Cieslewicz: “Communist” Madison gives Duffy all that he could ask for

It looks like Dave Cieslewicz, a columnist with Madison’s Isthmus newspaper, is on the same page as Morning Martini when it comes to city leaders’ reaction to Rep. Sean Duffy’s “communist” comment about the city.

In his most recent column, Cieslewicz says that the reaction following Duffy’s comment on Fox News played right into Duffy’s hands. He reminded us that Rep. Mark Pocan, Mayor Paul Soglin, and the progressive Cap Times newspaper blew up over the comment and made the obligatory demand for an apology. He then gave some advice:

Look, I’m not criticizing Pocan, Soglin or the Cap Times. They all did what you’d expect: vigorously defend their community. I might have done the same in their positions.

The problem is that this will have no effect on Duffy at all, and it won’t improve Madison’s standing with the rest of Wisconsin. Duffy got a rise out of just the folks he wanted to irritate. And it probably played in the rest of the state just the way he had hoped. Maybe it played even better because Madison leaders came off as not just defensive, but arrogant when they went out of their way to point out how much better Dane County was doing than everybody else.

Seeing a strategy by Duffy, I gave similar advice at the time, writing:

By picking a city he will never come close to winning in a hypothetical statewide contest – one that most Wisconsinites look at in the Dreyfusian witticism as 76 square miles surrounded by reality – Duffy couldn’t have chosen a better foil.

Duffy leveraged one comment on Fox News into a multi-day media cycle aimed at conservatives in southeast Wisconsin. A congressman from far-northern Wisconsin, Duffy would need to make rapid and solid inroads with voters in the super-conservative Milwaukee suburbs, which is an indispensable puzzle piece for any Republican looking to win a statewide race.

This isn’t really a case about right versus left, just about good political strategy. It’s not surprising the Madison contingent would defend their hometown, but it didn’t help their progressive cause. And the “rubbing it in” that the Cap Times did by reminding everyone that Madison is prospering relative to the rest of the state is just bad manners.

Read the whole Cieslewicz column here.

About the writer: Chris Rochester is editor in chief of Morning Martini. He’s an armchair politico, veteran of several campaigns, and communications specialist. He's the communications director for the MacIver Institute. Commentary here is strictly his own.