Is it possible that no viable candidate will step up to challenge Scott Walker for the governor’s mansion in 2018? Well, after what passes for the Democrat Party bench in Wisconsin ran for the hills en masse, one more high profile name declared his intent to sit this one out – Dane County Executive Joe Parisi.

From our friends at Media Trackers:

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin bristles at the notion that it is in disarray. But that denial comes at roughly the same time as news that one of their highest profile potential candidates to challenge Republican Governor Scott Walker in 2018 is taking a pass. Dane County Executive Joe Parisi said Tuesday he will not be running for governor in 2018. Most political observers, both left and right, felt Parisi was a lock to seek the Democratic nomination to challenge Walker. Instead, Parisi joins a growing list of names who will skip the 2018 governor’s race.

Parisi’s announcement comes after Rep. Ron Kind, state Sen. Jennifer Shilling, former state Sen. Tim Cullen, and Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele all bowed out, leaving the party with no candidate with even a modicum of untarnished statewide name ID. Susan Happ, Jefferson County DA who ran a failed bid for Attorney General, hasn’t bowed out yet.

Bader also raises an interesting question. If the Dems can’t shake another business person out of the bush (a la Mary Burke – we saw how that turned out) or cajole someone like state Rep. Dana Wachs into launching himself into a highly unlikely campaign, then they just might be stuck with Bob Harlow, the 25-year-old who ran a failed bid for Congress in 2016…in California.

The Journal Sentinel is also reporting that a Milwaukee businessman, Andy Gronik, 59, also personally funded a poll that compared him to Sen. Kathleen Vinehout and Parisi. In an inauspicious turn, the out-of-state polling firm referred to Wisconsinites as “Wisconsinians,” the JS’s Dan Bice reported. Bice wrote, “Think of him as Mary Burke 2.0, but with a skinnier wallet and and less public service experience.”

The poll didn’t ask about Wachs or Happ.

Vinehout, who is up for re-election in 2018 in an increasingly Republican district (her Senate district contains the only seat where a Republican ousted a Democratic incumbent in the Assembly, and she squeaked out a win over Mel Pittman in 2012), is still in the running.

Will Vinehout eschew a potentially tough re-election bid and run for governor instead?

 

Updated

Here’s a list of announced candidates for statewide and federal elections in Wisconsin in 2018. While formal announcements by incumbents from governor to Congress are so far few and far between, it’s generally expected that all incumbents will run for re-election. We will update this list as formal announcements start rolling in.

Governor

  • Bob Harlow (D) – 25-year-old Stanford graduate who last ran for Congress in California in 2016
  • *Governor Scott Walker has not yet formally announced he’ll run for re-election
  • Former state Sen. Tim Cullen, Rep. Ron Kind, state Sen. Jennifer Shilling, Dane County exec Joe Parisi, and Milwaukee County exec Chris Abele have all declined to run.

Lt. Governor

  • No formal announcements yet.
  • *Lt Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch has not yet formally announced he’ll run for re-election.

Attorney General

  • Josh Kaul (D) – A 36-year-old Madison lawyer and son of former Wisconsin AG Peg Lautenschlager, who recently resigned as head of the state Ethics Commission.
  • *AG Brad Schimel has not formally announced he’ll seek re-election yet.

U.S. Senate

  • No formal announcements yet.
  • *Sen. Tammy Baldwin has not formally announced she’ll seek re-election yet.
  • Rep. Sean Duffy declined to run.

Congress, 1st District

  • *Rep. Paul Ryan (R) has not formally announced he’ll seek re-election yet.

Congress, 2nd District

  • *Rep. Mark Pocan (D) has not formally announced he’ll seek re-election yet.

Congress, 3rd District

  • *Rep. Ron Kind (D) has not formally announced he’ll seek re-election yet.

Congress, 4th District

  • *Rep. Gwen Moore (D) has not formally announced she’ll seek re-election yet.

Congress, 5th District

  • *Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R) has not formally announced he’ll seek re-election yet.

Congress, 6th District

  • *Rep. Glenn Grothmann (R) has not formally announced he’ll seek re-election yet.

Congress, 7th District

  • *Rep. Sean Duffy (R) has not formally announced he’ll seek re-election yet, but declined to run for U.S. Senate.

Congress, 8th District

  • *Rep. Mike Gallagher (R) has not formally announced he’ll seek re-election yet.

Just as Republicans around the state were getting all excited about Nicole Schneider, it seems they may have been taken for a ride.

Schneider, the heiress of the Schneider National trucking fortune, was supposedly considering a run for U.S. Senate against Tammy Baldwin. Her appeal was chiefly that she could self-fund an expensive campaign.

