Twin Cities: homespun and cosmopolitan
The GOP National Convention opens in a place reflecting the nation’s enduring agrarian myth ... with skyscrapers.
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In downtown St. Paul or Minneapolis, they dine at the tables of award-winning chefs. Here at the fair, they down fried everything on a stick and tons of sugar.Skip to next paragraph
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Before meeting a friend for lunch, Cary Giese wandered into the Minnesota Republican Party’s booth. He was wearing an “Obama ’08” T-shirt, but he wasn’t lost. He wanted a campaign button boasting: “Time for a real hero/McCain.”
It was a peace offering for his friend, said Mr. Giese who lives in a suburb near Lake Minnetonka, one of the largest of the state’s more than 10,000 lakes. They were sure to argue politics, and the gift would help keep things civil.
The McCain button cost 50 cents; down the street, Obama buttons were going for $3. Giese quipped that it was “value pricing.”
The Republicans gave him a reception. They had bigger things in mind with Governor Pawlenty on Sen. John McCain’s shortlist of potential running mates. If anyone had inside information about Pawlenty’s prospects, they weren’t sharing it.
State’s major political figures
Giese has met two vice presidents at the fair: Minnesotans Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale. He has met every senator in recent state history and most of the governors.
State fair appearances are mandatory for politicians. It’s where the people are – more than 1.6 million a year.
“I miss you on Air America radio,” said Dorothy Johnson who lives in Los Angeles but comes back for the fair. “What happened?” “Ohhhh, I decided to run for Senate,” Mr. Franken deadpanned. He’s the Democrat’s challenger to Republican incumbent Sen. Norm Coleman.
As love for the fair shows, the Twin Cities is more connected to rural regions than most other metro areas. Take their major league teams. The Republicans will convene in the home of the Minnesota Wild Hockey Club – not the St. Paul Wild. Likewise, the Twins, Vikings, and Timberwolves use the state name rather than Minneapolis where they play.
That sense of community is reflected in the politics, said Dane Smith, who covered politics for 30 years for local newspapers and now is president of the Center for Growth & Justice, an economic think tank in St. Paul.
While much of America venerated the notion of individual competition, the Scandinavians and Germans who settled the Twin Cities brought “cooperative rather than competitive models,” Mr. Smith said. As pioneers in an isolated place, they needed each other.
“There has always been a consensus in terms of the commonwealth and pulling together,” Smith said.