Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Six Questions for Democratic Convention

Can the party revive in Wisconsin? That depends on these six questions.

By - May 28th, 2018 01:20 pm
DemocraticLogo" by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

DemocraticLogo” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

This weekend’s state Democratic Party convention might be described as put up or shut up time for the out-of-power party.

Democratic activists who gather in Oshkosh will vet the party’s 10-plus candidates for governor, shower love on U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin and rip President  Trump, the first Republican presidential candidate in a generation to carry Wisconsin.

But they’ll also have to answer a few questions that are critical to its future.

1. Is there really an “enthusiasm gap”?

In March, Marquette University’s poll found that 64 percent of Democrats described themselves as very motivated to vote this year, but only 54 percent of Republicans used that term.

That 10 percentage point gap worries top Republicans, including GOP Gov. Scott Walker, seeking a third term on Nov. 6. The same poll found Walker’s approval rating 47% favorable and 47% unfavorable – a deadlock that has him afraid he could be an enthusiasm gap casualty.

2. Does Tony Evers have any “charisma”?

One of the tribe of Democratic candidates running for governor — perhaps the front runner — is career educator Evers, who has won three statewide elections as superintendent of public instruction. Evers is more wonk than charismatic leader and public speaker. His convention speech gives him a chance to separate himself from the other Democrats running and build momentum for his summer of campaigning. Or not.

Last week, the Evers campaign said a Public Policy Polling survey had him beating Walker, 49 percent to 45 percent. Evers Campaign Manager Maggie Gau wants the poll to set the table for a winning convention. “We now know Tony Evers absolutely can beat him,” she said in a statement.

3. Will party unify behind whoever is its gubernatorial nominee?

Humility is not a personality trait that defines some of the Democrats running for governor. The successes they have achieved in politics and their careers means they see themselves as leaders- not followers. So, in their convention speeches, how will they balance touting their successes, explaining why they more qualified than the other Democrats running and attacking Walker?

And, can each of those candidates promise – with no fingers crossed – to support whoever wins the Democratic primary on Aug. 14?

One veteran Democratic state senator recently privately said three candidates have the best chance of being that nominee: Evers, Rep. Dana Wachs, of Eau Claire, and former Rep. Kelda Roys, of Madison.

To speak to the convention, a candidate for governor must file 2,000 signatures, proving they have broad support. Will all 10-plus make that cut?

4. Will Democrats justify GOP’s “angry, haters” label?

Before, during and after the state Republican Party convention May 12, Walker has repeatedly referred to Democrats as being motivated by “anger and hatred.”

Walker hopes Democrats prove that at this weekend’s convention, denouncing both him and President Trump in the most ugly, vicious terms.  Walker’s campaign can then use sound-bite snippets from those speeches in pre-Nov. 6 ads telling voters Democrats are too angry to govern.

Will Democratic convention speakers be able to pause in their repudiations of Trump and Walker long enough to cast a positive vision for the future?

5. Is it really “Year of Women”?

An unusually high number of female Democratic candidates registered with the State Elections Commission as potential candidates for legislative seats. But will they all meet the 5 p.m. Friday deadline to file nomination papers to actually run?

Roys and state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, of Alma, are the most experienced female Democrats running for governor. Roys served in the Assembly and ran for Congress. After three Senate terms, Vinehout is giving up that seat to run for governor.

6. What is Kenosha County’s political temperature?

For decades, Kenosha County was solidly Democratic. President Obama got 59 percent of its vote in 2008; 56 percent in 2012. Kenosha’s mayor, the county executive and its current Assembly representative, Peter Barca, are former party leaders in the Capitol.

Kenosha County’s colorful state senator in the 1980s and ‘90s, Democrat Joe Andrea, once told the Senate there were only two pictures hanging in his home’s living room growing up – President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Jesus Christ.