But as it seems to always do, Schneider’s social media history can’t hide. Judging by some of her past activity, she may not be all that conservative at all. From Vicki McKenna’s website:

Yesterday, Mediatrackers broke this story about a woman named Nicole Schneider running for US Senate against Tammy Baldwin. See that story HERE.OK FINE.  But IS SHE REALLY A REPUBLICAN? Or is she just a faker?  Well, you be the judge.  Here are links to her now DELETED tweets on everything from abortion and Planned Parenthood to Transphobia to like Tammy Baldwin, Hillary and Elizabeth Warren…to hating on Trump.  It’s a pile of anti-conservative stuff that for reasons only SHE knows, she doesn’t want anyone to see.Here is her now deleted post on “How to be a Social Justice Ally:  Working from and Against Privilege”.

LINK  **

Here are some deleted Tweets.  In these, she is critical of Gov Walker, Paul Ryan, Donald Trump–while seemingly praising Elizabeth Warren, Hillary Clinton and Tammy Baldwin.  Oh and she also seems to dislike SODA CONSUMPTION (!!)  (By the way, ma’am, I’m a Catholic and I voted for Trump!)

LINK **

Schneider has since deleted the tweets, but Vicki preserves them at the links above. Is Schneider a bona fide RINO? (a pejorative that gets tossed around far too often by people who can’t handle disagreement and believe everyone should agree with them…a paradox for an individualist ideology that stands opposed to homogeneity and collectivism. But I digress).

I don’t want to make any definitive conclusions about Ms. Schneider or her politics. I’ve been asked, after all, why I like this Democrat’s Facebook page or why I follow that progressive on Twitter by people who don’t really know their way around social media. People are also dynamic, and Trump a lightning rod who I’ve also criticized. However, Republican voters should use caution that Schneider might be an opportunist who doesn’t actually share many of their positions on the issues.

Now that Sean Duffy is officially out of contention, Republicans are starting to line up for the chance to take on Baldwin, who is widely seen as potentially vulnerable, especially after she locks arms with other Democrats and opposes the nomination of Neil Gorsuch for the Supreme Court. She’s also in hot water over her handling of the Tomah VA “Candy Land” scandal.

Wisconsinites have little patience for political grandstanding, and even less patience for politicians who leave veterans hanging out to dry – then pins the blame on a staffer and offers her hush money.

Names often bandied about as potential challengers for Baldwin are state Sen. Leah Vukmir, state Rep. Dale Kooyenga, hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, and Marine veteran/businessman Kevin Nicholson (who recently got the endorsement of mega-donor Dick Uihlein).

What the GOP needs to avoid at all costs, however, is a replay of the 2012 GOP primary, variously comparable to a circular firing squad, bloodbath, melee, or train wreck. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson emerged so badly injured from the primary, he had practically no money, while Baldwin had an entire summer to raise cash and plot her messaging.

It took Senator Tammy Baldwin precisely 0.64 seconds to completely reverse her position on the Senate’s duty to “advise and consent” on presidential Supreme Court appointments. That’s about how long it took for President Trump to utter the name “Judge Neil Gorsuch.”

In 2016, when a nominee of President Obama was forced to sit in the proverbial waiting room for most of the year, Baldwin joined the chorus of feigned outrage from the left. But now that a new president – one who she doesn’t like as much – has made a nomination of his own, she’s completely reversed her position by supporting a filibuster to clog up the pipeline to the high court.

A new Politifact column declares Baldwin’s new position to be a full flip-flop. When Politifact calls out a Democrat, you know the case must be airtight. They write:

When [Merrick] Garland was nominated in March 2016, Republicans moved to block his nomination, which prompted the ire of Democrats.

Baldwin declared: “It’s the constitutional duty of the president to select a Supreme Court nominee, and the Senate has a responsibility to give that nominee a fair consideration with a timely hearing and a timely vote.”

But now that Baldwin is in the minority and facing a Republican nominee, she is supporting a filibuster that creates a roadblock to reaching that final vote. Her claim to “support” a cloture vote makes no sense since that isn’t up to her party — cloture would be pushed by Republicans and is only needed if Baldwin and other Democrats pursue a filibuster.

On the day Trump announced his nomination of Gorsuch, Baldwin said she would give him a fair hearing, but apparently she immediately suffered a severe case of amnesia and declared two days later her intention to vote against Gorsuch – before ever meeting with him. The hypocrisy didn’t slip past Governor Walker:

President Obama nominated Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court last March following the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. In the spirit of Obama’s own “elections have consequences” declaration, the Republican-controlled Senate decided not to take action on the Garland nomination. They cited a longstanding precedent that a lifetime appointment to the high court shouldn’t be made in the waning months of a presidency.

As the election’s outcome made plain, the argument seems to have held true that a Supreme Court nominee in the last few months of a president’s term might not reflect the sentiment of the time, and many voters made their decision in large measure because of the grave importance of who would fill the Scalia seat.

