Gronik’s Quixotic Candidacy Aims to Transform Wisconsin into Illinois

When Andy Gronik first started polling to gauge a campaign for governor back in April, the Journal Sentinel’s Dan Bice described the Milwaukee businessman as “Mary Burke 2.0 but with less public service experience.”

Gronik funded the poll himself, but in an inauspicious turn, the out-of-state polling firm he commissioned referred to Wisconsinites as “Wisconsinians” – like “Illinoisans.” The latest example that Gronik’s isn’t ready for prime time is his declaration that he while he was willing to put up the cash for a poll, he told the AP he won’t self-fund his campaign.

That comes at the same time as Walker campaign manager Joe Fadness announced Walker’s campaign had raised $3.5 million in the first half of 2017 and has $2.4 million cash-on-hand. Gronik’s advertisement that he won’t put his own money into the campaign indicates he won’t be able to compete with a well-funded and well-oiled Walker re-election machine.

If the Democrats are going to nominate a rich guy from Milwaukee with no statewide name ID, pinching pennies won’t be a winning recipe.

Walker is also still extremely popular with the conservative grassroots, who were mobilized by the recall and remain motivated to support the governor. Walker is also capturing the political center. In his 2017-19 state budget, Walker proposes an historic increase in funding for K-12 education, far and away the most popular priority identified in the recent Marquette University Law poll.

The poll also found Walker’s approval rating improving, up three from the last poll to an even 48-48 split. Since 2015 the governor’s poll numbers have consistently improved.

Any Democrat who hopes to challenge Walker in a serious way will have to hope that conservatives are napping on election day. They’ll also have to win over the progressive base – and on that count, Gronik appears to be taking his hackneyed attempt at polling to heart.

The AP reports that Gronik, who describes himself as a “progressive businessman,” plans to run on a left-wing utopia platform:

Gronik, 60, told AP in an exclusive interview that as governor he would fight to restore collective bargaining rights to public workers lost under Walker. He also said he would reinstitute the nonpartisan elections board Walker dissolved, stop further expansion of the private school voucher program and accept federal money Walker rejected to help pay for health insurance for more poor people.

In other words, as governor Gronik would spend all his time tilting at windmills in order to “make Wisconsin Illinois again.” If he’s to be taken at his poll-tested word, he’d try to get rid of Act 10 and Right-to-Work, returning Wisconsin to a time when employees could be forced into unions and compelled to pay dues, most of which end up in the Democratic Party’s coffers.

That’s a good deal for the flailing Democratic Party, whose “compelling vision” for Wisconsin literally hinged on compelling Wisconsin workers to contribute to their election machinery. But it’s a raw deal for the many workers public and private who have rejected union membership since the workplace freedoms have been enacted. It’s also a raw deal for taxpayers, who have saved more than $5 billion as a result of Act 10 over the years.

He would also attempt to revive the Government Accountability Board, the partisan-stacked panel that tried squashing the free speech rights of conservatives in the 2014 elections and aided a rogue prosecutor in illegally raiding the homes of conservative donors and activists. The GAB demonstrated that non-partisan panels are a fantasy. Instead, it was replaced by a bipartisan pair of commissions that have functioned well thus far.

Gronik’s plan would restore a system that led to the intimidation of his party’s political opponents during a crucial election season. Perhaps Gronik could bring in Rahm Emanuel to head the new agency.

Gronik would also try to freeze the growth of school choice in Wisconsin. The ultimate goal of The Left is to kill the program altogether, meaning Wisconsin parents who want to send their kids to schools other than public schools – but aren’t as rich as Gronik – would be out of luck.

That’s good news for teachers unions and public school bureaucrats who can’t get enough taxpayer money, but bad news for anyone who opposes government-monopolized education.

He also says he’ll take federal money for an expansion of BadgerCare. Democrats have long claimed that taking the federal money would mean a windfall of hundreds of millions of dollars in “free” money, but in reality the scheme would needlessly add more Wisconsinites to the dole and contribute to the deterioration of the individual insurance market caused by Obamacare.

