Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 9:08 am
In the wake of Dick Leinenkugel dropping out of the Wisconsin Republican U.S. Senate primary race, editorials like this from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and this from my friend Emily Mills were so predictable, I actually predicted them.* (Now I’m kicking myself for not doing so publicly – if only there were some kind of program where you could broadcast proclamations to hundreds of people at once, preferably using 140 characters or less. Someone get on that.)
Now Dick Leinenkugel seems like a really nice guy. His only problem was, he wasn’t a Republican. Generally, that helps when running in a Republican primary for U.S. Senate.
But the MJS and Mills both believe that it was the fault of the Tea Parties for running Leinenkugel out of the primary. They cite the old tried and true talking point that somehow the Republican Party is getting too “extreme,” and not welcoming moderates. Sayeth Mills:
Talk radio and the Tea Party elements of the party had all been hammering away at the fact that Leinenkugel had dared work as Commerce Secretary for a brief period under Democratic Governor Jim Doyle. These days, the so-called Republican base seems to treat any and all bipartisanship (or even mixed employment) like touching a leper. “Leinenkugel also said ‘reasonable people’ understand why a conservative businessman would go to work for government, even with Democrats running it.” Trouble is the new Republican base isn’t big on reason.
Sure. There’s to “reasonable” explanation as to why a guy who has spent his life supporting Democrats might be looked at skeptically by the Republican Party.
And I’m certain that if a Bush Administration official suddenly decided they were a Democrat and sought the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate at the last minute, Democrats would be perfectly fine with that. If Condoleezza Rice moved to Wisconsin and ran in a Democratic primary, certainly she would be welcomed with open arms by liberals. In fact, she’d not only be booed during intra-party debates, she’d have a lot of trouble leaving without being covered in tomatoes.
In fact, wasn’t it just the Democratic Party last week that purged Arlen Specter from its ranks? Who do we blame for that? ACORN? Didn’t Dave Obey just single-handedly purge about five would-be Democrat successors to his seat from a primary? Wasn’t it the Democrats that gave Joe Lieberman the boot a couple years ago for daring to support the war effort in Iraq? I guess the Democrats in Connecticut were standing on “principle.”
Now, if Leinenkugel were the only guy running in the primary and the party didn’t give him a chance, it would be one thing. But when tried-and-true Republicans have the opportunity to choose guys like Terrence Wall or Ron Johnson over a guy with zero GOP street cred, it only makes sense. In fact, rather than proving Republican voters are sheep, it shows they’re actually tuned in and paying attention.
Dick Leinenkugel may have a future in the Wisconsin GOP yet. He gained a lot of goodwill by recognizing his lack of credibility with primary voters and stepping aside. (Although my Democrat friends told me they secretly wished he was the guy running as a Democrat to replace Dave Obey in the 7th Congressional District right now.) Of course, by then, editorial boards will have moved on to blaming the Tea Parties for oil spills, or the gout, or halitosis.
* In fairness, I predicted the editorial would come from the Capital Times, Madison’s steamiest online political chat room for singles.
Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 9:40 am
I attended the Wisconsin Republican Party convention in Milwaukee over the weekend, and with the cobwebs finally gone from my skull, I have some thoughts:
* – Mark Neumann apparently thinks he’s running for the wrong office. It appears he is running to be 8th grade class president, not governor of Wisconsin. Think about it – he began his campaign by starting a ludicrous rumor about Scott Walker dropping out of the race to run for lieutenant governor. Then he started putting out goofball press releases bragging about all his phony Facebook followers and about how his website was winning awards for its design. At his next press conference, I fully expect him to announce that Justin Bieber is totally dreamy.
Neumann did build up some goodwill during the convention by pledging that he would support whoever the GOP nominee would be. This was likely in response to rumors that Neumann would run as an independent after losing the primary to Scott Walker, thereby handing the election to Democrat Tom Barrett. (Many people still blame former Libertarian Ed Thompson for stealing votes from Republican Scott McCallum in 2002, which handed the election to Jim Doyle – who won with only 44% of the vote.)
But whatever goodwill Neumann garnered by vowing to support Walker, he lost by pulling a stunt in which his supporters picketed outside the Frontier Airlines center, claiming they were denied entrance. Of course, anyone that wasn’t credentialed was denied entrance, not just Neumann’s supporters. (Owen Robinson and Deb Jordahl had these angles covered.)