And of course, after the election of now-President Trump and the glorious departure of Obama, Garland packed his bags. Trump selected Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee on January 31.

Suddenly, Democrats whose hair was ablaze at the GOP’s refusal to hold hearings and an “up or down” vote on Garland…well, their hair is still ablaze, except now they’re angry the American people elected a Republican president and dashed their hopes of regaining control of the Senate.

The halls of Congress reek with hypocrisy. Suddenly, Democrats like Baldwin who hugged the Constitution while demanding a “timely hearing and a timely vote” on Garland are now hell bent on doing everything possible to stop Gorsuch – by all measures one of most qualified candidates for the Supreme Court imaginable and as close a fit to the strict constructionist, originalist judicial philosophy for which Justice Scalia was legendary.

In fact, Gorsuch has famously said that a judge who likes all the outcomes of his or her decisions is not a good judge – judges should apply the rule of law objectively, not manipulate it to create outcomes they like. This speaks volumes about Gorsuch’s sterling character – and Democrats’ rabid opposition to him speaks volumes about theirs.

For their part, the Republicans argue that, unlike their opposition to Garland, blocking a SCOTUS nomination made literally within days of a new president’s inauguration is unprecedented. That’s not stopping Democrat Senators from flip-flopping en masse like a sinking boatload of wet waffles – even some from states Trump won, like Wisconsin.

Baldwin’s staff is trying hard to muddy the waters with as much double-speak as they can muster, but Politifact does an excellent job of cutting through the nonsense her office is putting out:

In an email, Baldwin spokesman John Kraus said the senator’s position is consistent because she supported a hearing, a committee vote and a floor vote for both nominees.

Politifact goes through the byzantine Senate rules behind the filibuster to explain why Baldwin is a hypocrite. Essentially, a filibuster is the use of Senate rules to create a debate of infinite duration, thereby blocking any final vote on the nominee (only in Washington, eh?). A filibuster can be stopped by the use of cloture, a vote that sets a limit on debate – that vote requires 60 votes, so Democrats theoretically have enough votes to stand in the way.

The Baldwin spokesman slyly told Politifact that the senator supports a vote for cloture, but since she’s in the minority, her party wouldn’t even be in a position to make such a motion. Her position on cloture is as meaningful as my position on the clothing lines at Kohl’s. Politifact explains further:

But cloture is a maneuver executed by the majority party (Republicans in this case), so Baldwin’s “support” for that is both unnecessary and irrelevant.

The filibuster/cloture tactic has only been used four times for nominees to the Supreme Court since 1968 – and this one would be in the first few months of a presidency. The obstructionism and the hypocritical double-speak to justify it is hard to fathom. Fortunately, the Republicans can and might (and should) simply change Senate rules (with a simple majority vote) to eliminate the 60-vote cloture requirement for Supreme Court nominees.

The Democrats used this “nuclear option” for lower court nominees, presumably to get judges approved and keep the courts moving effectively. Since the Supreme Court is, well, the supreme court, it stands to reason that using the nuclear option to get Gorsuch approved is of even more supreme importance and even more supremely logical.

Elections do have consequences, and unfortunately for obstructionist Democrats like Tammy Baldwin, Justice Neil Gorsuch will be one of them.

The La Crosse Tribune revealed a stunning new change in Rep. Ron Kind’s strategy today after multiple stories have been surfaced about the 20-year congressman’s potential 2018 plans.

The Tribune revealed today that Kind plans to hold office hours at various locations within the district in order to connect with constituents. Reports the Tribune:

U.S. Rep. Ron Kind has announced plans to make his staff available to constituents in each of the 18 counties of Wisconsin’s Third Congressional District over the next two weeks.

No doubt, throughout the land triumphant flourishes permeated village squares and Walmart parking lots at the news that Kind’s staff plans to hold office hours on Feb. 28, March 1, March 2, March 3, March 7 – all at various locations throughout the Third congressional district.

Reports of Kind now holding office hours in his district come after questions emerged about his potential run for governor. We speculated about the possibility that he might run for governor and took a look at whether the GOP is planning to seriously target his district in 2018. Is Kind trying to build support for a run for governor, or – more likely – shore up his image as a constituent-connector?

Is holding office hours – a top-flight story in his hometown newspaper – a sign that the congressman has changed strategy in order to emit an appearance of increased constituent relations? Or perhaps it’s a complete coincidence.

The people of Kind’s district, nonetheless, are no doubt honored that their congressman has bestowed upon them an opportunity for even the briefest of hearings, even if the precious opportunity precipitated upon them from on high only upon chatter that the screws might be tightening on his comfortable position in the next election cycle.

Funny how politics works.

The Republican Party could be putting plans in place to give Democratic Congressman Ron Kind the sort of challenge he hasn’t faced in his 20 years in the House.

