It is now August and I still don’t know who I’m voting for in the Wisconsin GOP U.S. Senate primary. So candidates and surrogates, now is the time to make your pitch for my vote. Based on polling, I’d say I’m not alone in this quandary as there are a good number of undecided voters. Also the candidate percentages have been fluctuating, showing that people are fluidly changing their vote between various candidates. Here are some of my thoughts about this race and the primary candidates.
Tommy Thompson has first-name recognition throughout the state. Tommy did a lot of good for Wisconsin during his tenure as governor, but he also brought about a lot of the issues that Gov. Scott Walker and Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald had to clean up over the last two years. Tommy’s ads about being the 51st vote in the GOP controlled Senate aren’t a selling point for me. I’d prefer him to be something more like the 55th vote. While Tommy is a great advocate for Wisconsin and loves this country through and through, I fear that he’ll have his own agenda (for good or bad). There would be times when he goes against the party (for good or bad) and there would be times when he votes with the party (for good or bad).
Also, I feel that time has caught up with Tommy in two ways. First, while he may have name recognition throughout the state, his face really hasn’t been out there for the whole state to see as much as it is during this state-wide campaign. Putting Tommy’s face against Tammy’s face on a TV screen is a net negative (only, literally, at face value). Many people were calling for Tommy to step up and run against Sen. Russ Feingold in 2010. He didn’t; and, thankfully, Ron Johnson did. We won with Ron Johnson and it proved that we didn’t need Tommy to win the Senate seat. This brings me to the second way time has caught up to Tommy: the state GOP voters are more conservative than when Tommy was governor. We’ve shown with principled conservatives we can win state-wide races and don’t necessarily need the big personalities.
One thing that I haven’t heard much discussion about is if the undercard in November would have any POSITIVE effect on the presidential election in Wisconsin. Is there a possibility that having Tommy as the GOP Senate candidate could actually help Mitt Romney win Wisconsin in November? If so, that would warrant some consideration. I would tend to think not, but it is something that has crossed my mind. Just strictly in terms of the Senate race though, Tommy’s name recognition is not enough for me to vote for him in the primary.
Former Rep. Mark Neumann is on his third state-wide campaign. Neumann’s last campaign and at least part of this current campaign have been filled with gimmickry and negative campaign tactics. Like Thompson, he had an opportunity to step up in 2010 and run for the U.S. Senate seat as many in the Wisconsin GOP called for him to do. Instead he continued to pursue the GOP primary for governor and used underhanded tactics that have turned him off to a good portion of the Wisconsin GOP voters. That being said, he’s been endorsed by conservative Sen. Jim DeMint, which is worthy to note, and he would run a strong campaign against Tammy Baldwin. If elected, I think he would do a good job of holding the entire Senate in check, both Democrats and Republicans. I have some lingering concerns about what agenda he’d work toward in the Senate. His service in the House was admirable, but time has passed and I’m not sure that he’s the same as he was back then. Part of the concern comes from the subsidies he’s taken in business and his connections to green energy.
Neumann has also been putting out these puff-piece radio ads. Mark, ads about meeting your wife in Sunday school and your grandson’s message about your decision to run have been so overplayed and so overused by your campaign. You’re smarter than this; we, the voters, are smarter than this. Give us some substance. Talk about what you’d cut and why (which I love to hear about cutting back government). The primary is going to be a tea-party election with lower turnout, most likely. We’re interested in the financial things like government waste and balancing the budget. We don’t care about the fluff stuff. Don’t let the Club for Growth just put out your message. We need a conservative leader, not someone who let’s another group do the dirty work. I’d consider voting for Neumann if he’d clean up his messaging. All of the GOP candidates have been endorsed by Wisconsin Right to Life and all have taken a firm stand against Obamacare. Quit repeatedly telling us the same dried-up stories and talk to us about how you’re going to reign in government now. These are the conservative principles Mark Neumann should be espousing.
