2018 Senate: Duffy’s Out

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.

Fitzgerald: Duffy “Well Positioned” to Take on Baldwin

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.”

Madison Progressives Double Down

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.

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.

Was Duffy’s “Communist” Quip a Genius Move?

There’s nothing like a good old-fashioned Twitter war to shape a news cycle, for better or for worse. Congressman Sean Duffy, who represents Wisconsin’s 7th district, started one recently after he called Madison a “communist community” on Fox News.

The comment might strike some as a minor gaffe, but Duffy is no out-of-control, off-script flame thrower. He’s strategically savvy and very much in control of his message.

Instead, I see a potential strategy for Duffy: leveraging his cable news appearances to grow his statewide conservative credibility. If that was Duffy’s intent, another Wisconsin congressman, Mark Pocan – who represents the Madison area – took the bait by demanding an apology.

Rep. Pocan, who is quite cordial but also very progressive, boldly went on Tucker Carlson’s new show (already famous for Carlson’s relentless grilling of his progressive guests) to explain that Duffy is misguidedly “Trumpizing” Wisconsin politics by slinging insults in the model of Donald Trump. Pocan advertised the appearance on Twitter, extending the social media battle.

Carlson read the Wisconsin Communist Party’s platform on-air and asked what part of it Pocan disagrees with. Brushing the question aside, Pocan criticized Duffy’s tongue-in-cheek response to Pocan’s apology demand. Duffy had tweeted in reply that The Left has no sense of humor and offered to send puppies to Madison’s safe spaces as a consolation.

Within one media cycle, the story had made its way into the mainstream media. More importantly, conservative commentators – mainly seated in deep-red southeast Wisconsin – saddled up to defend Duffy and, in the process, repeat and magnify Duffy’s comments about Madison being a communist enclave, as well as his poking fun at eminently mockable lefty concepts like therapy puppies and safe spaces. What do those statements have in common?

They’re ambrosia – red meat – for conservatives.

As for “Trumpizing” Wisconsin politics, Pocan might’ve missed Politics 101 and the entire 2016 presidential election. Trump was successful by constantly picking on a foil – the mainstream media, by the end of the campaign. Democrats have tried in the past few years, unsuccessfully, to use the Koch Brothers as their foil.

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.

The question is whether Duffy is looking to mount a statewide race, which at this point is pure speculation. I’ve previously written that Duffy would be an ideal contender to run for U.S. Senate against Sen. Tammy Baldwin (also a creature of Madison) in 2018. I also said one of Duffy’s unique strengths versus other possible Republican contenders is that he’s all but immune to being dragged down by his support of Trump, as Pocan tried to do:

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.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…

Trump won Duffy’s district handily. He also won Democrat Ron Kind’s 3rd District. If the Trump trend holds, Duffy would enter the race with a decided advantage among rural voters – not just because of Trump, but because of the rural appeal Duffy has maintained since voters first sent him to Congress to replace retiring lefty Dave Obey in 2010.

Duffy has handily won re-election ever since.

In addition to winning Wisconsin overall, Trump won the all-important Fox Valley by a considerable margin. Further, a Duffy candidacy for Senate – should he emerge from a potential primary – would certainly be embraced by voters in the WOW counties, among the deepest-red counties in the country.

Pocan’s Trump attack could only enhance Duffy’s standing in much of the state’s rural counties that led Wisconsin to becoming a Trump state:

Trump-generalIf Sean Duffy wanted to expand his name ID to crucial conservative enclaves beyond his own vast northern Wisconsin district and others that went for Trump (like Democrat Ron Kind’s 3rd district) – which are areas the Democrats have relied on in the past to tip the balance in narrow statewide races – then he could’ve executed no more perfect a strategy to endear himself in places like Waukesha, Ozaukee, and Washington Counties and the Fox Valley than he did via the “commy-gate” comment.

