Patti Wenzel

State Republicans surprised as Leinenkugel shuts off his tap

By - May 25th, 2010 04:00 am
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Courtesy of the Ron Johnson for Senate campaign

What a weekend to go on vacation.

The Republicans come to town and saved the big surprises for the last day, giving everyone plenty to talk about for the weeks to come.

The delegates and candidates gathered on Sunday as the endorsement vote for U.S. Senate neared. Each of the four candidates — David Westlake, Terrence Wall, Dick Leinenkugel and Ron Johnson— prepared to make their final pleas for support and Leinenkugel made history with his speech.

After the standard stump speech, he calmly said, “It’s not my time. It’s Ron Johnson’s time.”

Was this a surprise? For the delegates and candidates, yes. But Leinenkugel said he knew two weeks ago that he would drop out of the race after meeting with Johnson. I think he also realized that he had a snowball’s chance in hell of getting the state party’s endorsement.

In a former life, I was a GOP county chair and the stench of Leinenkugel’s service in the Doyle administration was something that would never fade. He went over to the dark side and promoted the economic agenda of the other side. That is not the job experience the GOP is looking for in a senate candidate.

Johnson, on the other hand, is a clean slate. He has never lost an election by avoiding every type of election that ever came his way. He has impeccable business credentials, starting and building a successful plastics company. Because he only announced his candidacy on May 17, there hasn’t been much time to dig up any dirt on him. And he also has personal deep pockets, something that will be needed to take on an incumbent with the stature of Russ Feingold.

Wall is understandably disappointed. He’s been the front runner for the last six months and he has poured his own personal wealth into early television and mailings. He has the same business credentials as Johnson. But he has one problem: taxes. Not that he didn’t file them or pay them. The problem is he never owed any by making use of business tax credits instituted by Republican and Democrat administrations.

I say if you can avoid taxes, do it. But in this climate of class politics the Democrats had a custom-made club to bash Wall over the head with — even though it was their own policies that Wall used. Remember Mr. Wall, no good deed goes unpunished.

Photo courtesy Leinenkugel for Senate website.

Johnson now has the blessing of the party and the curse, a big target for Feingold to shoot at. But Feingold is vulnerable. He has run as the outsider and everyman for years, but after 17 years in the Senate he is the ultimate incumbent in a year where incumbency seems to have become a burden. Feingold also sold out his principles this year when he complained about the lack of a public option in the health care bill, but voted for it anyway.

While the senate race provided excitement, there were no big surprises when the delegates overwhelmingly endorsed Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker as their candidate for governor. That doesn’t mean clear sailing for Walker, who will still face Mark Neumann in the September primaries, but it does give him the party’s coffers for a hot summer battle for voters hearts.

Neumann, who withdrew from the party’s endorsement ballot, spoke to the convention and his supporters demonstrated outside the Frontier Airlines Center. They were barred from the convention floor, not for their loyalties but due to lack of tickets. Neumann said he will continue to fight for the Republican nomination, relying on the voter’s choice not the party’s.

So as the weather heats up so will the campaigns. Expect fireworks and grandstanding from both sides, with no break in the rhetoric until November.

Categories: Commentary, Politics

0 thoughts on “State Republicans surprised as Leinenkugel shuts off his tap”

  1. Anonymous says:

    “Feingold also sold out his principles this year when he complained about the lack of a public option in the health care bill, but voted for it anyway.”

    You can definitely spin it that way, but anyone who’s followed Russ’ career and read his explanations for his votes knows better. Heck, this is a guy who voted to confirm John Roberts to the Supreme Court and had clear reasons for doing so. Feingold consistently gets votes from both conservatives and liberals in Wisconsin because they respect his honesty (note that Feingold won counties in 2004 that, if i recall properly, also went for Bush). Despite this year’s toxic environment for incumbents, Feingold will always be tough for the Republicans to defeat, because Russ Feingold has never represented Politics as Usual.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hey, I’ve voted for Russ since he first ran, plus he is a great human being. However, a lot of people, both Dem. and Rep. are disappointed that he didn’t follow his principles this time around and went with the party line. I didn’t like it when he voted against the Patriot Act, but I respected his reasoning. I think he should have done the same with health care. Unfortunately, his vote on health care was very Politics as Usual.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I don’t know that i agree. Obviously i was in favor of a public option and still am, but there were enough positive things in the bill that caused him to vote for it. The rationale that if he didn’t vote yes on what *was* in the bill, lest Congress not get a crack at this again during Obama’s term, makes sense to me. It basically came down to “well, it’s a start and it beats doing nothing,” which i can begrudgingly respect.
    The statement here backs it up:
    http://feingold.senate.gov/record.cfm?id=321133&&&search_field=health%20care%20reform
    Obviously, you and i disagree on the bill itself, but that’s neither here nor there. 🙂 I just have a hard time viewing this one vote as any kind of party line sell-out when his entire career voting record suggests otherwise. Occam’s Razor–what makes more sense, Russ voted his conscience once again, or he suddenly became a beltway ballplayer?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Wow, i wrote a really clumsy sentence in there.

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