Eric Hovde is running for his first political office. However, with the ads lately you’d think he was a politician for the last 25 years (not in a good way). Hovde started off with some great ads showing charts and figures that gave a great synopsis of the trouble we’re currently in as a nation and the even bigger mess we’re headed toward if the Senate and Presidency don’t change to the GOP this election. But then one little misleading ad from a third party group and he’s done little else but talk about the mud being slung at him. Whether he baited the Neumann and Thompson campaigns into this mudfest doesn’t matter as much as that he’s fallen off message. One recent ad spends the entire time talking about the things the Neumann and Thompson campaigns have said about him and his responses to them, but then he ends by laughably saying that he’ll stay focused on Tammy Baldwin. Come on! These ads are maddeningly tiring. This is the same tired political rhetoric that has led to the morass of what Congress was before 2010. Ron Johnson didn’t have a strong primary to compete in, but there is no way that this would be the primary campaign he would have run.
Hovde is very smart on the financial issues (both national and world-wide) and banking issues. Every time he really gets into those he makes me want to vote for him. That’s what a tea-party primary wants to hear about. Eric, you could really rally the tea-party vote to you more and pull votes from other candidates and those undecided voters by getting back into that financial message. I also love it when he has talked about government cronyism and the failure of government choosing businesses to invest in based on political reasons (or really any reason). Hovde also has a good grasp of foreign policy and issues, from what I’ve seen. These are the messages we want to hear from you, Eric. Quit dodging virtual mud balls, put on your big-boy pants and treat us, the voters, like the smart people we are. Show how Tammy Baldwin is going to be more of the same in D.C. and not what Wisconsin needs in the Senate. Take heed to what Scott Walker has told the candidates and stop whining about the what the other primary candidates are saying.
I also really couldn’t care less about the $500 that Hovde donated to Jim Doyle. What’s more of concern is his lack of a strong, consistent response about why he did it. He must have really forgotten about it because he wasn’t prepared to answer it properly, which is also a failure of the campaign staff to dig that up and be ready for such charges. But $500 for Hovde is not a big contribution. Hovde has supported Scott Walker in his campaigns as well as other conservative candidates to the tune of a lot more than $500.
Hovde’s wealth and success is not a turn off to me in terms of choosing who to vote for. However, I am concerned about how Tammy, the Democrats and their surrogates will be able to play off of his “out-of-state” wealth. Having helped to do phone call polling in this state earlier this year, I was amazed at the number of people who said that having the rich pay their fair share of taxes was their top economic concern. The presidential polling in Wisconsin has shown Obama regularly ahead by about 5-8%. So it will be an uphill battle for Mitt Romney with a similar story and we don’t need Tammy riding the coattails of Obama to victory in Wisconsin. If Hovde is not going to be able to help Mitt win Wisconsin or cause crossover voters who vote for Obama and to then vote for Hovde, is he the candidate we need? In such a close election, it is something to think about. I’m trying to not let those type of things dictate my vote, but it is hard not to when so much is on the line in this election. What Ron Johnson and Scott Walker showed us is that a strong principled conservative message coming from the candidate will win voters over. Get back on message, Eric!
One of my remaining concerns with Hovde is just the pure unknown. Ron Johnson had never taken an official vote before being elected to the Senate, but he had given speeches at tea party events. Based on what Hovde has talked about, he has a strong conservative stance that is worthy of a vote. However, some things continue to come out about Eric and I’m just not as sure about what the Democrats would dig up and run on against him in the general.
