State Rep. Tom Emmer tried out the role of motivational speaker Monday night as he laid out his guiding principles for the state he hopes to lead.

"This state was built by people, not government," said Emmer, a leading Republican candidate for governor. "Minnesotans want authentic, principle-based leadership by people who will listen. Now is the time for bold leadership."

Emmer gave a 30-minute speech in front of about 150 supporters at the St. Paul campus of Metro State University. While the DFL gubernatorial race remains a multi-candidate affair, the GOP contest has boiled down to a pair of leading candidates, Emmer and state Rep. Marty Seifert. Their battle culminates in two weeks, at a winner-take-all endorsement fight at the state GOP convention in Minneapolis.

In the past few weeks, both candidates have tried to convince Minnesotans they are not just battle-hardened lawmakers, but statesmen ready to lead in a time of financial and political turmoil.

Emmer offered no solid details on policies, but pledged three guiding principles: honoring the constitution, expanding liberty and fostering economic freedom.

"The genius of American democracy is that when all is said and done, the people get to decide," Emmer said.

In stoking the crowd, he promised "a renaissance of American freedom" and "a revival of the American spirit."

Emmer has emerged as a Tea Party favorite lately, praised for what supporters say is his straight talk and refusal to yield to opposing views.

Seifert has taken a more moderate approach, noting on his website that he has received broad support from Independents and conservative Democrats.

Over the past months, Seifert's campaign has released specific position papers on the budget, public safety and energy. He also released a seven-point "leadership plan," focused on job growth, health care changes and K-12 education policy.

Showing a hint of the tension building around the neck-and-neck race, Emmer scoffed at "heaps of 12-point" plans drawn up by "public relations" companies.

Seifert's campaign countered that Emmer is light on specifics.

"It is nice that Tom Emmer, nearly a year into the campaign, has finally decided to talk about the issues," said Kurt Daudt, Seifert's campaign manager. "With less than two weeks until the endorsing convention, Marty Seifert will continue to talk about his thoughtful, substantive plans to lead Minnesota forward."

As Emmer left, the Tom Petty song, "I Won't Back Down," blared from the speakers.

Baird Helgeson • 651-222-1288