Gronik and other leftists conveniently ignore the fact that any “free federal money” is just borrowed money that adds to the federal deficit and debt, now at about $20 TRILLION. Walker made a prudent choice by rejecting the Medicaid expansion, believing that the federal government can’t be trusted to keep its funding promise and understanding that all “free” federal money comes with countless strings attached. Under the plan Walker adopted instead, 94.3 percent of Wisconsinites have health insurance coverage.

Asked if he trusts the feds to keep their promise to cover 90 percent of the Medicaid expansion’s costs, Gronik essentially answers “yes.” That, or he doesn’t care if future costs fall on Wisconsin taxpayers.

It’s all an academic exercise, anyway. If past trends hold true – Gov. Walker’s three election wins, the GOP gaining increasing majorities in both houses of the Legislature, Senator Johnson’s re-election, Feingold’s re-rejection, and Trump’s carrying Wisconsin in November – then the Democrats are going to have to do a lot better than an unknown “progressive businessman” from Milwaukee who botched his first poll and plans to run on creating a left-wing utopia that Wisconsin voters have learned materializes as taxpayer hell.

If Gronik wants to find a state that rejects pro-growth reforms and is forced to deal with constant budget calamities and tax hikes, he should hop in his car and drive due south to Illinois – and stay there.

Photo: Andy Gronik (AP)

Kind for Governor? Here We Go Again.

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.

MacIver Summarizes Key Parts of Walker’s Budget

Over at the MacIver Institute, we’ve published a series of resources for Wisconsinites who just can’t scrape up the time to read Governor Walker’s entire 691-page budget proposal.

Yesterday afternoon, Walker delivered his budget address before a joint session of the legislature. Here is a video summarizing the governor’s speech.

The actual budget proposes significant new spending on K-12 education and the UW System, as well as major tax cuts. Here’s a summary of the budget overall.

Possibly the most significant element of Walker’s budget is the $649 million increase in funding for the K-12 system. However, it’s not a simple across-the-board increase. Get the details here.

Finally, the governor is going up against legislative leaders by holding the line on a gas tax or registration fee increase. Instead of lavishing DOT with more money, Walker re-prioritizes how money is spent and delays several southeast Wisconsin mega-projects. Get the rundown here.

Shilling lambastes unpaid internships, but uses them in her office

Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling got caught off-guard in the last day of the Senate’s session last week. While she and her Democrat friends criticized Gov. Walker’s bill to fund internship coordinators, Senator Rick Gudex shut down their argument with a single question.

Turns out, even though Shilling had just gone through a litany of reasons unpaid internships are terrible, she actually employs unpaid interns in her office because it’s valuable experience – and interns knowingly agree to commit to an unpaid internship, she said clumsily.

 

From The MacIver Institute:

In the waning hours of the Senate’s last day in session, Senate Democrats took turns lambasting Governor Walker’s higher education package.

In particular, Senate Minority Leader Jennifer Shilling criticized the use of unpaid internships under Walker’s proposal. But when Senator Rick Gudex asked if her office uses interns and if they’re paid, Shilling’s response undercut hours of her party’s arguments against Walker’s proposals.

Lies, Damned Lies, and The Democratic Party – Part XXXII

The Wisconsin Left’s dishonesty – indeed, seeming eagerness to straight-up lie – could be the theme of a publication unto itself. Once again, they’ve been caught with their pants on fire by claiming Wisconsin ACT scores plummeted to 41st in the nation. This is of course a total lie.

In a news release (that’s still up on the DPW website as long as the link works), the party breathlessly exclaimed:

Newly released information from the Department of Instruction shows a dramatic decline in student ACT results in the past year. Test scores dropped Wisconsin from 2nd in the country to 41st in the nation among states where more than half the students took the exam.

Without getting into the weeds of how ACT test scores are calculated and can legitimately be analyzed, the truth is that the state’s scores stayed the same as the previous year, 22.2 on average. That puts Wisconsin second among states where more than half of graduating seniors took the ACT.

Not 41st.

Basically, the DPW claim compares apples to oranges to wring the worst possible number out of the data.

