Posts Tagged ‘gubernatorial race’

Remember Mark Neumann?

January 26, 2010

What is his political life expectancy? When was the last time you read an article about him? He’s usually mentioned in passing in articles on the gubernatorial race. The only recent campaign news is that he has pledged to spend $1 million of his own money to try to beat Scott Walker.

I ran into a member of the Walker campaign last night who told me that Neumann would drop out of the race “when the party tells him to.” Looking back, I realize he might have simply meant that Neumann will leave the race when he loses the Republican primary, however, the sly grin on the man’s face seemed to imply something that would come out of a smoke-filled room. Did state Republicans hope that a competitive primary would energize the grassroots and draw attention to the party and its policies, or did they see Neumann as a nuisance who would threaten party unity?

Both parties have proponents of these two diverging philosophies, and they almost always clash during primary season. You might think the “unity” argument is less powerful in state elections because the primary is relatively cut and dry – one election, one guy or gal wins, and the party is forced to accept. Moreover, I would guess that political parties are open to any strategy that will increase awareness among voters, most of whom are less interested in state politics. However, the primary is also much closer to election day, and although the grass roots may be excited about a competitive primary, most voters just get confused. “I’m like, conservative, who am I supposed to vote for?”

I’m guessing the GOP will start to pressure Mark Neumann to leave the race pretty soon.

Any thoughts?

Barrett taking a cue from Massachusetts?

January 21, 2010

In wake of the Democrats’ recent loss in Massachusetts, the most popular criticism of the party and its president is that they have focused too much on long-term issues such as health care and climate change and have neglected the issue practically every American is worried about: the economy.

What could Obama have done differently on the economy? That’s a discussion that economists will continue to have well after he leaves office (whenever that takes place). Different interpretations of economic history yield wildly different heros and culprits. Just look at the diverging views on FDR. To liberals, he is a savior. To supply-siders, he was a hindrance.

Any ideas? What would you have liked to see Obama do? I would have liked to see much more money towards long-term goals, including revolutionary transportation and visionary research. A lot of the stimulus money went into sure bets: potholes and bridges.

Either way, Tom Barrett is trying to distance himself from the loftier ideas of the Obama administration.

Tom Barrett toured Orion Energy Systems on Wednesday morning and said the focus of his bid to become governor is “jobs, jobs and jobs.”

Barrett said citizens want their elected officials to focus on strengthening the economy and that trumps health-care reform.

The irony is that as a national health care policy becomes more tenuous, Democrats at the state level also become less enthusiastic about creating state policies. Doyle, who yesterday introduced Badger Care Plus Basic, which will offer adults with no dependent children a basic health care policy for $130 a month, is likely an exception to the rule because he is not running for re-election. Politics is perverse.

Are Democrats’ hopes for Barrett too high?

November 17, 2009

I apologize for engaging in a little bit of MSNBCism but I’d like to take a few moments to reflect on the potential of Tom Barrett’s gubernatorial candidacy.

In many ways, I see the hope and excitement surrounding Barrett as similar to Obama’s rise leading up to the 2008 election. Going into the campaign season, Barbara Lawton, like Hillary Clinton, was the Democrat to beat. Many Democrats had doubts about her candidacy (they might have won out). They assumed she would be too easy to vilify and associate with the Doyle administration, and that her pet interests, including women’s rights and environmentalism, would not translate into a winning coalition in a general election. She was too “establishment.”

Just like Obama was the anti-Hillary, Barrett is the anti-Lawton. Obama was much cooler than Hillary. His coolness came from his charisma, his speaking ability, and his novelty. Barrett’s coolness comes from the ass kicking he took at the state fair this summer. I’ve emphasized this ad nauseum and I’ll say it again: one act of simple heroism can do a lot for a politician, especially considering how cowardly and calculating the political profession is assumed to be.

But a lot can change in a year. Democrats let go a big sigh of relief this week when Barrett declared. They finally have a viable candidate. But Barrett’s ass kicking isn’t enough. He has to be exciting and distinguish himself from Doyle – aggressively. He needs to make clear that he’s a Milwaukee reformer, and not a member of the Milwaukee establishment.

Especially against Walker, who considers himself the Republican who cleans up the big-city Democratic mess, Barrett will have to make clear to voters that he is not beholden to the interests that typify big-city candidates: the teacher’s union, public sector workers and perhaps most importantly, minority interest groups. The Republicans are not above using racially charged rhetoric against Democrats.

Barrett needs to emphasize the successes he’s had in Milwaukee. He cannot go through the motions of a typical Wisconsin politician. He needs to relate his experience in Milwaukee to what he plans to do for the state. He needs to take risks and criticize some of the things Democrats have done in the past. Perhaps most importantly, he needs to go negative against Walker. He should cast Walker as an extremist who is not bringing “change” but destruction. He should blend attacks on Walker with the themes of compassion and community – issues on which, because of his record of defending grammas from drunks, he  has a certain amount of credibility.