A fundraising solicitation email from Mark Morgan, executive director of the state Republican Party, pinpointed Kind’s district, the Third congressional district of Wisconsin, as being on the GOP radar. After Trump’s decisive win in rural Wisconsin, Morgan tells supporters:

“…Now we know which House seat is our best shot at a GOP pickup: Wisconsin’s Third District – one of only a handful of Democrat seats carried by Trump in the country.

Of course fundraising solicitations portraying a particular win or loss as hinging on the $20 contribution of some typist or trucker are standard business in politics, so for the state party to imply Ron Kind’s seat hangs in the balance might be tabloid trash that today passes for real reporting, but to those who have been in the game it’s not exactly a shocker.

The email does, however, cite a Journal Sentinel article probing the question of Kind’s conundrum as a flyover Democrat in a Trump congressional district. While the solicitation didn’t specify which article, it may have referred to this one where the Journal Sentinel took a look at each Wisconsin congressional district. It’s worth quoting their analysis of the Third in full:

This is one of just a dozen Democratic House seats in the country carried by Trump last fall. It had been regularly voting Democratic for president. But it saw a huge shift toward the GOP in 2016, part of the massive rural swing that delivered Wisconsin for Trump. Kind was unopposed for Congress by Wisconsin Republicans, who had no real way of knowing what a golden opportunity this blue seat would have been for them in 2016.

In a highly read analysis I posted this weekend, I threw a bit of cold water on the idea that Kind is or will ever be a golden opportunity to Wisconsin Republicans. The article notes, however, that Kind will be under pressure to oppose Trump.

Now it looks like Kind will be highly targeted by the GOP in 2018. The fact that his southwestern Wisconsin district voted for Trump may pressure Kind to look for some common ground across party lines with the president. But Trump’s edge in the district was narrow (just 4 points), and Kind will be pushed by his own party’s voters to oppose the president.

Kind’s dilemma is this: if he vociferously opposes Trump, he alienates an energetic portion of non-ideological populists among his electorate. If he demurs, he ticks off the far left that already thinks he’s squishier than a rotten banana.

If the state GOP follows through on making Kind a target, they’ll join at least one national group called the National Action Network so far that is also running ads against Kind for his support of Obamacare, but there’s no indication whether this is a token shot across the bow or the harbinger of a bigger campaign to come.

Politico also reported that Kind’s district is one of 36 on a list of target districts – districts that Trump won that are held by Democrats.

In his email, Morgan also said:

We need your help to recruit top-notch GOP challengers and give them every resource they will need to defeat DC insiders who have been in Washington too long and have lost touch with everyday Wisconsinites.

That candidate is likely Kind’s 2014 challenger Tony Kurtz. An influx of support from outside the district to match Kind’s Political Action Committee donations could level the playing field and give Kurtz a real shot.

Addendum: a curmudgeonly Facebook commenter pointed out that the opening paragraph should be regarded in error in view of Dan Kapanke’s highly competitive 2010 campaign against which Kind barely held on. We are not in error, and the curmudgeon is wrong. While the RNCC, Kapanke campaign, and other groups assembled a nearly victorious effort against Kind, key here is “nearly”; our lede refers to an unprecedented effort against Kind, one that wins, not one that comes close.

Rep. Ron Kind – whose gubernatorial ambitions, or lack thereof, Morning Martini has tracked for years – is once again stringing along his Democratic groupies when it comes to his interest in running for governor.

The congressman from La Crosse just told WPR he hasn’t ruled out running in 2018:

“I’ve been troubled, as many people have throughout the state, in regards to the direction of where we’ve gone as a state, the unnecessary division, pitting people against each other, dividing families,” Kind said. “We deserve better leadership, but no decision’s been made on my behalf.”

Like the star quarterback telling a half dozen ladies he might take them to the prom, Kind continues to tease Wisconsin Democrats desperate for a candidate strong enough to knock off Scott Walker.

Will he run? If he does, he has a lot of factors to weigh, including the increasing distance between himself and the mainstream of his own party, competing pressure to stay in his rightward-trending district, and the possibility of a damaging primary.

If he ran for governor, Kind could face a challenge from the left, a front on which he’s vulnerable for any number of reasons. For one, he’s been on the outs with labor interests in his district for some time, particularly because of his open-armed embrace of multilateral trade deals like NAFTA and the TPP. The erosion of support by the union left was also evidenced by his Bernie Sanders-inspired primary opponent in the 2016 election. At least one union actually endorsed his opponent, Myron Buchholtz. Superdelegate Kind was also hounded by a pro-Bernie gaggle at the Democratic National Convention for being too moderate on trade issues.

