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On the Wisconsin Senate Race

Browsing around Redstate over the past few weeks, I have noticed what seems to be an uptick in interest for the Wisconsin Senate race. With Bayh’s departure in Indiana creating by most counts an eighth pickup opportunity for the GOP in the Senate, many of us have started to seek the next opportunity hoping that Senate control can be in play after all. As we scan the map looking for our next target, most eyes rest on one of two places: Wisconsin and Washington state. While I believe Patty Murray is indeed vulnerable, particularly if Dino Rossi steps forward, right now I wish to focus your attention at the prospect in the Badger State.

This article will refer frequently to Scott Brown and the lessons of the Massachusetts special election. Brown’s win in Massachusetts was a game changer. It proved that no Democrat is safe. It showed that the conservative movement can successfully apply the strategies of Internet fund-raising and get out the vote efforts that the left have used against us over the past two cycles. While technically an Open Seat, the Massachusetts special election provides the model that will need to be used for defeating incumbents this year.

Feingold is vulnerable.
This may seem obvious to some, but it bears repeating. Feingold is vulnerable. Period. Notice how the statement says nothing about Tommy Thompson. While Thompson does run better than Feingold, and runs better against Feingold than the two Republicans currently in the race, Feingold is vulnerable to just about any perceivable candidate at this point. Furthermore, while Thompson has the advantage of name recognition, it is far from certain whether he would be the best candidate for us in the long run. With the Democrats choosing to double down on their overwhelmingly unpopular plans for the health care system, the Republican party will do best to have candidates who are thoroughly against the measure and can hammer their opponent with that fact.

Health care will be an issue.
Thompson’s position on the health care issue is not one that would allow comfort for most conservatives. Last October, Thompson teamed up with former Democrat House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt in a public statement urging the Senate to pass comprehensive health reform. The statement expressed support for “community-based health teams,” asking leaders of both parties to “work with President Obama” to make the government takeover of the health care industry a reality in 2009. Many of the strongest gains made by the Republican party over the past year have been with disgruntled independents, libertarians, and fiscal conservatives unhappy with the policies of Washington as epitomized by this health care debate. It was the chief reason we have Senator Scott Brown out of Massachusetts. The Democrats, their desire for power outweighing basic campaign strategy and common sense, insist upon keeping this issue at the forefront of the national debate. This has the potential to work very much to our benefit as campaign season begins, but only if we nominate candidates who stand forth in clear opposition to this vastly unpopular measure. Thompson could begin as a strong candidate, but his appeal could wear quickly as the people of Wisconsin realize that his position on Obamacare is little different than that of Russ Feingold.

Feingold has money.
This is the primary argument against pursuing this, or any opportunity to unseat an incumbent without first having a candidate with his own name recognition. Russ Feingold had about three million dollars cash on hand as of the first of the year, about ten times the amount held by both announced Republican candidates combined. Going forward, the ability of Feingold’s opponents raise money will be crucial for their efforts to introduce themselves statewide. Nevertheless, 2010 is not going to be a year in which money will have such a powerful impact for incumbent candidates. Democrats are peddling a very damaged brand. With a struggling economy and unpopular legislation in the news, spending millions to tout one’s “accomplishments” in the Senate is far from a sure path to victory. This is the post Scott Brown era, in which it has been shown that all the insider resources in the world will not protect even the most entrenched incumbent or pseudo-incumbent (as was Coakley) against a candidate with a strong message, a willingness for hard work, and a connection to the people.  Candidates such as these naturally generate enthusiasm in a populace frustrated with the closed ears and minds inside the Beltway, and with the enthusiasm comes the money needed to expand that message. Turning once again to the Massachusetts race, the Brown campaign managed to raise more than fourteen million dollars in the final three weeks before the election. Do the work and the money will come.

Too liberal for Wisconsin.
Russ Feingold is far too liberal for Wisconsin. He is one of the most liberal members of the upper chamber despite being from a state that leans only slightly toward Democrats (Cook PVI D+3). Feingold has managed this largely through the luck of never having to seek election during a truly Republican year. His best performance was in 2004, a year that saw GOP pickups off of Bush’s coattails in the south that did not touch the midwest, in which Feingold took 55% of the vote. His greatest appeal to moderates thus far has been on issues of reduced spending and corporate welfare. Needless to say that this will not work nearly as much to his advantage in the era of Porkulus.