Senator Baldwin’s Wolf Crusade

Jay Weber just reminded us that Tammy Baldwin is now pushing to remove the wolf from the endangered species list. While those of us from up nort’ and the po dunk understand this is just common sense given the plague wolves have become, Weber reminded us that, for a hard-lefty like Baldwin, it’s going out on a political limb.

Incubated and matriculated in the progressive crucible of Madison, it’s hard to imagine Baldwin’s stepping outside her political safe space was an instinct that came naturally. She’s almost certainly making a political calculation, especially given the sudden swing of rural Wisconsinites toward the GOP, Weber noted.

Baldwin penned an op-ed in the Stevens Point Journal on the issue Sunday:

Farmers have found livestock injured and killed by wolves that are straying closer to their herds than in previous years. Families have lost pets. Parents have decided it’s no longer safe to let their kids play where they normally do. These concerns, and the expertise of wildlife science, tell us we should take on the gray wolf problem in our state by acting again to delist the wolf from the Endangered Species List and pass management of the wolf back to the State of Wisconsin.

Three days prior to the column, State Sen. Tom Tiffany (R-Hazelhurst) and state Rep. Adam Jarchow (R-Balsam Lake) had urged Baldwin to support de-listing the wolf.

Tiffany sees Baldwin taking up the issue as a gateway to bipartisan support for de-listing, a rural Wisconsin priority. “If some of her colleagues saw a Democrat like she is taking the lead on this issue, they would probably follow along,” Tiffany told WPR.

In a post published on Saturday, I made the case that that Duffy’s rural appeal and early support for Trump would be a tremendous advantage if he were to run against Baldwin in 2018:

Trump won Duffy’s district handily. He also won Democrat Ron Kind’s 3rd District. If the Trump trend holds, Duffy would enter the race with a decided advantage among rural voters – not just because of Trump, but because of the rural appeal Duffy has maintained since voters first sent him to Congress to replace retiring lefty Dave Obey in 2010.

It’s not political soothsaying that the trouncing Trump gave Clinton in rural counties could’ve changed the map for at least the next two years. Baldwin, if she’s not reading Morning Martini, appears to have arrived at the same conclusion: rural Wisconsin is now an arena in which Democrats must now do combat.

How The GOP Could Defeat Baldwin in 2018

Six years go by so fast! Elected in 2012 over Tommy Thompson, Sen. Tammy Baldwin is up for re-election in 2018. But who will face her, and where does a betting man put his money?

Perhaps the biggest question is who will emerge to challenge Baldwin. There is plenty of GOP talent in the state, from members of Congress to the state legislature to the private sector. If Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch is interested, she would likely have the support of the southeastern Wisconsin talk radio infrastructure (which has been greatly weakened after WTMJ threw in the towel on their conservative talk format).

Another potential challenger includes Eric Hovde, the very, very rich (to paraphrase Trump) hedge fund manager or whatever he is who made a good run in the 2012 Republican primary. One also has to think people with high perches in the legislature like Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, or some other ambitious legislator has at least entertained the idea of running.

The most often-discussed challenger, and perhaps early frontrunner to face Baldwin, is Rep. Sean Duffy of the 7th District, which covers northern Wisconsin writ large. Duffy is young (age 45), charismatic, and can easily appeal to both the rural voters who found his literal lumberjack campaigning a refreshing change from stale, sterile politics-as-usual, and the critical suburban voters of the Fox River Valley and the WOW counties ringing Milwaukee. It’s just impossible not to like Duffy – and he’s missing no opportunity to raise his profile such as by giving commentary on Fox News.

Kleefisch would also be formidable. She has a statewide office, she’s been expanding her outreach, she has strong support in critical southeast Wisconsin, and most of all – she’s incredibly likable, genuine, sharp, and steeped for years in the issues at the forefront of Wisconsin voters. A Kleefisch versus Duffy contest would be a tough decision that might come down to a pure political calculus.