Still, 2016 was a hopscotch for Kind, who eventually trounced Buchholtz and strode onto a general election in which his oddly named opponent, “scattering,” barely amounted to a blip (translation from geek humor: he ran unopposed). However, the strain between Kind and labor remains. The strain between Kind and the newly empowered and proliferating far-left, for whom Kind is far too nuanced and rational, is also growing more pronounced as Sandersism takes hold within the new Democratic Party.

Ironically, Kind has long marketed himself as a leader in the “New Democrat” caucus, a group of middle-of-the-road Congressmen who, with the upheaval that’s dragged his party to the precipice of socialism, now appears to be a relic of the days of Clinton. The New Democrats should re-brand as “The Tattered Wreckage of a Dead Dream.”

As one of few remaining rural, flyover state Democrats still in Congress, he admitted to voting against Nancy Pelosi in recent House leadership elections, telling the Wisconsin State Journal that a new minority leader would be “a breath of fresh air.” In the same article, Kind was critical of Hillary Clinton. “She didn’t set foot in Wisconsin once after the primary. I knew that was going to be a problem,” he said.

After the results of the November elections hit, Kind no doubt started seeing the ground moving beneath him as his electorate’s gradual transformation became manifest – or at least the electorate is realizing how far left the Democratic Party has drifted away from New Deal populism.

Voters are changing their voting patterns accordingly.

When Kind was first elected in 1996, President Bill Clinton was reforming welfare and trumpeting that “the era of big government is over,” an apparent last gasp of the Democratic ideals of the Kennedy era. Such notions are thoroughly in the mainstream of Republican thinking today, but it’s utterly unthinkable rhetoric from a modern Democrat – except the likes of Jim Webb, whose moderate candidacy for president went over within the post-Obama Democratic ranks like ketchup on ice cream.

How much has the electorate changed in Wisconsin’s Third? In 2012, the first presidential election after redistricting made the district even more blue by removing parts of right-leaning St. Croix and adding parts of left-leaning Portage, Barack Obama won with 54.8 percent. In 2016, the same electorate voted for Donald J. Trump by 49.3 percent; Hillary Clinton won just 44.8 percent, about the same amount as Kind’s last Republican challenger, Tony Kurtz.

Kind endorsed Hillary and pledged his superdelegate vote for her.

In addition, the two state legislative seats in which an incumbent was defeated in 2016 (both Democrats) were in Kind’s district. Rep. Chris Danou lost to Republican Treig Pronschinske 52-48 and longtime Sen. Julie Lassa lost to Patrick Testin, who hadn’t held elected office before challenging Lassa. Lassa lost by 52.4 to 47.6 percent, losing every county in her senate district save one, Portage, the most liberal.

In the era of Trump, Kind is buoyed by a sort of Bermuda Triangle of liberal enclaves – the City of La Crosse (the rest of La Crosse County went for Trump), Portage County, and the City of Eau Claire.

The tectonic plates have shifted on the Democratic side of the ballot since 1996, too. Sanders obliterated Clinton in the Third District – the Democratic Socialist won the district with an astounding 61.3 percent of the Democratic primary vote.

Kind’s district might be increasingly vulnerable, but that doesn’t mean Kind himself is, too. Though the district’s voting patterns seem to be shifting Republican, especially in the rural areas bounded by the Bermuda Triangle, Kind is hardly the poster child for the “new left” that pawns off responsibility for Hillary Clinton’s abysmal candidacy on conspiracy theories of Russian hacking, fake news, or a nexus of corruption in James Comey’s office. He’s not likely to be seen flipping over cars, smashing windows, or throwing rotten fruit at controversial alt-right agitators. Perhaps most scary to the coastal elites that run his party, Ron Kind is pro-Second Amendment. It would be fair to assume he actually owns guns – AND USES THEM TO SHOOT ANIMALS!

No, Ron Kind is rather astutely in touch with his electorate, even though he’s become quite comfortable with accepting millions of dollars from special interests via his lofty perch as ranking member of the House Ways and Means Committee, a vaunted position that allows him to amass war chests of millions of dollars each election cycle, which he typically spends airing recycled TV ads depicting him throwing a football and watching the Packers. His image could be summed up in two words: Captain Wisconsin.

Captain Wisconsin is at no risk of losing in the near future; the 53-year-old has a job for life in Congress if he wants.

He also seems to be quite unambitious, at least when it comes to any aspirations for higher office. He passed up running for U.S. Senate in 2012 (presumably the Democrats preferred a cleared field while the flame thrower-wielding Republican candidates formed a circular firing squad and torched their own chances of taking the seat). He passed up a run for governor against Walker in 2014, leaving the Democrats with Mary Burke and her hairdo. He deferred to Russ Feingold for U.S. Senate in 2016, who shocked the world in his failure to take down Ron Johnson. He’s also passed up other leadership opportunities in the House.