Politifact, to its credit, called this a “pants-on-fire” lie – the lyiest lie rating they give:

For years, Wisconsin leaders have expressed pride in how the state’s high school students perform on the ACT exam, which assesses students’ academic readiness for college.

From 2008 through 2014, with Minnesota ranking first, Wisconsin has battled, usually with Iowa, for second or third.

That is, among states where more than half of the students take the ACT.

So, it was a surprise on Jan. 14, 2016 when the Wisconsin Democratic Party issued a news release declaring that Wisconsin’s ACT rank had plunged to near the bottom.

“Newly released information from the (Wisconsin) Department of Instruction shows a dramatic decline in student ACT results in the past year,” the news release stated, blaming Republican Gov. Scott Walker.

“Test scores dropped Wisconsin from second in the country to 41st in the nation among states where more than half the students took the exam.”

Such a free-fall should have produced blaring headlines.

There were no headlines because it wasn’t true, and news outlets typically avoid reporting outright lies.

A DPW spokesman issued a quasi-mea culpa, claiming the party “flubbed” the data. But this is dubious given their history.

The DPW also straight-up lied about Scott Walker’s early exit from Marquette University. At the time, as is the case now, they didn’t even bother taking down the lie. A webpage peddling their fictional narrative that Walker was expelled for trying to rig a campus election persisted at least through the 2014 election.

They’d hate to let the truth, or even a variation of it, derail their attempt to portray Walker as a nefarious dolt.

They also straight-up lied when they edited a video of Walker nodding, juxtaposed against a question of whether he’d been involved in a “criminal scheme” to make it seem like he was admitting wrongdoing. Walker has an unnerving tendency to tacitly acknowledge (by nodding along or just being nice to the reporter) the premises of questioners, which hurt him during the presidential campaign when he seemed to endorse a wall along the Canadian border.

In that case, the DPW was peddling a narrative that Walker was the head of a nefarious criminal enterprise teeming with evil mustache-twirling conservatives. Like the defunct, discredited John Doe probes that pumped out misinformation to advance the “criminal” storyline, it’s always full speed ahead, truth be damned.

Both lies also earned the pants-on-fire rating from Politifact.

Sure, both parties stretch the truth and even lie. But the ongoing, relentless bald-faced lies by The Left in Wisconsin never cease to amaze, especially in a state like Wisconsin, where decorum and honesty are still valued. Maybe their dishonesty is the cause of the beat-down Republicans have put on them in recent years, not the cure.

It appears that even with failed former DPW chairman Mike Tate off the party payroll (and on the payroll of the Bucks, oddly) and new, doe-eyed new chair Martha Laning, nothing has really changed on the other side. The professional Left in Wisconsin seems born and bred to constantly lie.

—-

In case the DPW actually takes down the press release, I’ve kept it for posterity below:

Wisconsin ACT scores plummet

Newly released information from the Department of Instruction shows a dramatic decline in student ACT results in the past year. Test scores dropped Wisconsin from 2nd in the country to 41st in the nation among states where more than half the students took the exam.

“The latest information released today is another glaring failure of the Walker Administration to make sound, smart policy decisions to improve education in our state,” Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Martha Laning said on Thursday. “As a parent with children who have recently graduated from high school I’ve had a front row seat to the destructive changes that have short-changed our children and their futures. When budget cuts force schools to do more with less it’s no surprise that the quality of the education our children receive inevitably declines.”

In last year’s State of the State address, Governor Scott Walker claimed his education policies were working, boasting that “ACT scores are up and Wisconsin now ranks second in the country.” Now, five days away from Walker’s next State of the State it’s clear that the policies of the last six years have failed schools, students, and parents.

Out of a top score of 36, the average test score in the state dropped from 22.0 to 20.0, which pulls Wisconsin to dead last in the Midwest and tied with Kentucky for 41st in the entire country. Due to funding cuts, damage has been made to Wisconsin’s traditionally high-quality education system and now our kids, businesses and communities will suffer. Nationally, Wisconsin saw the fourth largest cut to K-12 general school aid funding in 2015-16 according to the nonpartisan research policy institute, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

While Wisconsin has traditionally ranked above average in terms of ACT scores, these latest numbers place Wisconsin dead last in the Midwest and among the bottom ten states nationally.