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.

trump-primary
Trump won Sean Duffy’s district, the 7th, in the GOP primary
Trump-general
Trump won the vast majority of counties in Duffy’s district in the general election

In addition, Politico cited rural Wisconsin (a descriptor fitting of Duffy’s district) as crucial to Trump winning Wisconsin:

Though he underperformed in the suburban WOW counties, turnout in the state’s two Democratic strongholds, Milwaukee County and Madison’s Dane County was smaller than in 2012 — and dramatically smaller in Milwaukee County than four years earlier. Trump also blew up Wisconsin’s 2012 map, winning 63 percent in rural areas, which made up a little over a quarter of the vote, and outpacing Romney by 10 points in those areas.

Trump won Duffy’s district handily. He also won Democrat Ron Kind’s 3rd District. If the Trump trend holds, Duffy would enter the race with a decided advantage among rural voters – not just because of Trump, but because of the rural appeal Duffy has maintained since voters first sent him to Congress to replace retiring lefty Dave Obey in 2010.

Duffy has handily won re-election ever since.

In addition to winning Wisconsin overall, Trump won the all-important Fox Valley by a considerable margin. Further, a Duffy candidacy for Senate – should he emerge from a potential primary – would certainly be embraced by voters in the WOW counties, among the deepest-red counties in the country.

If Trump a) Doesn’t screw up his first term and b) Returns the favor and offers his support for Duffy in rural, blue-collar areas of the state, that could make all the difference in retaining those voters for the GOP and unseating Baldwin in 2018.

This prognostication admittedly overlooks the potential of a Kleefisch, Hovde, or other candidacy – but the new reality that rural, outstate Wisconsin voters who once kept uber-lefty Dave Obey in office for 143 years are now a potential Republican voting bloc must be considered when weighing someone like Duffy against a candidate from the conservative bunker in southeast Wisconsin.

Perhaps the biggest threat to a GOP victory in 2018 is a brutal, costly primary like the one that left Tommy Thompson almost broke as he went on to face Baldwin in 2012. The GOP intelligentsia would be wise to consider the new map and coalesce around one and only one candidate in 2018.

Baldwin’s race is emblematic of the challenge facing Senate Democrats in 2018. While the GOP was on the offensive in 2016 thanks to the GOP wave in 2010, the tables will be turned in 2018. Of 33 Senate seats up for re-election in 2018, 25 are currently held by Democrats.

As with Wisconsin, many of those contests will take place in states that Trump won – some overwhelmingly. Townhall summarizes (see below for my own synopsis):

Indiana: Democrat Joe Donnely is up for re-election. Many analysts said Donnely lucked out with an easy win when former Sen. Richard Lugar (R) was primaried and a weaker GOP candidate ran against him in the general election. Donnely probably won’t have that luxury next go-around. Indiana just elected Rep. Todd Young (R) by a ten-point margin.

Montana: Democrat Jon Tester is up for re-election. He knows a thing or two about running races. He lead the 2016 Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee. He will need that experience fighting for his job in Montana, a state that voted for Trump by a 21-point margin. However, Montana has a penchant for electing Democrats statewide. While voting for Trump, Montana voters also chose to re-elect Democrat Gov. Steve Bullock.

Florida: Democrat Bill Nelson has run many races in the Sunshine State and now he’s asking voters in Florida again to send him to D.C. He’s a known entity there, holding office since 1972. However, Florida did just elect a Republican president and overwhelmingly voted for Republican Marco Rubio by an almost 8-point margin over Rep. Patrick Murphy. Rubio performed strongly in Latino districts that typically vote Democrat. A lot of candidate options are on the table for the GOP: Rep. David Jolly, Rep. Ron DeSantis, or outgoing Gov. Rick Scott. Judging how Rubio performed against Murphy, Florida GOP should consider another Latino – as that voting base shows stronger preferences for fellow Latinos, even when the candidate is a Republican.

