ST. PAUL —
"Our organization is set up to, for lack of a better term, soften up Dayton," Erickson said. He said the presumption is that once the GOP has its candidate for governor, that person would step into the role of chief Dayton critic while the Jobs Coalition continues its own. In that sense, the group is similar to the DFL-aligned Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a key campaign spending ally to Democratic candidates in the 2010 and 2012 elections.
The Jobs Coalition has declined to reveal its financial backers. Erickson said that wouldn't come until the group files its first disclosure reports at the end of 2013.
Dayton started the year with only $95,000 in his re-election account, a low figure compared to where his predecessor Tim Pawlenty stood at the same point as he prepared for a second term. Dayton said he'd hasten fundraising when the legislative session ends, but also didn't rule out further dipping into his own fortune. In 2010, he loaned his campaign about $3.9 million — debt that's mostly still on the books.
Dayton brushed aside criticisms of his sometimes quirky style. He said he dropped his sales tax reforms after realizing they had little chance of passing the House or Senate, citing the song "The Gambler" by Kenny Rogers: "You gotta know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. I just faced reality."
Dayton's advisors view him as unique among politicians at his level, saying he rarely gives much weight to the political or strategic implications of major decisions.
At 66, and a first-time grandfather as of last week, Dayton would be governor into his 70s if he's re-elected. He said he's healthy, and is no longer plagued by back pain after spinal surgery in late December. Minnesota has never had a governor who reached age 70 while still in office.