Then, there’s the issue of the Democratic bench in Wisconsin, a topic we’ve clobbered for years on this website. It’s so thin that former state Sen. Tim Cullen, who was among those who famously took a vacation to Illinois in a failed attempt to stop Act 10, is actually considered a strong contender for 2018. Susan Happ – the failed attorney general candidate from 2014 – has been discussed. Jennifer Shilling, the Senate Minority Leader who came within 60 votes of losing her own seat in the state Senate in 2016, is still somehow being mentioned. Add to that the usual cast of yet-uncasted characters in the Mary Burke mold, people who can be mutated into featureless canvasses onto which any generic Democratic persona can be grafted, an approach that flopped like a wet waffle with Mary Burke.

Ron Kind For Governor would tickle the Democrats to no end. He is the Democratic bench in Wisconsin – and he’s perhaps the one Democrat with a very, very, very good shot at defeating Walker (that’s three verys more than anyone else). But there’s also the issue of time. Though he’s not old – at 53, he’s a puppy compared to 72-year-old Tim Cullen – the clock is nonetheless ticking. If he passes on 2018, he will be nearly 60 before his next shot at governor comes around, and that’s if Walker gets re-elected. (Kind will be 54 this year, 55 at the time of the 2018 election, and 59 at the 2022 election).

Any Democrat with the exception of Kind running against Walker would be an admission by that party that Walker is unstoppable – akin to their failure to put up even a token challenge to Annette Ziegler for Supreme Court.

Kind would have a unique appeal statewide to the vast sea of moderate, inconsistent, politically independent voters. Voters who lean left and those who lean right will both find something to like about his positions. He’s also extremely disciplined in his message, to the point of being the embodiment of the quintessential Ivy League plastic politician. Think Cam Brady, Will Ferrell’s parody of the entrenched, self-interested congressman in The Campaign.

But perhaps Kind’s greatest strength is the intangible reason why he’s so popular in the Third, anecdotally at least. (I’m qualified to peddle anecdotes about voters’ perceptions of Kind because I worked on Tony Kurtz’s 2014 campaign against him). People LIKE Ron Kind. They see him as a nice guy. Invariably, they think he has their interests in mind out in D.C., neverminding the coincidental nexus of his voting patterns and his vast list of PAC contributors. Were he to run for governor, he would need to translate that reputation, which he’s spent twenty years building in west-central Wisconsin, to the rest of the state.

Were he to run, he’d have to come up with something better than telling people he likes football and guns.

The Walker machine would face a formidable foe in Kind, but they’ve proven extremely effective at what they do, which is to win. How could they do that against Kind? Labeling him a “career politician” is a nonstarter – Walker is one, too. How about a “Washington insider?” That hasn’t hurt him in the past, despite his opponents’ best efforts. But perhaps a better strategy would be to use the populist upswell that manifested in the Sanders surge and Trump triumph against Kind. Introducing Ron Kind to both Trump and Sanders supporters as both a thoroughly embedded establishment insider, a vocal supporter of Obamacare (right) and even more unabashed proponent of anti-labor trade deals (left, labScreen Shot 2017-02-17 at 10.10.12 AMor) could throw a wet blanket on enthusiasm for a Kind candidacy during a potential primary.

Dampening enthusiasm among Democrats, especially the new breed of rabid ones who want to see a Socialist winter descend on the country, could be a winning strategy. Wisconsin as a whole overwhelmingly voted for Sanders (see the map). Meanwhile, shoring up traditional Republican and Trump Republican support for Walker…think “Working and Winning for Wisconsin”…would keep the Walker fires stoked and drive turnout.

There’s also the matter of the Tomah VA “Candyland” scandal, which will be used against any politician with even a Kevin Bacon degree of connection to the Tomah facility that was revealed to be doling out highly addictive opiate painkillers to veterans in unimaginable quantities, resulting in deaths and drug diversion. Far from being twice removed from Tomah, Kind has in fact represented the area for decades, and of all the state and federal politicians whose constituencies overlap in Tomah, Kind is most directly that facility’s overseer in Washington. He would have to answer for that in any high-profile race he undertakes.

Kind will no doubt be facing competing pressures – pressure from within Wisconsin to run for governor, and pressure from Washington to stay in Congress. Kind’s district is already being targeted by Republicans for 2018, one of 36 Democratic-held seats that Trump carried that are on that list. A group called American Action Network is already running ads hitting Kind for his support of Obamacare.

Even with a pittance of outside involvement and money, absent the influx of many, many millions of dollars, Kind is unlikely to be unseated in 2018. But, if he gives up the seat to run for governor, there’s a pretty good chance that a Republican would replace him given the makeup of the district, its history (moderate Republican Steve Gunderson represented the district before Kind) and, of course, the deep Republican bench in the district.

