Kleefisch Tries To Ape Trump
And the results are, ah, pretty weird.
These are strange days for the Republican Party. Witness the campaign of former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who announced in early September that she was officially running for governor against Democrat Tony Evers. With two terms in the administration of Scott Walker, who transformed the state in many ways, and with a prior career as a TV journalist, there are many themes Kleefisch might have struck.
Instead she offered what at any social gathering would be considered too much information. Noting that she suffered from cancer back in 2020 and had a tumor removed, she offered this statement: “They literally cut out half my guts,” she said “Even with half my guts, I still have twice as much guts as Tony Evers.”
Besides the tastelessness, it’s an ugly claim considering Evers nearly lost his life from cancer after being diagnosed with cancer of his esophagus, as Molly Beck reported: “Surgeons removed his esophagus and part of his stomach — leaving Evers unable to eat full-size meals for the rest of his life, and forcing him to sleep at a 45-degree angle.”
But is this kind of childish claim — I have twice as much guts as you do — how we want to elect our politicians? It never was until the advent of Donald Trump, whose threat that he could “beat the hell out of” Joe Biden in a boxing match was among many schoolyard boasts he offered on the campaign trail.
Kleefisch left no doubt who her model was, offering this view of Trump in her announcement speech: “There are people who said it could not be done, but instead Donald Trump became one of the most successful policy presidents of our time…And friends, if he can do it, we can do it.”
She called herself “a fighter” and derided Evers for “weak leadership.” Her campaign video echoed the anti-immigrant stance of Trump, declaring she would “ban sanctuary cities,” and dispatch the National Guard to “secure our southern border” — not the one with Illinois but 2,000 miles away along the Mexican border.
Is this the real Kleefisch? Gutsiness is certainly not the first thing you thought of when she ran for Lt. Governor in 2010. She refused to debate her Democratic opponent, Tom Nelson, and declined a week’s worth of requests to do an interview with the Madison weekly Isthmus. The La Crosse Tribune did an editorial calling on Kleefisch to debate. It also noted there were no details of her stands on the issues at her website.
It may be that her Republican handlers were trying to protect Kleefisch from comments like her statement about extending benefits to domestic partners: “This is a slippery slope… at what point are we going to OK marrying inanimate objects? Can I marry this table, or this, you know, clock? Can we marry dogs?”
Whatever the reason for her refusal to debate, it contradicted her campaign appearance on Fox News, where she called herself one of the “Mama Grizzlies,” a Sarah Palin-coined term for tough conservative women.
There is no doubt Kleefisch is conservative, backing lower taxes and laws banning abortion and supporting concealed carry — standard positions for Walker-era Republicans. But the continued domination of the party by Trump — even after he was defeated by a margin of seven million votes — is requiring candidates like Kleefisch to adopt increasingly unhinged positions on the issues.
McCoshen is a Tommy Thompson-era, moderate conservative who, after traveling the state for more than a year, and freeing himself to campaign by selling his business, made a surprise announcement that he would not run for governor. His explanation was vague, but it seems likely he decided he had no chance of winning the GOP primary without becoming a crazed Trumpster.
Which is what Kleefisch is doing. Her campaign spokesperson compared Evers to Jeffrey Dahmer. She attended a political event where the main speaker argued the January 6 Capitol riot was staged. She has called Democrats “pure evil.” She’s made comments about Wisconsin’s “fishy” elections and supports a “forensic audit” of the state’s 2020 results, helping reinforce Trump’s Big Lie of a stolen election. She’s called vaccine mandates “an epic, fresh new level of government overreach, creepiness.” And just as Trump attacked Democratic mayors for not taking harsh measures agent Black Lives Matter protestors, Kleefisch has claimed Evers didn’t respond to the unrest in Kenosha until lives were lost, which Politifact rated as “false.”
All of this is by design to convince hard-core Trumpsters she is one of them. Whether that’s working is unclear, but it could make her un-electable in the general election.