Fine, let’s discuss it: Soglin for governor

November 9, 2009

I didn’t take the discussion of Soglin’s candidacy for governor very seriously when I first saw it appear somewhere on the blogosphere – I can’t remember where.soglin-741271

But I must admit Soglin has a point. Even if he doesn’t run, it is likely the Democratic field will be stacked with Paul Soglin equivalents from other parts of the state – local activists from La Crosse or Green Bay or Milwaukee.

Kristin Czubkowski is right when she writes that Soglin could mount a legitimate campaign. In the primaries. But how willing would he be to make political compromises and tailor his rhetoric to a broader, more moderate electorate? Would some of his more inflammatory blog posts come back to haunt him?

Here would be my Con argument:

It’s not that Soglin couldn’t go tit-for-tat with Scott Walker in a debate (I assume, but I’ve never heard him speak) – it’s that his candidacy would signal a deep paralysis in the state Democratic party. It would be a constant reminder to Democrats that no official of higher stature had the guts to run because everybody assumed the Doyle legacy would be too hard to run from. He hasn’t been in government for years, and despite his more moderate tone he’s taken in middle age, voters would be suspicious of a man whose primary political experience comes from being the twenty-something mayor of a left-wing college town.

My pro argument:

Soglin could counter the local government credentials that Walker would bring. He’s older, wiser, and he is not a career politician. He’s spent some time out of government and reflected on the state of affairs in Wisconsin. He is deeply troubled by recent trends, including the ineffective Doyle Democrats and the radical Republicans. Whatever happened to investing in what counts: education, health care, the environment. He could inspire primary voters, starting with a sizeable base in Madison, and perhaps by the time he wins the primary, he would be as legitimate a candidate as Walker, but without as many visible stains from recent political battles.

Ultimately, I buy more into the Con argument.

Tommy Thompson: I can do anything I want

November 2, 2009

David Blaska must be regretting all the stupid things he’s said over the years that (you’d hope) will keep him from holding an official position in politics again. His savior, Gov. Tommy Thompson, is openly considering runs for U.S. Senate and governor.

Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson (left) says he’s still weighing his political options and hasn’t ruled out a possible run for governor or U.S. Senate.

“I’ve always said I’ve got one more good campaign in me, whether it be for the United States Senate, whether it be for governor or mayor of Elroy,” Thompson said on Sunday’s “UpFront with Mike Gousha.”

“I would still like to run … one more time.”

Thompson said he’s “very concerned” about the direction of federal and state government and feels he could be helpful “in either one of those arenas.”

“I haven’t decided truly that I’m going to run, but I haven’t said no,” Thompson said.

Frankly, I’d be surprised if Thompson opted for the Senate bid over the governor’s race. If he does, it would likely be because of the novelty of the job and the excitement of running against a candidate as popular as Feingold. Or, he might think it would be a fun way to ride out into the sunset in Washington.

If he actually seeks power and influence, he knows better than anyone that the governor of Wisconsin has more of it than a freshman member of the U.S. Senate, especially with Republicans in the minority. That can and will change of course, but not in 2010. Granted, a lot of things have changed since Tommy was running the show. Not only can he not veto letters, but now he can’t even veto words!

A Madison man for governor?

October 30, 2009

Looks like the Dems might have found another candidate to match up with Scott Walker.

A relative and informal adviser confirmed that Kevin T. Conroy, president and chief executive officer of Exact Sciences Corp., is considering a run.

Doyle said Conroy, whose company is seeking to commercialize a cancer-screening technology, is a “really remarkable” guy.

“He has been a really creative and effective business person in this state and, you know, it will be up to him to make his decision on what he wants to do. But he’s a person who has really accomplished a lot at a young age,” Doyle said.

You gotta admit, he’s very studly. Almost more so than Scott Walker (but obviously no match for Mark Neumann). The cancer-screening technology and innovation card would work well with the electorate, especially if he were running against a career politician (as cliché as the charge is) like Walker. Who’s a bigger hero? The man who’s curing cancer or the guy who saved the grandma from a drunk? Now that would be a primary worth watching.

Barbara Lawton: “Get a life”

October 27, 2009

Considering reports that the White House was openly pressuring Mayor Tom Barrett to run for governor, it is somewhat fair to assume that it, as well as other state Democrats, were leaning on Barbara Lawton to not run. WisPolitics:

Lt. Gov. Barb Lawton said today no one pressured her to drop out of the guv’s race, repeating that it was a deeply personal family decision to get out.