Possibly the top contender would be Republican Tony Kurtz, the 50-year-old veteran, former Apache helicopter pilot, and farmer who pulled nearly 44 percent against Kind in 2014 despite a massive cash disadvantage (although Kurtz outraised Kind among individual donors toward the end of the campaign). Kurtz fits the district well, is extremely popular among the Republican base, and is a superb retail campaigner who could win over Kind’s coalition of moderates and independents in a race without Kind on the ballot. Other possibilities are former state Senator Dan Kapanke, who came within a hair of knocking Kind off in 2010, Sue Lynch of La Crosse, the former president of the National Federation of Republican Women, and any number of Republican officeholders in the Third – Sen. Howard Marklein of Spring Green comes to mind, as does freshman state Senator Patrick Testin of Stevens Point.

To be sure, there are Democrats who could vie for the seat. State Rep. Steve Doyle of Onalaska, Sen. Jennifer Shilling of La Crosse, and state Rep. Dana Wachs of Eau Claire are among them (Wachs has also been mentioned as another possible gubernatorial candidate). Wisconsin Rapids’ 28-year-old mayor, Zach Vruwink, has also been mentioned anecdotally as a potential future candidate.

But it’s time to return to reality. In all likelihood, Kind won’t be giving up his well-paying job-for-life in Congress anytime prior to the time he chooses to retire to a life of fishing, hunting, and watching the Packers from his barcalounger. It’s not likely that Kind will abandon the cushy enclaves of swanky soirees at Bullfeathers and the comfortable social circles of D.C. for a tumultuous – hellish – waltz into the Walker buzzsaw, only to take a five-figure pay cut for a job in which he’ll constantly be butting heads with an almost-certain long-term Republican majority in the state legislature.

He’d be crazy to do so. And if I’ve learned one thing about Ron Kind after being represented by him for 20 years and working on a campaign against him, he’s certainly not crazy.

Rep. Sean Duffy has announced he will not challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018.

His statement, published in the Journal Sentinel:

“After much prayer and deliberation, Rachel and I have decided that this is not the right time for me to run for Senate. We have eight great kids and family always comes first. Baldwin will be beat because her radically liberal Madison record and ideas are out of synch with Wisconsin. I look forward to helping our Republican nominee defeat her. I’ll continue to work my heart out for the families of the 7th district, and I’m excited about the great things we will accomplish with our united Republican government.”

We’ll update this later.

It looks like Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald agrees with Morning Martini that Sean Duffy is in a good position to take on Sen. Tammy Baldwin in 2018. A talked-about possible candidate for the office himself, does this mean Fitzgerald is throwing cold water on those rumors?

We’ve previously written about the Duffy versus Baldwin dynamic. Because Duffy is demonstrably stronger in northern Wisconsin than other Republicans, and theoretically stronger elsewhere because of his early support for Trump (who won Wisconsin, and won big in rural areas of the state), he is uniquely positioned to be the leading contender against Baldwin.

That calculus is this: Duffy was a strong Trump supporter from the very beginning. This turned out to be genius; Duffy’s district swung heavily for Trump in both the primary and general elections, and newfound GOP voters in rural areas could prove crucial.

Broadening the scope to the prospects of the Senate GOP in 2018, I write:

If Trump’s tenure as president is a success, it’s very possible – I daresay likely – the Republicans could gain a filibuster-proof majority in 2018. Most importantly for Wisconsin, the Badger State could oust one of the farthest-left Senators currently in the Senate and replace her with a commonsense, well-liked, and steadfast conservative.

Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, who hasn’t said whether he’ll run again, could be formidable because of the name ID he built in 2012 and because he’s (to paraphrase Trump) very, very rich. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch would also be formidable since, in all likelihood, she would have the support of the southeastern establishment.

The biggest obstacle to the GOP toppling Baldwin in 2018? A brutal primary like the one in 2012 that left eventual nominee Tommy Thompson essentially broke, paving the way for a surprisingly astute Baldwin campaign messaging apparatus to paint the former governor as “not for you anymore.”

In a post last weekend I make the case that Rep. Sean Duffy is picking Madison – a city that isn’t well-regarded by much of the state – as a foil to gain support for a potential statewide race. After Duffy called the state’s capital a “communist community” on cable news, Dane County progressives took the ostensible bait by drawing the comments out into an extended Twitter war.

Madison progressives and their flagship newspaper have doubled down.

After the Duffy-Pocan-Soglin-whoever else Twitter war, Capital Times columnist Bill Berry decided to make his feelings about Duffy known to readers of the progressive newspaper of his adopted/pretend home in Madison. Note that Berry says he lives in Stevens Point, which is in the 3rd Congressional district, while Duffy represents the 7th, just a bit further north.