Andrea died in 2002 – 14 years before President Trump won Kenosha County with 50.1 percent of the vote on Nov. 8, 2016. That reflected a county changed by explosive economic development and Illinois refugees.

If Kenosha County Democrats are fired up this weekend, that could be a bad sign for Republicans.

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Contact him at

13 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Six Questions for Democratic Convention”

  1. GRNDPAKWH says:

    The Democrats only have to do one thing this year and that is to stop being the party of “we are not Walker” and start being the party of the people.

  2. Kevin Baas says:

    I’m rather unimpressed by these questions. Better questions regarding “reviving” the democrat party would be:

    1) can we get out the vote? Especially among younger voters.
    2) can we un-gerrymander wisconsin before the next congressional election? This all depends on whitford v gill and s supreme court seat stolen by the GOP.
    3) can we get through the extremely thick skulls of GOP voters and educate them on just how insanely corrupt the GOP and especially Donald Trump and McConnel are? This involves engaging them in conversations about politics. I know – depressing.
    4) can we stop “searching” for how we are not appealing to viters, and just stand by our principles and defend them vociferously. Do you know how to appeal to voters? That. My doing that.

    I don’t feel like doing 6. Those 4 questions came to mind pretty much immediately.

  3. Troll says:

    Democrats are not the party of the people, yes they run well in Moscow (Madison). Yet, they are weak in Milwaukee. Rural parts of Wisconsin are economically poorer and love Trump. The winner will be whoever has a greater ground game of volunteers. Democrats need to kick down Milwaukee residents doors and drag them to vote.

  4. Kevin Baas says:

    Moscow (Madison) – you do realize that fascism is on the far RIGHT of the political spectrum, right?

    Sorry, dumb question. You obviously don’t.

  5. Troll says:

    Kevin, you don’t know your history. Hitler was elected on the left as a Socialist Democrat. The Enabling Act (German: Ermächtigungsgesetz) was a 1933 Weimar Constitution amendment that gave the German Cabinet – in effect, Chancellor Adolf Hitler – the power to enact laws without the involvement of the Reichstag. Joseph Goebbels wanted Hitler’s party to show its colors in Berlin, which he described as “the reddest city in Europe besides Moscow.” Together, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the Communist Party of Germany (KPD) captured 52.2 percent of the vote in the 1925 municipal elections.

  6. Kevin Baas says:

    You claim that I don’t know my history and yet provide np evidence at all all support this claim.

    Yes, I know that Hitler and Nazis did all of their fascist stiff to appeal to labor and the poor under the guise of communism and social justice. Everybody and their mother knows that. Reminds me a lot of Donald Trump.

    Maybe you can look up the political spectrum in an encyclopedia.

  7. Troll says:

    Kevin, Hitler took the guns away from the Jews in the 1930’s we know the result, 8 million gone. The Soviets took away the guns from the Capitalists in the 1920’s and 1930’s and 50 million died in the gulags, and of starvation because the Capitalists (kulaks) could not feed the poor. Now, you want Trump to take away our Second amendment rights, so the left like in Venezuela can disarm the right and create your visions of utopia in America.

  8. PMD says:

    Less than two seconds on Google reveals a fact check debunking the claim that Hitler was a leftist. Crackpots have been saying that for years. Why wouldn’t they when their hero tellsnan average of six lies a day since taking office.

  9. Kevin Baas says:

    Wow, I was trying call down the wackiness.

    Clearly that backfired.

  10. Kevin Baas says:

    *trying to calm down.

    Damn auto-correct.

  11. Troll says:

    We can debate history. The Left has killed over 100 million individuals over the last century whether Mao, (50 million) Hitler, Castro, Pol Pot, Maduro, Lenin and countless more.

  12. Kevin Baas says:

    You just totally changed my mind about what democrats need to do to revive their party in milwaukee.

  13. Crazy Chester says:

    Kevin, there’s no point with Troll.He’s so far gone in La La Land that all you can do is wonder how many times his mother must have dropped him on his head.

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