All in all, it looks like Republicans are where they were before the convention. Walker is the huge favorite, Neumann plans to continue to go negative on him on petty issues. And for those who believe Neumann isn’t running as an independent, I give you Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who proclaimed on national television that he wasn’t going to run outside the Republican party, then two weeks later, announced that he was doing just that.
* – Ironically, there were two people who earned my newfound respect by their reaction to their damaged campaigns. Obviously, Dick Leinenkugel’s popularity increased tenfold when he pulled out of the U.S. Senate race and endorsed new entrant Ron Johnson. That was really the only way the ex-Jim Doyle cabinet member could have earned a standing ovation at the GOP Convention.
But I was equally impressed by Lieutenant Governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch, who finished last among the four Lt. Gov candidates on the first delegate ballot. The first ballot came in with Rep. Brett Davis at 37.5 percent, Superior Mayor Dave Ross at 25.5 percent, former Green Beret Ben Collins of Lake Geneva with 13.78 percent, and Kleefisch with 13.69 percent – which bumped her off the ballot. (Davis won the final ballot over Ross by 14 percent.)
I can only imagine how tough it was for Kleefisch to suffer such a defeat, given the time and effort she’s put into her campaign. But as I walked out of the convention hall, there she was – still smiling and shaking hands. As Alec Baldwin once said it takes these to take a hit and keep a brave face – and no matter how badly she felt at the time, she kept on working. I found that monumentally impressive. (Of course, I sobbed inconsolably after watching “The Lion King” for the first time, so I might just be a world class pansy.)
* – Apparently, there are twenty-six GOP candidates running in the 8th Congressional District against Democrat Steve Kagen. And I kept hearing about how State Representative Roger Roth is everyone’s frontrunner, but I didn’t see Roth anywhere near the convention. There may have been signs and stickers that I missed, but it was hardly the convention presence I expected.
On the other hand, former State Representative Terri McCormick was everywhere, shaking hands and talking with delegates. Then again, maybe I just noticed her more, as I was afraid she might run over and karate chop me in the eyeballs after I wrote this post about her.
* – Everyone knows that all the real convention action happens at the candidate hospitality suites, which serve up free drinks and entertainment. It seemed the most popular suite was that of former lumberjack Sean Duffy, as it featured a game called “hammerschlagen.” In the game, contestants stand around a tree stump and attempt to hammer nails into it by using the pointed end of a hammer. The first one to hammer their nail all the way in wins. (Naturally, the first time I stepped up and took a swing, I hammered my nail in in one shot. ONE SHOT, BRO! This led to a long evening of trash talking on my part.)
One might question the wisdom of mixing alcohol with pointy hammers – but I’m certain 9-1-1 was on speed dial all along.
I actually did get to spend some time talking to Duffy and even more time talking to his wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy. They seem like wonderful, genuine people with a beautiful life and adorable family. Come to think of it, I think I hate the Duffys.
(SIDE NOTE: My apologies to the Dan Kapanke for Congress hospitality suite-goers. They had a game set up where you could hit a baseball, and if you hit a sign on the wall, you won a t-shirt. I apparently hit the ball a little too hard, and it caromed off the wall and drilled an intern in the head. I was then asked to leave. I sincerely apologize to everyone involved – I tried to swing lighter, but couldn’t make contact. Anyway.)
* – Wispolitics was in attendance, and conducted their usual straw poll of delegates. (One of the question on the poll was “Do you support the Tea Party movement?” Which caused my friend Mike to wonder if at the Democrat Convention, they’ll ask “Do you support ACORN?”) I was surprised to see that among delegates’ preference for president, Representative Paul Ryan finished fourth (behind convention speaker Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney.) What’s most surprising is that Ryan finished fourth despite not being on the ballot. People actually wrote his name in. Sadly, Ryan had to leave the convention after the death of his mother-in-law.
* – Finally, a special shout-out to Reince Priebus and the whole staff at the Republican Party for putting on a first-class event. Especially since this was one of the largest conventions in history. The stress on these people to keep things running smoothly is immense, and they deserve a lot of credit.
As a writing assignment, I was actually going to attend the Democratic Convention in Madison in a couple weeks. I e-mailed one of my Democrat friends to see if that was feasible, and he responded by asking if this was some kind of Hunter S. Thompson stunt. I said no, but that I did plan on dropping a lot of acid before I went.
Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 10:32 am
“A ‘gaffe’ is when a politician tells the truth” – Michael Kinsley
On Friday of last week, Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Walker issued a statement indicating his opposition to the newly minted Arizona immigration law. The law, which has set off a firestorm of narrow but dedicated opposition, would allow law enforcement officers to demand proof of American residency for individuals they stop for just cause. Polls show that nearly 70% of Arizona residents support the law, due to the societal costs illegal immigration places on the taxpayers of that state.
Within two days, Walker’s campaign issued a statement changing his position on the law. Walker indicated that he now supports Arizona’s immigration reform efforts after talking it over with Arizona officials, saying “the amended bill provides adequate protections against racial profiling and discrimination.” Walker now says that if he were the Governor of Arizona, he would sign the bill into law.
Now, I personally don’t disapprove of the Arizona law. Clearly, their legislature needed to do something to call more attention to the fact that their courts, prisons, and social services are being strangled by illegal immigration.
But when I heard Walker’s first position, I was actually pretty proud of him for taking an unpopular stand. Finally, after arguing about completely fabricated issues, there was an issue on which the GOP primary candidates could duke it out.
There is actually a small but fairly well-reasoned contingent of conservatives that would support alternative measures to the current Arizona law (Karl Rove among them.) Despite the Left’s dismissal of George W. Bush as a right wing ideologue, it was actually Bush that proposed the “guest worker” plan in 2004 (accurately recognizing, I think, that we’re not just going to pack up 12 million illegals and ship them home), which was promptly burned to the ground by his own party.
I thought Walker might be following the Jack Kemp “bleeding heart conservative” blueprint, which earned Kemp a great deal of respect in minority circles. Kemp and his Empower America cohort Bill Bennett were outspoken proponents of immigration, calling immigrants “a blessing, not a curse.” In 1994, Kemp and Bennett opposed California ballot Proposition 187, a measure to bar illegal immigrants from obtaining public services.
Given the large Hispanic population in Milwaukee, the Kemp/Bennett model actually makes some sense for Walker. From a conservative perspective, these giants of the movement have shown that you can buck the Republican establishment and maintain your popularity. Plus, counseling against alienating the fastest-growing voting bloc in the nation isn’t necessarily bad advice.
When Walker spoke out against the law, I believe he was saying what he actually thought. It’s not as if the law was passed a day before he issued his initial statement – he had two weeks to think about it. He simply looked at the polling and saw that his position was likely unsustainable in a hotly contested GOP primary.
Opposing the Arizona law is the wrong position, but it’s certainly not an evil position. We should give candidates more credit when they stand on principle and advocate for things that may not be popular. If politicians cease taking hard stands, we end up with the same boring, poll-tested group of elected officials that we now despise. At some point, our representatives are going to stand up to public opinion on things like Social Security and Medicare reform – and we shouldn’t dissuade them from pushing forward.
UPDATE: As expected, Walker’s challenger, Mark Neumann, has already began slamming him for his position on the Arizona law. According to this YouTube ad, Neumann believes it was comments on Facebook that caused Walker to switch his position. Right.
Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 11:41 am
Were you wondering who the next big leader of the conservative movement in Wisconsin is? Well, congressional candidate and former assemblywoman Terri McCormick thinks it’s her.
McCormick has issued a press release christening herself as “Wisconsin’s Sarah Palin – ‘Only Better!’” And what expert in conservatism made the determination that McCormick is better than the current Mama Grizzly herself?
John Nichols at the Madison Capital Times. You know, “Wisconsin’s Progressive Voice.” Because they’re big fans of Sarah Palin over there.
So McCormick believes that it somehow helps her credibility to be endorsed by the state’s most liberal (newspaper? website? blog? chat room?) It makes no sense. Half the time I read a Cap Times editorial, I’m close to calling 911, thinking Nichols has slipped and suffered a head injury. So now conservatives should let them choose their candidate?
This is actually a common Nichols trap that McCormick has fallen into. He picks his GOP favorites only when it allows him to level a cheap shot against the powers that be. In 2002, he suddenly became a big fan of Republican Wisconsin State Senator Bob Welch when he found out Welch was thinking of challenging incumbent Scott McCallum in a primary. Naturally, Welch’s candidacy would have weakened McCallum significantly, which is all the Cap Times really cared about.