Berry addresses his Madison audience in a manner reminiscent of shouting into a cave through a megaphone:

This [Duffy’s communist comment] unleashed a torrent of angry replies from those who call our capital city home, but Duffy wouldn’t back off. But don’t worry, Madison. Duffy is just a nobody from up north looking for attention. He hasn’t accomplished anything of note while freeloading on the residents of the 7th Congressional District since 2010, but maybe that’s what most people a bit north of here want.

Should Duffy mount a statewide race, declaring him to be “A nobody from up north” sounds like the perfect way for The Left to lose yet another election in Wisconsin to conservatives.

Berry goes on to insult Donald Trump, who won Duffy’s district (those people must really be ignorant hill people to not only support a “nobody” but also to vote for Trump); he connects Duffy with Joe McCarthy (one of the most disgraceful politicians in American  history) apparently under the logic that they’ve both uttered the word “communist” during their lifetimes; and he runs through the usual left-wing talking points against conservative policies like school choice.

Berry also repeats a recent talking point that the Madison area has been home to most of the state’s job creation in recent years. That’s likely true, in part thanks to the growth of Verona-based Epic Systems. Madison is the state’s second largest metro area and, you know, pretty close to all the levers of state government, money, and power – as well as the state’s flagship university. Ironically, the counties around Washington, D.C. are also among the wealthiest in the country.

Berry explicitly connects Madison as the place we send so many of our tax dollars, then talks about how great the jobs situation is there – compared with the po-dunk losers in the sophisticated new economy. He says voters are clearly “confused” because they voted for Duffy and Trump. Comments like these are probably why why Berry directed his angry little column at readers in Madison, not Merrill.

Berry pretty much rubs it in that Madison is thriving while denizens of those towns up nort’ have been seeing their bread and butter manufacturing, timber, and other industrial jobs flee the country.

Cities like “communist” Madison are thriving, by the way, while many northern Wisconsin communities struggle. Duffy gets to do next to nothing for his district while collecting a generous salary and benefits at our cost and spewing stupid tweets just to let people know he’s still alive and not auditioning for some second-rate reality TV show.

If Democrats holed up in the progressive enclave of Madison think it’s unwise to double down on their attacks against Duffy by reminding people that the state’s capital is better off than what they seem to view as northern Wisconsin’s rinky-dink set of shacks in the middle of nowhere surrounded by shuttered factories and mills, then they haven’t indicated as much.

A recent Cap Times staff editorial tries to make the same case as Berry. After comparing Trump and Duffy on the simplistic basis that they have both appeared on reality TV shows, they breathlessly declare with no dearth of grandiosity that “Congressman Sean Duffy got his start in national politics the same way that Donald Trump did: as a self-absorbed reality TV star.”

(Small overlooked detail: Duffy went on to be an accomplished and well-liked district attorney in Ashland County for eight years – a launchpad similar to but longer than the one the 3rd District’s Ron Kind enjoyed prior to being elected to Congress).

They go on to state that Duffy owes his own constituents an apology for the “communist” comment by reminding their Isthmus dwelling readers that not all candidates win 100 percent of the vote all of the time:

…Duffy represents towns, villages, cities and counties that backed Democrats over Republicans for president, for the U.S. Senate and for the U.S. House in 2016, just as towns, villages and cities in Dane County backed Democrats over Republicans for president, for the U.S. Senate and for the House in 2016.

A fine and worthwhile reminder that Democracy and voting are a thing, but Duffy won re-election in 2012 with 56.1 percent of the vote, in 2014 with 59.3 percent, and in 2016 with 61.8 percent of the vote.

The editorial board goes on to demand an apology from Duffy because some of his constituents share the far-left views of the large majority of voters in Madison. Using that logic, shouldn’t Congressman Ron Kind be straight with his own voters about whether he voted for or against Nancy Pelosi for minority leader? He’s so far been mum.

After all, Bernie Sanders won his 3rd district handily in the Democratic primary. Many of his voters are blue collar Democrats who might not be enthralled with west coast elitist Nancy Pelosi pulling Kind’s strings like a marionette.

But the audiences of both pieces isn’t voters in the 3rd, the 7th, or anywhere except Madison. Thus the thesis of this little opus: the Democrats and their increasingly unappealing progressive militia have retreated into the bunkers, writing boring and predictable pieces that actually insult the vast majority of Wisconsin.

In doing so, they fail to realize their city and their ideas aren’t all that popular. Or, maybe the hicks in northern Wisconsin had their computers hacked by the Russians. But then again, people like that don’t know how to use a computer.

Update: Isthmus prognosticator Dave Cieslewicz agreed with my theory that Madison progs are walking into Duffy’s trap in his own opus in the alternative progressive Madison paper 11 days after I published my theory on Duffy’s commy comment, which today (12/22) got even more traction on the radio.