As state Democrats trot out their motley crew of recall candidates I thought it would be fun to compare them with another motley crew: the 2012 GOP presidential candidates.
Tom Barrett = Mitt Romney
Both have run unsuccessfully for the office before, both have executive experience, both make members of their party nervous, and Barrett, like Romney, is the frontrunner. Both also have issues likely to be problematic in a primary: Romney has his healthcare record, and Barrett has his use of Act 10 to balance the Milwaukee budget.
Kathleen Falk = Rick Santorum
Falk has relevant experience as Dane County executive, just as Santorum brings experience as a U.S. Senator. Both come off as likeable, competent and reasonable…until the topic turns to union and social issues. Perhaps helpful in a primary, the perception that Falk is the union candidate, much like Santorum’s ultra-conservative position on social issues, is a liability in a general election.
Tim Cullen = Jon Hunstman
Both have a ton of experience and a public perception of reasonableness. Tim Cullen’s road trip this summer with Republican Dale Schultz, like Jon Hunstman’s service as ambassador to China during the Obama administration, demonstrates a bipartisan tinge.
Steve Kagen = Ron Paul
Kagen and Paul both appeal to very specific constituencies. Paul to libertarians willing to overlook some of his strange views and suspect past for the greater cause of libertarianism, and Kagen to a slim majority of voters in northeast Wisconsin seeking to vote for anyone but a Republican in the Democratic landslide elections of 2006 and 2008.
Dave Obey = Newt Gingrich
Obey, like Gingrich, has been around long enough to have a lengthy public record that will prove problematic in a primary and general election. More problematic, Obey strongly endorsed Tom Barrett last fall. The chances of Obey entering the gubernatorial race are similar to Gingrich’s chances of winning the GOP nomination. Just about nil.
Peter Barca, Kathleen Vinehout, and Jon Erpenbach = Michele Bachman, Rick Perry, and Herman Cain
This diverse crop of candidates has one thing in common; they are not going to win.
So what does this admittedly silly exercise say about the recall race? I think Barrett and Cullen have the best chance of defeating Walker in a general. Barrett because of name recognition and familiarity among the electorate, and Cullen because of what I deemed earlier “the false appeal of a return to normalcy” in Wisconsin politics. Whether either of these candidates can win a primary election that will be dominated by public-sector union interests is another question.
And I certainly would not discount the possibility of a wild-card candidate emerging from this political circus. Perhaps are own version of the Governator.