In 2006, Nichols bemoaned Republican Scott Walker’s exit from the GOP gubernatorial primary, praising his “moderation” on ethics issues, health care issues, and taxation. Naturally, this was merely an attempt to paint the remaining GOP candidate, Congressman Mark Green, as a bloodthirsty partisan. But just ONE YEAR earlier, Nichols shredded Walker in a column, calling him a “bigot” who wanted to make it harder for people to vote, and his candidacy for governor ”very bad news for Wisconsin.”
But since the left’s’ strategy became contrasting Walker with Green, suddenly Walker became an ACLU card carrying, LaFollette-Era progressive. When he was in the race, he was a “pretty typical Wisconsin Republican,” but the second he left the race, he became “palatable even to moderate voters.”
So this sudden praise of McCormick may be news to her, but she’s just another pawn in a cheap political ploy by the left. Somehow that didn’t make it into her press release.
This is the same Terri McCormick who, in her book “What Sex is a Republican?” actually rips Congressman Paul Ryan, calling him a “member of the political class” and “a typical insider.” In a passage so bizarre it deserves to be reprinted here, McCormick writes that Ryan was actually afraid of her when they sat down for a meeting, and that he was involved in some kind of conspiracy against her:
I was wrong; merit and accomplishment would have nothing to do with our meeting… His shakedown skills were reminiscent of the guttural scenes from the movie Gangs of New York.
Ryan aimed his questions in a young-gun accusatory fashion: “Who are ya? Why are you here? Who do you work for? Vito? Hah– the congressman from New York? I’m going to give him a call.”
That day in 2005 Ryan appeared to be a brash political animal, operating out of fear and survival. Something was motivating him and I was about to find out what it was. Ryan was a member of the political class, a typical insider…
…My opponent’s wife was a former appointee of a GOP governor. She evidently had enough authority to give orders to Congressman Ryan.
(Special thanks to Steve S. at Letters in Bottles for actually reading the book and passing along this nugget.)
Incidentally, that would be the same Paul Ryan who has introduced an unprecedented plan to reform the entire U.S. tax system, Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare. It’s hard to imagine anyone more “outsider” than that. But I guess because Ryan rightfully recognized McCormick as a crazyperson, it means he was operating out of “fear and survival.” Maybe McCormick would like to further her conservative credentials by denouncing Reaganomics. Perhaps she has evidence that the Easter Bunny engaged in insider trading with the Cadbury Creme Egg company.
(Incidentally, it was Sarah Palin herself that named Ryan as her favorite Republican.)
Actually, who am I kidding with all this jibber-jabber? Admit it, you just want to see this video again – perhaps the greatest video in Wisconsin political history:
(UPDATE: McCormick has pulled her video from YouTube.)
I told a friend that McCormick was “crazy versus crazy.” He replied that crazy called to concede years ago.
(Side note: if there is a runner up to “greatest Wisconsin political video,” it’s this ad run against Congressman Ron Kind two years ago:)
Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 2:47 pm
Last week, Congressman Dave Obey shocked the Wisconsin political world when he decided to step down after 41 years of service to the 7th District. When asked why he was leaving, Obey gave every reason in the book – he was “bone tired,” he didn’t want to go through reapportionment, he thought more representatives of the “lowest common denominator” (read: Republicans) would be in office, etc.
It just so happens Obey is facing a tough challenge from Ashland County District Attorney Sean Duffy, a Republican. When asked if he was quitting because he might lose his upcoming race, Obey pointed out that he has won 25 straight races, and wouldn’t lose again. To emphasize his point, Obey said he made his mind up to retire once the recent health care bill passed. He said:
“Over the past few years, whenever a member of the press asked if I was contemplating retirement, I would respond by saying that I did not want to leave Congress until we had passed health care reform. Well, now it has.”
Pressed by reporters, Obey said he would have announced he was leaving sooner if the bill passed in September, as he expected it to. But he had to announce his retirement later, since the bill passed in March.
So we get it. Obey had made his mind up to retire months ago, and was just waiting for the health care bill to pass. Sean Duffy’s campaign had nothing to do with it.
With Obey presiding, the health care bill passed, on March 21st of 2010. On March 30th, Obey’s campaign accepted a $4800 in contributions from Brian Goad of Reno, Nevada. A day later, Obey’s campaign cashed a $1000 check from tennis star Andre Agassi. (Take a minute to let that one soak in.)
In fact, between the health care vote on March 21st and April 1st (the last day of the campaign finance report), Obey collected 64 contributions, for a total of $18,230. (Many of the larger amounts from California and Nevada.)