Lawton told WisPolitics in a phone interview that she had nothing more to say on the reasons behind her decision other than she and her husband Cal are in good health. She laughed off the suggestion that Gov. Jim Doyle or the White House pressured her to get out of the campaign and said her personal family issues behind the decision weren’t anyone’s business.

“I think people will lose interest and get a life, and well they should,” Lawton said.

The news items highlighting Gov. Doyle’s reluctance to commend Lawton’s record were not contrived. When politicians support eachother, they make it clear. Doyle’s lack of comment for Lawton makes it clear that he wanted to support another candidate. Even though Doyle was unpopular, his unpopularity was not such that he would be discouraged from complimenting fellow Democrats. Even George W. Bush, whose legacy was a toxin for Republicans in 2008, endorsed and rallied support for McCain.

Political scientists on Barrett’s chances

October 26, 2009

There are good reasons I chose not to study political science. However, it was nice to see Wispolitics columnist Steve Walters ask several poli sci professors to give their opinions on Tom Barrett’s chance of getting elected governor. The main issue at hand is Barrett’s Milwaukee origins. Here’s a fact that lends credence to Democrats’ fears:

*Last time a Milwaukee resident was elected governor: Republican Julius P. Heil, in 1938 — or 71 years ago, according to the Legislative Reference Bureau. (Footnote: Milwaukee resident Marty Schreiber served as governor, but he wasn’t elected to the office. Schreiber was elected lieutenant governor, and became governor when Democrat Pat Lucey resigned to become ambassador to Mexico in July 1977.)

Here are what a couple of the political scientists said about the myth of Milwaukee:

— Former state Sen. Mordecai Lee, D-Milwaukee, now a UW-Milwaukee professor:

In the ‘old’ days, the out-state hostility to Milwaukee was largely Jeffersonian in origins: rural life is better than urban, provincialism is better than cosmopolitanism, etc. Now, I’m afraid it’s mutated to be also about race and poverty, tax-eaters-versus-taxpayers.

Without calling anybody a racist. I think it’s easier for a Republican from the Milwaukee suburbs to get independent and swing voters out-state than for a Democrat from the city of Milwaukee. So, Tom would have a more uphill struggle than (Milwaukee County Executive Scott) Walker (or Mark Neumann — also now living in a western Milwaukee suburb).

— UW-Madison political science professor Kathy Cramer Walsh:

Barrett could be elected governor of Wisconsin if he can walk into the morning coffee klatches at gas stations in Mellen, LaCrosse, Muscoda, and Green Bay and make people feel like he is sincerely listening to and understanding their concerns.
The Milwaukee/Madison-versus-outstate divide is perpetuated by folks in outstate areas feeling like no one in the big downstate cities gives a hoot about them. That’s the big barrier, and it is going to take some serious seeking out of people on their own turf in order to overcome it.

I find the first explanation much more convincing. Sure, there is no absence of rural resentment for urban areas, however, not even the most aloof northern Wisconsinite entertains the theory that people in Milwaukee have it good. There will be plenty of negative associations made with Milwaukee politicians, but they will more likely center on corruption, inefficiency and embarrassment to the state. Lee is likely correct in saying that it’s easier from a guy from the Milwaukee suburbs – the epicenter of the Wisconsin bourgeoisie if you will – to wash his hands of the city slicker association than a Democrat, even though if anything, the Milwaukee suburbs should be the target of rural resentment, not that deteriorating mess known as the city.

You almost scared me Wispolitics

October 21, 2009

The title of the most recent post at Wispolitics is “Doyle has second thoughts about not running, but says he will be helpful to his successor.”

The second clause in the sentence returned me to reality.

Senility does affect more of our public leaders than we’d like to think. Hence, it would be surprising but not groundbreaking if Doyle, an unpopular governor by any estimation, decided to renege on his promise to not seek a third term.

Lawton paying attention to Milwaukee theory?

October 8, 2009

I’m starting to think Tom Barrett is not serious about a bid to be gov. The evidence is pointing to an understanding among Milwaukee politicos to jump on the Lawton train as soon as possible:

While Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett continues to weigh whether to jump into the governor’s race, Lt. Gov. Barb Lawton (left) is quickly picking up support in his backyard.

Lawton this week announced that Milwaukee County Supervisors Marina Dimitrijevic and Peggy West had endorsed her campaign, joining the likes of state Rep. Barbara Toles, D-Milwaukee, state Sen. Jim Sullivan, D-Wauwatosa, and state Rep. John Steinbrink, D-Kenosha. Also backing Lawton is Milwaukee County Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Love.

These are not the moves indicative of a competitive race. You’d think the party chair would try to stay out (at least publicly) until the very last minute. Granted, former state chair Joe Wineke endorsed Edwards pretty early on during the presidential primaries. Jim Sullivan, a moderate Democrat in a competitive district, does not seem like the type to go all in on Barb so early.