Today begins our two-day Republican state convention in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and I’m attending as both a delegate and as media.  Later this afternoon, Mitch Berg and I will broadcast live from the convention to give our analysis of the events, including the speeches of GOP luminaries.  Ron Paul will speak to the convention at some point, as well various candidates for state offices, as well as the usual wrangling over rules, platforms, and infighting over party issues.

The big event at this convention will be the endorsement of a candidate for the US Senate race.  Minnesota has a two-tier system, where parties endorse and then candidates can still choose to fight for the nomination in a primary.  Usually, all candidates pledge to abide by the endorsement, but also usually, we end up having to hold primaries.  We’ll see if 2012 will be an exception.

Republicans are fortunate to have three solid contenders for the spot opposite Amy Klobuchar in the fall: state legislators Kurt Bills and Dan “Doc” Severson (formerly in the legislature) and former chair of Vets for Freedom Pete Hegseth.  As a delegate, I have to cast a vote for one of the three — probably several times over, as this is expected to go through many ballots before one candidate gets the 60% necessary to win the endorsement.  I will cast my ballot for Pete Hegseth.  I’ve known Pete for several years, and have watched him succeed in reorganizing VFF into a powerful, effective political force in support of the mission in Iraq.  Pete served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, and in fact just returned from the latter a couple of months ago.

In this race, the legislative experience in the state will be less determinative against Klobuchar than organizing skill and the ability to nationalize this Senate race.  Both Bills and Severson have the experience to do the job, but Pete is a very quick study and has the right principles in place already.  He brings his national reach to a race where the state party is disorganized enough to handicap whomever gets the endorsement.  We will need someone who can engage the entire country in fighting Klobuchar’s record of near-total support for the Barack Obama agenda, plus a narrative that appeals to Minnesota voters.  Of the three, Pete has the best chance of succeeding in that regard.

However, we are fortunate to have Bills and Severson as our other options.  I will gladly support the candidate who wins the endorsement this weekend, and if it’s not Pete, I’ll be working hard to assist either Kurt or Doc in making the national case for replacing Klobuchar.

I won’t be able to blog on my normal schedule, so you will see Dustin Siggins, Erika Johnsen, and Robert Bluey guest-blogging today.  I do hope to have some reports from the floor as the day unfolds, so stay tuned, and be sure to join us for the first of three NARN broadcasts this afternoon.