“I can only empathize with the parents across the state who see this news and grow ever more concerned with the direction of our state. Our kids deserve the same high-quality education we had as kids and the choices the legislature has made is stealing that from them..” said Laning. “The state of education in Wisconsin is not strong. The newest numbers should be a wake-up call to the governor and the Republican legislature that their misguided priorities are hurting our education system and, therefore, our kids, businesses and communities.”

Now That Walker’s Out

Obligatory opening that everyone already knows: Scott Walker suspended his campaign this afternoon in a brief statement that savaged Donald Trump. The one-time Republican frontrunner’s terse exit brings up some questions about the future of the nomination contest that this blog hadn’t fathomed would be compelled so early.

What do Walker’s slide and Trump’s ascent tell us about this campaign cycle?

Walker adopted and hewed to a positive message about America’s future. He steadfastly refused to attack other Republicans, abandoning that philosophy only to go after Trump in the final debate. That debate performance was admirable and, in a different race, effective. But he didn’t do the impossible of recapturing lost voters who unmoored from Walker following a handful of much-critiqued and predictable-in-hindsight gaffes. Before and during his campaign, Walker repeatedly admonished that candidates should tell voters what they’re for, not what they’re against.

On the other hand, Trump has focused his grade school aspersions almost exclusively on his Republican rivals. The success of his knuckle-dragging appeals to the ugly, bitter side of bedraggled voters is a sign of the times. These days, our country has a vile appreciation for caustic rhetoric with the shock value of clickbait on social media. However, the basics of the human condition still apply in an era of anti-intellectualism, and an appeal to peoples’ optimism is still far more potent than easy, disposable cheapshots flung against the headboard by a sleazy star of rhetorical porn like Trump.

What role did talk radio play?

Regular listeners of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity know that these two kings of conservative talk radio have propped up Trump since his announcement. They know their bread is buttered by the ratings buttress of wall-to-wall Trump talk. But earlier in the year, Limbaugh in particular spoke very highly of Walker – until a shinier object came along. The reversal of this right-wing opinion leader’s commentary – and his silence about Walker following Trump’s entrance – is mind-blowing to the point of being suspicious.

It’s time for conservatives to seriously re-assess whether these entertainers should really occupy the role of right-wing opinion leaders that William F. Buckley once held.

Where will Walker’s support go?

Though he might have been barely registering one percent in the polls, Walker did raise a lot of money early on, allowing him to build a strong organization and attract top talent in many key states. One Walker statewide leader has already switched to Rubio, a youthful carrier of the torch who has broad appeal, who comes from the same “class” of leaders elected in 2010, and is ideologically Walker’s twin.

Walker has also praised Rubio in the past. In his exit speech, Walker urged Republicans to unite around a positive message of conservative reform, as opposed to the Faustian deal Trump offers. Rubio’s genuine, articulate, informed, positive message could, maybe, might be what Walker was referring to. But even if the Walker-to-Rubio exodus isn’t the result of phone calls by Scott, I believe it will happen anyway, and it will help Rubio build the right support at the right time in the coming months.

What should Walker do now?

Walker will come back to Wisconsin and get back to governing, but with the budget process over, he needs to focus on re-building the state GOP’s grassroots infrastructure. Walker builds a powerful voter turnout machine – he needs to devote his political energy to doing everything possible to re-elect Sen. Ron Johnson and carry Wisconsin for the eventual GOP nominee.

While I doubt he’ll publicly endorse, I suspect Walker will follow through by urging inevitable losers like Huckabee to understand their role in making way for Trump by dividing the 76 percent of Republicans who don’t support the bombastic billionaire. But given the focus of one of the most important speeches of his life, his exit, it looks like Scott Walker will now make the case for popping Trump’s sulfurous balloon.