Missouri: Democrat Claire McCaskill is up for re-election again. Her continual hold on the seat is a testament to how many times the state GOP has screwed the pooch. Rep. Todd Akin was polling ahead of her until his “legitimate rape” comments finally burned his chances in 2012. Missouri is a red state. Voters there chose Trump by 19 points, re-elected Sen. Roy Blunt by 3 points, and flipped their governors’ seat by electing Republican Eric Greitens by almost six points. McCaskill should be done if the Missouri GOP plays their cards right.

Ohio: Democrat Sherrod Brown has done well in Ohio. He’s held office there for over 20 years and won election to the Senate twice. However, if there is a year to oust him from power, the time is now. Ohio pivoted strongly to the GOP in the 2016 election. Trump won the largest margin in Ohio than any Republican in the past five elections. Republican Sen. Rob Portman won his re-election by an astounding 21-point margin. The Rust Belt looks to be turning red and it could spell the end for Sen. Brown.

North Dakota: It’s a little perplexing how Sen. Heidi Heitkamp even got elected in North Dakota. It surely is a testament to the Republicans’ bad showing in 2012. Nonetheless, the state has been returning to its blood-red roots. Voters there went for Trump by 36 points and voted for Sen. Hoeven by a 68-point margin… You read that correctly. North Dakota voters preferred Republican Hoeven 78.6 to 17 against the Democrat challenger.

Wisconsin: Democrat Tammy Baldwin is up for re-election. No state shocked the country more than Wisconsin. It hadn’t gone for a Republican since Reagan in 1984. Sen. Ron Johnson (R) came back from the dead to win re-election against Russ Feingold. Johnson clawed his way from a double-digit deficit in the polls to a 3-point victory on Election Day. Gov. Scott Walker also has an impeccable operation in the Badger State – winning election three times in a row despite a union onslaught. This will be an interesting stat to watch.

West Virginia: Once a Democrat stronghold, West Virginia is now ruby-red. Coal country is Trump friendly and voters in this state voted for the president-elect by a 42-point margin. Their legislature and majority of their House delegation has gone Republican. However, it will be quite difficult to oust Sen. Joe Manchin. West Virginia residents still appreciate their blue-dogs. Despite choosing Trump, they voted to elect Democrat Jim Justice to the governor’s mansion by a wide margin. Sen. Manchin is perhaps the most conservative Democrat in the Senate. This seat may not go red until he retires, but anything is possible when his national party brand is as hated as it is in the Mountain State.

Pennsylvania: This is last of the three major Rust Belt States in play in 2018. Sen. Bob Casey has been involved in Pennsylvania politics for quite a long time. It’s actually a family affair- his father held office before him. Republican Sen. Pat Toomey proved all the polls wrong by winning against his Democrat challenger in 2016. On top of that, Trump became the first Republican presidential candidate to win the Keystone State since 1988. This is a light-blue state that may be turning red with the Rust Belts.

Let me summarize. Democrats are up for re-election in the following states that Trump won bigly:

  • Montana (Sen. Jon Tester) Trump +21%
  • Missouri (Sen. Claire McCaskill) Trump +19%
  • North Dakota (Sen. Heidi Heitkamp) Trump +36%
  • West Virginia (Sen. Joe Manchin) Trump +42%

Flipping those four states alone to the GOP while holding its own ground would decimate the Senate Democrat caucus. If the Trump coalition holds, wins in the remaining five states Townhall lists are possible – if Trump plays ball. The Republicans currently hold 51 seats – flipping nine would…well, do the math.

And that’s just nine out of the 25 seats Democrats are defending in the next cycle. The GOP has to avoid running crazy candidates like they did in some races in 2012. As is the case in Wisconsin, the party should coalesce around the strongest candidates in each state, with an eye to the new populist mantle forged by Trump.

That shouldn’t be a problem considering Republican candidates have routed Democrats down-ticket in the 2010, 2014, and 2016 elections, leaving the Dems with an extremely thin bench and the Republican ranks teeming with talent.

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.

Opera Singer Quits Campaign Against Duffy

The Stevens Point Journal reports:

Kirk Bangstad had just gotten back from Washington, D.C., where he had been told that he hadn’t raised enough money to prove he was a viable candidate against incumbent Republican Rep. Sean Duffy. Bangstad, a Democrat, had announced his candidacy in the 7th Congressional District in July.

