Appearing before a crowd where mention of the Met Council prompted hisses and Minnesota’s coming health exchange elicited groans, the four Republican men who want to occupy the governor’s office trotted out their wares Thursday night.

In their first joint forum appearance, Republican Sen. Dave Thompson, Rep. Kurt Zellers, businessman Scott Honour and Hennepin County Jeff Johnson began to shape the messages they hope will win over Republican activists, then Republican primary voters, then, in 460 days, Minnesotans at the polls.

The more than 100 Republicans gathered to listen at the Mermaid event center in suburban Mounds View made clear that they plan on being tough on those who hope to lead the state.

“We are not going to settle. We are going to demand bold leadership,” said Sue Jeffers, a radio show host who ran against Gov. Tim Pawlenty in 2006. “We’ve had enough. We're going to hell in a hand basket and this is the election that can turn everything around.”

The candidates generally agreed. They promised that if they were in DFL Gov. Mark Dayton's office things would be different.

"I’m in this to actually change the direction of government," Johnson said.

Thompson said his first priority would be to ask: "Is this a task that the private sector could do? If the answer is yes, don't have government do it."

"I think we have to start a conversation about the budget with a conversation about results," said Honour.

"I will absolutely fight for jobs and a competitive Minnesota economy. And I won't settle for whatever the soup de jour is today. We want this but a little bit less. It will be a hard cut," Zellers said.

The candidates are still feeling out how they will press their cases, as Zellers admitted early in the event --  “This is first one by the time we get to the last one we will be much better at what we’re doing,” he told the crowd. But they began to sketch out the profiles they will develop as they move along.

Check Hot Dish Politics on Friday for more on the profiles they are developing.