So if Obey had his mind made up for months to retire after he passed health care, why was he still raising money after the bill passed? Why was his campaign still depositing $10 and $20 contributions from little old retired teachers in his district?
The reason is simple – Obey may have fully intended to run after the health care bill passed, but saw that he had a fight on his hands. And he was the poster boy for what had gone wrong with Congress. Not wanting to leave his office as a loser, he used the bogus health care bill excuse, and everyone lapped it up.
Perhaps more telling will be Obey’s next finance report. If it shows he kept raising money past April 1st and into May, when he made his announcement, it will contradict his whole “we finished health care so I decided to retire” line.
Surely, candidates say things of dubious veracity all the time – but there’s a reason Obey has to sell this whopper. He can’t admit that he had any part in the electoral debacle that is about to befall his fellow Democrats.
(SIDE NOTE: On Andre Agassi’s campaign finance entry, he lists himself as a “Philanthropist.” That must be from his tireless work teaching young people about the dangers of hair extensions.)
Obey’s finance report also showed that he spent a whopping $30,000 on a poll on February 8th. I wonder what that poll told him? Perhaps the results made him a little more “bone tired” than he had been.
Filed under: Elections — Christian Schneider @ 12:06 pm
So GOP gubernatorial candidate Mark Neumann just released a press release bragging that he has been “strongly endorsed” by Republican U.S. Senator Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.
I’ve always been skeptical of endorsements to begin with. I don’t think they mean anything, especially when they come from a politician from another state. If Tom Coburn walked up to the front door of any house in Wisconsin wearing a name tag that said “Tom Coburn,” the homeowner would hand him a plumber’s wrench and tell him to get to work fixing the toilet.
Furthermore, this may not be all that helpful to Neumann, since one of the knocks against him is that he’s only held a federal office. He’s running to be our governor now – and what that has to do with Tom Coburn of Oklahoma is anyone’s guess.
But I’m more enthralled by the idea that now a mere endorsement simply isn’t enough. Now, you have to be strongly endorsed. Exactly what makes a STRONG endorsement different than a regular one? Did Tom Coburn yell his endorsement really loudly? Did he interrupt a delicious meal in order to make the endorsement? How does one measure such a thing?
So here’s my idea:
In order to make sure we’re not just overstating these endorsements, there should be a way we can get politicians to actually PROVE how “strongly” they feel about other candidates or their own legislation. We set up a TV show on C-Span or WisconsinEye that tests how far politicians are willing to go to prove the intensity of their political will.
For instance, we would only allow politicians to say they “strongly” endorse someone else if they are willing to eat a plate of cow brains. Do you have a congressperson who says they “intensely” oppose cap and trade? Well let’s see if their opposition is intense enough to eat this bowl of centipedes. Would Tom Coburn say he “strongly” endorses Mark Neumann if he had to prove it by running through the Wisconsin capitol wearing a Mark Neumann Speedo? We should find out.
Otherwise, words are just words. Let’s see who’s willing to back them up.
Begin reading Mark Twain’s novel “The Gilded Age,” and you’ll discover a fascinating and humorous story about settlers in early Missouri. Its pages contain love, intrigue, and adventure.
But then, in Chapter 15, Twain (along with his co-writer Charles Dudley Warner) launches a broadside attack on Congress. See if this sounds at all familiar:
“If you are a member of Congress, (no offence,) and one of your constituents who doesn’t know anything, and does not want to go into the bother of learning something, and has no money, and no employment, and can’t earn a living, comes besieging you for help, do you say “Come, my friend, if your services were valuable you could get employment elsewhere – don’t want you here?” Oh, no. You take him to a Department and say, “here, give this person something to pass away the time at – and a salary” – and the thing is done. You throw him on his country. He is his country’s child, let his country support him. There is something good and motherly about Washington, the grand old benevolent National Asylum for the Helpless.”
Recently at WPRI, we’ve been trying to call attention to government employee salaries and benefits. Twain was on the same page:
“The wages received by this great hive of employes are placed at the liberal figure feet and just for skilled and competent labor. Such of them as are immediately employed about the two Houses of Congress, are not only liberally paid also, but are remembered in the customary Extra Compensation bill which slides neatly through, annually, with the general grab that signalizes the last night of a session, and thus twenty per cent. Is added to their wages, for – for fun, no doubt.”