The good news.
Well, first of all, in can be said that Tommy Thompson is an experienced politician, and reading the handwriting on the wall for public support of government run health care, could run to distance himself from the issue and Feingold if he does enter the race. The real good news, though, is that we can do this without Thompson. A PPP poll from November and a Rasmussen poll from last week showed Feingold getting only 47% against each of two announced opponents, both relative unknowns. In the Rasmussen poll, Feingold topped Terrence Wall, 47-39 and Dave Westlake 47-37. In the post-Scott Brown era, numbers like these cannot be overlooked. In the political atmosphere that saw Brown come from a similar deficit to win in the far more liberal state of Massachusetts in the span of two weeks, conservatives would be mistaken to withhold their active support from either of these men, instead hoping for a sudden surprise entry.

Of course, there is another factor in the Scott Brown analogy. Before he was the surging underdog with the growing bankroll and the well-wishes of conservatives nationwide, Scott Brown was the dynamic, hardworking candidate who drove his truck statewide greeting the people and addressing their concerns. Unseating an incumbent requires that sort of effort from a candidate under just about any circumstance. Are Wall and Westlake the types of candidate that are willing to give the sort of effort necessary to step up and take this seat from Russ Feingold?

Meet Terrence Wall.
Terrence Wall is a married self-made business leader from Dane County, around Madison. Wall is the founder of a successful real-estate and development firm known as T. Wall Properties. Along with his steady construction work across the state of Wisconsin, Wall has also started a capital fund that aids others in starting and growing their businesses.

Education: B.A. Economics, Wisconsin-Madison
M.S. Real Estate Appraisal and Investment Analysis, Wisconsin-Madison

Positions:

Obamacare: opposes. Favors “free market steps” to lower health care costs.

Economics: opposes deficit spending.

Social issues: Pro-life, opposes gay marriage

Supports twelve-year term limits for those in Congress and the Senate.

Supports strong 2nd Amendment rights.

Financially, Terrence Wall’s campaign had $350k cash on hand as of Dec. 31.

Wall has a steadily updated blog discussing his campaign and the issues affecting Wisconsin and the country. As one would expect, it thoroughly hammers Russ Feingold and his extreme left position on Obamacare. http://www.terrencewall.com/index.php/blog Wall’s campaign is also on Facebook and Twitter.

Meet Dave Westlake.
Dave Westlake is a married Army veteran and small business owner from Watertown, Wisconsin – about midway between Madison and Milwaukee. He is a young devoted Christian and a member of the NRA.

Education: B.S. Environmental Science and Engineering, West Point
M.B.A, Chicago

Positions:

Obamacare: opposes. Instead favors a free-market approach, including tort reform and the freedom to purchase insurance across state lines.

Economics: Favors low taxes, small government.

Social issues: Pro-life, opposes gay marriage.

Environment and Energy: Opposes Cap and Trade. Supports domestic drilling, coal and nuclear power.

Supports twelve-year term limits for those in Congress and the Senate.

Supports strong 2nd Amendment rights.

Westlake has a weekly updated blog focusing on his campaign and the issues affecting our federal government. http://blog.davewestlake.org/ Westlake’s campaign is also present on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube.

Head to head each candidate has their advantages. Westlake’s campaign, at least at first glance more thoroughly describes his positions on more issues and is very organized across the Internet. Wall, meanwhile has a significant advantage in money, and a more regularly updated blog that may further define his positions over time. Both are quite conservative in the positions that they promote on their respective sites and both start as an underdog against Feingold, but well within reach considering their relative obscurity compared to the longtime Senator.

This race can be won, Redstate, and we don’t necessarily need Tommy Thompson to do it. What is necessary, though, is dedicated support for either, or both, of the candidates currently in the race. While Thompson’s entry or even Neumann’s could yet change the dynamic of the race, there is no reason for us to hold back, passively waiting for an unannounced candidate to make a surprise entry. We have two viable, potentially strong candidates in Wall and Westlake, both in competitive positions against Feingold and with plenty of time to introduce themselves to the people of Wisconsin. All of the information on them that I set forth here came from their campaign sites, of which I only grazed the surface. Check these men out.

 

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