Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Redefining the GOP gov primary:

Walker the longshot, Green the favorite?

A rather remarkable story in today's Journal Sentinel redefines the Republican primary campaign for governor.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is cast as the longshot underdog -- the one some party leaders are quietly trying to get to quit the race -- and Rep. Mark Green as the establishment-backed frontrunner.

What's really remarkable is that Green and Walker accept and seem to welcome that description of their race, as it is laid out by reporter Dave Umhoefer.

Walker sees himself in the mold of Lee Sherman Dreyfus, the unknown chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, who knocked off establishment favorite Rep. Robert Kasten in the 1978 Republican primary and went on to beat Gov. Martin Schreiber to become governor.

But Walker is no Dreyfus, even if he does have Dreyfus' daughter-in-law, Susan, in his corner.

Dreyfus was a charismatic candidate, a crackerjack speaker, who ran as a populist outsider against the Republican establishment, which endorsed Kasten. "Let the people decide!" was the Dreyfus cry as he traveled the state in a broken-down school bus with some young musicians he called the Rag Tag Band. His trademark red vest also made him a conversation piece.

Candidates and campaigns have dreamed and schemed for 25 years plus about how to reproduce that Dreyfus phenomenon, but no one has come close. Some of the Dreyfus tacticians, like Bill Kraus and Bob Williams, are still trading on the 1978 experience, which they have never been able to replicate either.

If Walker is in for keeps, as he insists he is, he's going to have to find another shtick. Walker's an attractive candidate and decent speaker, but he's no Lee Dreyfus.

Both candidates dismiss their negatives. Walker insists that being from Milwaukee won't hurt him outstate, despite 150 years of evidence to the contrary. Green doesn't see that being a member of Congress has any downside, despite the fact that voters' have given Congress a job approval rating in the 30s for most of the last several months. The growing scandals among Republican members of Congress will cast a shadow over Green, as will his financial contributions from the indicted Tom DeLay and his unyielding support for the war in Iraq.

Both candidates say they will play nicely and not be negative, but if they are in a close race next summer don't bet the farm on that promise.

Green claims to be ignoring Walker and focusing on Gov. Jim Doyle, but when Umhoefer told him Walker said Green might be hurt by his Congressional ties, Green shot back:

"I've resided in Wisconsin longer than Scott's been alive. That smacks a little of desperation."

So, it appears it wouldn't take much of a spark to set off the fireworks.

For Wisconsin Democrats, this is going to be fun to watch.

AFTERTHOUGHT: Do you suppose Walker could be adopting the underdog role in anticipation of the year-end campaign finance reports, which become public in January, knowing that he will show up badly in the cash on hand comparison with Green?


At 4:00 PM, Blogger WaukConservative said...

Not nearly as much fun as the Dem AG race will be for Republicans to watch.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Mke Tidbits said...

Your afterthought may be correct. Walker fundraiser is looking for last minute PAC checks from anyone she can get them from.


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