And more power to him – the world had to find out that our current president is a joke they needn’t take seriously. With a President Trump, the world will have already known it for years.

Wisconsin’s One-Trick Pony

Scott Walker delivered a solid performance at tonight’s CNN Republican debate. With a polished and prepared delivery, he discussed his commonsense opposition to new left-wing federal nose-shoving, like increasing the minimum wage from New York to Bozeman, the Iran deal, and taxes.

Pundits, including myself, have argued that Walker should return to being the Walker we’ve always known in Wisconsin. In tonight’s debate, he mostly succeeded in doing that. He spoke about commonsense conservative reforms just like he always has.

He does, however, risk being thought of as Wisconsin’s One-Trick Pony. Too much of his message is about his 2011 reforms, about the hoards of union flacks who showed up at the capitol, trashed the place, and crawled through windows to gain entrance in order to protest what proved to be a lost cause.

Walker even recently rolled out a plan to limit the powers of privileges of federal employee unions in a similar way as the restricted government unions in Wisconsin, which came across as blatant pandering to a certain cross-section concerned paramountly about a certain problem. But the structural fiscal problems in the federal government have much less to do with unions than they have to do with other things. These problems will be much more difficult and complex to tackle.

To be fair, Walker has rolled out a replacement for Obamacare, a tax agenda, and a relatively substantive foreign policy agenda. He also is rolling out a rather solid day-one plan. That’s more than you can say about most of the other candidates.

I’ve consistently urged Walker to rise above the kind of rhetoric required to win a gubernatorial campaign and speak on the aspirational, anecdotal, affecting, affable level that successful presidential campaigns operate on.

But he must transform his 2011 successes into an asterisk, an example illustrating the plausibility of an as-yet-unwritten five-words-or-less vision for another American century. If not, he may be thought of as Wisconsin’s One-Trick Pony, who only ever talks about the union thing he did back in the day.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrel

Over at Right Wisconsin yesterday, I expanded on my live-blogging comments about Bobby Jindal’s performance at the Defending the American Dream Summit in Columbus this weekend.

Jindal makes some chicanerous attacks on Gov. Scott Walker’s healthcare proposal, distracting from what started as a hopeful message about Jindal’s family, who came from India with nothing and found success.

Instead, Jindal launched into an unfair attack on Walker’s sensible, specific, free-market health care reform proposal. I always hate to see specific proposals demagogued, especially by our own side, and especially at a time when serious problems beg for real solutions.

Worse, Jindal – no slouch on health policy – knows better, which means he’s just a dishonest, backbiting demagogue.

Good for Walker for presenting an actual plan, which takes courage. I hope he doesn’t back down.

Whole thing here.

J. Bush: “All of this can be reversed”

Jeb Bush knows his audience.

His amended stump speech to the crowd gathered in Columbus, Ohio talked about fixing what’s broken and the leadership needed to do it, starting with his. He could’ve scored more points lauding the activists here who are responsible for boots-on-the-ground activism, as I noted earlier.

Bush capitalizes on the assumed mad-as-hell stereotype from AFP attendees, pointing to a buffet of government reform policies:

  • Balanced Budget amendment
  • Term limits for all elected officials.
  • Ban on lobbying for elected officials. (This one won’t ever pass Congress, but it’ll play well here. It would take another 2010 wave of tea party-esque elected officials to make this happen.)

Then, of course, he picked on Obama:

  • Repeal of Obamacare, replaced with a market-driven system.
  • End bureaucratic rules that cost more than $100 million.
  • Reform Executive Orders

Playing in to his opening theme that everything that’s made conservatives so glum over the last six years can be reversed, he celebrates the men and women in the room who volunteer and get involved to realize real reform. That’ll leave them with the warm and fuzzies.

Giving credit to the volunteers and campaign grunts should be a priority for every candidate. A ding on Gov. Walker, for some, is a sense of abandonment, or that they don’t feel appreciated for having helped to elect him three times in four years. Walker could take a page from Bush’s book here, and spend some time and message on celebrating the people who have helped him find success. It just might help improve his recent losses in presidential favorability polls in Wisconsin.