Who we do know is Wisconsin state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. Fitzgerald decided to give up his Assembly seat and run for U.S. Senate. He took on the protestors in Madison and led the Assembly admirably to bring about the conservative changes necessary for Wisconsin. Unfortunately he’s up against better financed, better recognized, and similarly positioned candidates. Fortunately for him, the other three candidates have dragged each other down into a mudfest that has been a big distraction for them while Fitz has stayed above the fray and taken the high road. He’s the only one in recent weeks to run a campaign worthy of a vote and who has not jumped into the mud with the other three (note: this doesn’t mean that I have or will vote for him as I haven’t made up my mind yet). None of the other candidates have had anything bad to say about Fitz. It may just be that the other candidates aren’t afraid of Fitzgerald’s campaign and therefore don’t feel the need to attack his record in anyway; but it also may be that there really isn’t anything bad they could say about him. All he’s done is help bring in more conservative candidates to the Assembly and legislate Scott Walker’s conservative agenda for Wisconsin. It was also interesting to note that in the three-round Wisconsin GOP convention vote on whether to officially endorse a candidate, Jeff Fitzgerald ended up with the majority of votes (though not enough to garner the official endorsement). When Hovde was knocked out in the first round with the lowest vote total, his campaign encouraged his delegates to vote for Fitz. And when Tommy was surprisingly knocked out in the second round, his campaign likewise encouraged delegates to vote for Fitz. Now I’m not a fool: I know this was because they both felt Fitz was the least threat to them compared to the other candidates and they didn’t want Neumann to get a win. However, it was basically these other two campaigns endorsing Fitz. If he had gotten the official endorsement, that would have been a really big blow to the other three candidates, so they were still taking a risk there.
For Fitzgerald, having Tommy get in the race has been the biggest hindrance to having his campaign surge forward sooner. But beyond that, I also think that some voters have not seen that “fire-in-the-belly” conservative passion. Fitz is a very straight-laced speaker who believes what he says, but that passion just doesn’t always ring out. I think that concerns some primary voters because if there is going to be a clear contrast with Tammy Baldwin, there is going to have to be someone who can clearly articulate those conservative principles as well as provide the passion to convince voters that it is the right way. Scott Walker and Ron Johnson were able to do that. I will say that his new TV ad does start to show that passion.
Some other people are concerned that having Fitz as the nominee will somehow further embolden the unions to come out in full force in Wisconsin this November. All I can say is, bring it on … AGAIN. They are a big o-fer on that platform in recent elections. In fact, if they were to pull the same tactics again leading up to November, that would only bring out that silent majority again who stood with Scott Walker and virtually ensure a big win for Fitz and Mitt in Wisconsin. Fitz deserves the same level of support that we gave to Scott Walker for the way he pushed forward a great conservative agenda in our state. However, it has probably been harder to rally around him thus far just because his conservative personality is not as prominent as Scott Walker’s is.
There is also concern by some about money for the Fitzgerald campaign when it comes to the general election versus Tammy Baldwin. I don’t see that as a problem. The money with come from the state and national GOP and donors here in the Wisconsin and around the nation. Many donors are holding back right now or minimally committing funds because the candidates are all relatively similar. Whoever comes out of this will get funds to go after Tammy. Unfortunately Fitz hasn’t gotten as much in funds during the primary and he’s just now got his first TV ad as well as the radio ads he’s already started to run. So the financial concerns are no reason in my mind to not vote for Fitz.
One of the things I guess that I have been watching is the poll results as we near the election. Part of the concern in a 4-way race is if I prefer more than one candidate, whoever is higher in the polls would probably get my vote just to make sure the candidate or candidates who I don’t prefer wouldn’t win. So I have my preferences right now and it is still a little fluid, but it may come down to those final polls changing who I end up voting for based on several things. Again, I’ll be happy to vote for whoever wins the primary, but I have to decide on who to vote for in the primary. But I also understand that in doing that, it may end up backfiring on my intentions. In the end, it also may just be that I vote for whoever my first choice is and let the chips fall where they may.
One thing I find interesting about this election is that some of the big conservative names who have endorsed a candidate in Texas, Indiana and Utah have not really said boo about the Senate race here in Wisconsin. Michelle Malkin, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity and others have taken sides in those other races. I’m not sure what to make of that. Is it that they are all acceptable to them whoever wins? Is that they’re all flawed enough that no one wants to hitch their wagon to one of the candidates? I don’t know.
That is pretty much my take on the candidates and the overall race at this point. I’m excited at the possibility of having one of these four men as the second Republican Senator from the great state of Wisconsin as well as having Mitt Romney in the White House!