenue on foot advancing on Loesch until they were nearly nose-to-nose. “I’m gay and your candidate doesn’t want me to have equal rights to marry.” The trio of ponytailed girls took a step inward and away. The gay man moved in the direction of the guy in the green seed cap.

Loesch acknowledged that many see Emmer as a highly partisan figure. “You can’t lie about those things,” Loesch admitted. He dismissed concerns about the candidate’s ultra conservative record saying, “Social issues are not on the forefront now, the biggest problems are fiscal.”

How does Emmer demonstrate his bi-partisan skills? “He does. I’ve worked closely with him. He does,” Loesch insisted. Pressed for an example or anecdote, he thought for a long time. Up along the curb, the gay man had engaged the guy in the green cap in an intense discourse. It was cold. As Loesch considered my question, I cross my elbows and burrowed my index fingers into the warmth of my underarms. They were warm enough to hold a pencil when he responded, “I guess I can’t give you a concrete example. But I’ll steal from Mark Dayton a little bit and say Tom wants to create a better Minnesota for everyone.”  

I thanked Loesch for talking to me, gave a nod to the ponytailed trio for their political activism and crossed the street, unconvinced by the Emmer crew that their candidate had any special clue about how to bridge the divide.