|By Baird Helgeson, Star Tribune (Minneapolis)|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
The candidates face an unusually testy, expensive campaign that features a millionaire and a former House speaker, and which will not be decided at a state endorsing convention in late May. Several candidates have said they will not honor their party's endorsement and will press on to the
Their first test behind them -- a caucus straw poll -- the race now begins in earnest for Republicans looking to unseat DFL Gov.
"It's 'round-the-clock," said
In a bid to win potential delegates, state Sen.
"It is not only about delegates, it is not only about fundraising, it's not only about media," said Seifert, in the midst of a busy day of campaigning. "It's about being able to pull the hat trick of balancing your time with all of those different groups."
Dayton heads into the campaign season buoyed by a strong economy, low unemployment and a state budget surplus approaching
But Republicans see a large enough opening to defeat Dayton, an heir of a family department store fortune.
They hope that lingering outrage over the bungled rollout of MNsure, the state's health insurance exchange, and a strong national tide favoring Republicans will allow them to sweep past Dayton, even with the strong political apparatus behind him.
"He's beatable," Zellers said. "One thing Republicans haven't done very well is have a vision that brings people together. We've got that."
Several Republican strategists say Dayton is a savvy and tough-minded candidate not to be underestimated. Candidates say they must win the primary and then quickly prove they have a winning strategy.
"If people have a sense this governor is beatable, there will be the resources put into the race," said Thompson, who is focusing on fundraising and reaching out to
But, he said, if a poll comes out in August showing the
With a wide open and diverse field, each candidate is working to overcome or smooth over possible weaknesses.
Johnson lacks statewide name recognition and so far has not proven to be a gifted fundraiser. Zellers' reign as House speaker abruptly ended when voters tossed Republicans from leadership, which still rankles many activists. Thompson lacks name recognition and is light on funds. Four years ago, Seifert lost the