A “tech consultant and opera singer,” Bangstad was able to self-fund to the tune of $40,000, raising $140,000 more, according to the SPJ report. Based on awkwardly-framed emails sent to supporters, which indicates poor political instincts, Democrat decisioners in DC made the decision for him: jump off the bus now, dude.

Bangstad is an example of Duffy’s strange dominance of a district once firmly in the grasp of hard-left Dave Obey. But Duffy, in addition to his fundraising prowess, is an unbeatable candidate mostly because he’s just a down-to-earth guy who works his ass off.

Money doesn’t buy elections, as the landslide re-elections of state Rep. Lee Nerison of the 96th Assembly district have time and time again demonstrated (Democrats have thrown millions at him over the years and he just keeps slaughtering their candidates).

Fortunately, Duffy has both money, appealing ideas, and likability.

As for potential Democrats who may now step up, the SPJ notes:

There are no other declared Democratic candidates in the race, so Bangstad’s decision to suspend his campaign is likely to set off a bit of a scramble in the party. Maybe scramble is too strong a word; the election is more than a year away. Still, running against Duffy is probably not a job a lot of people are lining up for.

In 2014, Duffy opponent Kelly Westlund raised an amazing $528,000. That’s a lot – but the DNC still pulled the plug on supporting Westlund before the election. Duffy ended up beating Westlund nearly 60 percent to 40 percent in a generally Democratic district in which the Democrats had early hopes of competing.

The real problem? The Democratic bench has been decimated in Wisconsin, but also nationwide. And the GOP bench is filled with top-notch up-and-coming leaders like Sean Duffy. There are many months yet to determine which half-asked Democrat will step into the Duffy bandsaw.

How Sean Duffy Already Short-Circuited His Opponent's Campaign

Just the other day we opined about the weaknesses of Kelly Westlund’s strategy:

Ms. Westlund’s main attack on Mr. Duffy seems to be that he’s a “Tea Party Republican” extremist. But according to Wisconsin Public Radio: “While Sean Duffy doesn’t think the Affordable Care Act should be defunded, he is demanding that the individual mandate be delayed a year, and that President Barack Obama and his family join the new insurance exchanges.”

It’s clearly a flawed attack plan on a guy who is well-liked and by all measures, a sane moderate. He’s also politically savvy and in tune with the wishes of his slightly-right-of-center district. His vote on the Ryan-Murray two-year Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 is demonstrative.

Mr. Duffy voted yea.

The JS reported: “Republican Rep. Sean Duffy praised the Ryan-Murray agreement for breaking congressional gridlock and providing much-needed certainty to Wisconsin businesses and families.”

The Act’s passage is a good thing. Conservatives have bemoaned the dearth of inked budgets for years; this was their opportunity to put in place a stable, long-term budget. It also replaces the gimmicky, can-kicking sequester and other budget patchjobs – and replaces them with a longer view of things. It was a bipartisan deal in a time when nothing of the sort seems possible.

And it was the Republicans and Paul Ryan who did it. Yes, those very same Republicans about whom the Westlundesque “Tea Party Republican” Extremist taunt will be a bludgeon against them in 2014.

So much for that.

Mr. Duffy is not a  “Tea Party Republican” Extremist, as Ms. Westlund would love voters to believe. In fact, the entire Wisconsin GOP delegation voted yay, while the Dems’ Mark Pocan voted nay and the Dems who supported it did so only while griping about it.

Mr. Ryan brought the leadership that Barack Obama couldn’t muster on stopping “Washington’s lurch from crisis to crisis,” as Mr. Ryan said in a news release and which President Obama has whined about for a long time.

His colleagues, like Mr. Duffy, had his back.

And 2014 opponents like Ms. Westlund are suddenly paddling on a hill of sand.

Ms. Westlund
Ms. Westlund