Sunday, May 2, 2010

Fear The Smear

In their race to be the Republican candidate for governor, Mark Neumann and Scott Walker have chosen two different campaign strategies.

Walker, remembering how poorly he fared against Mark Green four years ago, got a very early start to his campaign (actually, he never stopped running since becoming Milwaukee County Executive). Walker's main focus has been to use gimmickry, such as the rehashed brown bag theme, to sway over the GOP machine. In doing so, Walker has stayed true to his nature by ignoring the actual voters, apparently thinking they would follow the GOP machine like mindless sheep.

Neumann, on the other hand, has taken a much different approach. He chose not to put his emphasis on the machinations of the GOP, but has taken a more populist approach, speaking to the people that will do the actual voting. Instead of trying to sell them gimmicks, he tells them what he has done as a businessman and what he would like to do as governor. Neumann has also not hesitated to take advantages of the expected and unexpected results of Walker's mismanagement of Milwaukee County to help further distinguish himself as being more qualified.

The results of these disparate approaches is somewhat predictable, but interesting all the same.

As far as I have seen, most of the GOP straw polls have given Walker a resounding lead. However, further digging often shows that the number of the faithful GOP being polled are only a relative few. On the other hand, the most recent Rasmussen poll (which generally leans to the right) shows Neumann and Walker (and Tom Barrett) in a dead heat. The significance of this is that Walker, just a few months ago had an overwhelming lead over both Neumann and Barrett.

Even more entertaining than the poll numbers are the reactions to them.

True to his nature since his unfinished college days, Walker, who has been going negative even when he didn't have an opponent to run against, has cranked up the dial on his attacks to the full smear setting. Only this time, he is taking the "Fear the Deer" slogan of the Milwaukee Bucks and changing it to "Fear the Smear."

In the last week, Walker has accused Neumann of "intimidating delegates," when in reality, it was just a telephone poll that is done by every campaign since the phone was invented. Well, when one is slipping as fast as Walker is, and when one is having such a poor track record as Walker does running Milwaukee County, having people actually think about who would be the better candidate probably seems pretty intimidating.

Of course, the cogs of the GOP machine, like Deb Jordal, Charlie Sykes, and Mark Belling have all been echoing the martyr-attack meme.

Neumann responded with an email from his campaign, which reads in part:
Yesterday the Scott Walker campaign launched a negative attack in the Governor's race. As Walker's opponent I basically have two choices. I can respond in kind with strong negatives back, or be the adult in the race and stay focused on a positive vision for Wisconsin.

I choose the "high road" in this. I will admit it is difficult to not react more strongly to the Walker negative personal attack.

Below is what I would consider a childish negative email which was received by many in Wisconsin yesterday.

Below I have responded with the facts regarding each of the accusations. The essence of this attack is based on the fact that we called Republicans last weekend. We regularly call thousands of folks across Wisconsin as part of this campaign and did make calls this past weekend. There is nothing wrong with that.

In the phone script we asked questions and we made it available to anyone who wishes to read it on our website - just click here. The survey questions are legitimate questions and certainly not negative. They're just honest, straightforward, unbiased questions.
Neumann continues with the letter from Walker's campaign, complete with his rebuttal.

Another part of Walker's attack is the whisper campaign that Neumann is considering running as an independent if he doesn't get the Republican candidacy. Neumann has denied this, even appearing on Charlie Sykes' show to do so. As a side note, I think that Neumann would be a damned fool not to, since he is obviously winning over the people, if not the GOP machine.

Walker's smears aren't going over as well as he might have hoped. While the usual conspiracy believers have been feeding into it, the more rationale part of the right has seen it as a poor move on Walker's part.

Walker has also launched attacks on Barrett, including the Zoo Interchange and the recent news of Harley Davidson trying to become the next Mercury Marine. Sadly for Walker both of these attacks have backfired miserably.

I have heard from many pundits and people more experienced in the ways of politics than I that when a candidate goes so very negative this early in a campaign, it is not a good sign for that campaign's future.

I have long held to the opinion that Walker is nothing but a snake oil salesman trying to fool enough people to get into the governor's chair. It appears that I was correct in that opinion. Fortunately for the state, Walker's masquerade is quickly falling apart and they are seeing him for who he really is. Let us hope enough will in time, before Walker has a chance to do to the state what he has done to Milwaukee County.


  1. Of course Dems think Neumann should run as an independent - Barrett's only chance is to split the Republican vote.

  2. If Neumann is leading, why shouldn't he run?