Can Doyle inspire his troops?
As Democrats gather this weekend in La Crosse they gather at a time of crisis. It shouldn’t be that way. After all, they control the Governor’s mansion and every statewide office except for state treasurer. Republicans may control the legislature, but they have alienated their base with the whole Taxpayer Protection Amendment fiasco. And it should be a bad year for Republicans: mid-term elections with an unpopular incumbent Republican President.
The Democrats’ incumbent US Senator, Herb Kohl, is up for re-election without a credible challenger. The only drama in his re-election was whether fringe Democratic candidate for Senate Ben Masel would also be allowed to address the gathering (he will, right after lunch).
There has been talk of a Republican challenge from former candidate Tim Michels (unlikely) or even former Governor Thompson (unlikelier). Instead the most credible candidate to emerge is State Senator Glenn Grothman, who is not up for re-election and is therefore free to make a suicide run just to increase name recognition and gain the gratitude of his party.
So why is the Democratic Party heading into this weekend dreading this fall’s elections?
The party faithful received some bad news this week when a new independent poll by Strategic Vision revealed Governor Doyle may actually have fallen behind challenger Congressman Mark Green.
Green has consistently been close to Doyle in the polls. Now, Green’s party is unified behind him, the ghosts of Walker and Thompson have been exorcised, and Green’s campaign is in complete control of the message (for good or ill).
Even better for Green, the state legislature is done for the year, preventing them from doing any damage to Green’s campaign. Before they went home, the Republicans in the legislature actually did some good by making Doyle veto popular bills, like the bill banning state assistance to illegal aliens.
Meanwhile, Doyle’s fundraising practices are starting to catch up to him. This week the Travelgate scandal became the center of attention when Georgia Thompson went on trial for allegedly pushing the state travel contract to Doyle allies. Thompson may end up being found innocent, but the damage has been done.
Despite denials they had anything to do with the state travel contract, it was revealed this week that Doyle and former Department of Administration Secretary Marc Marotta had numerous contacts with Adelman travel prior to the bidding process. If Thompson did act to push the contract to Adelman travel to please her superiors, she would have been right about their reaction.
And yet Doyle continues to cling to the $20,000 in donations from Adelman Travel executives even after acknowledging the bid process was tainted enough to cancel the contract.
The scandal cannot be making the Democrats gathering in La Crosse happy. After all, they are the party of Senator Russ Feingold of McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform fame. Every Democrat in attendance can tell you how Feingold beat the big money candidates former Congressman Jim Moody and businessman Joe Checota. It can’t make any of the Democrats happy when they look to the leader of their party and see the embodiment of the worst flaws of those two candidates.
When Doyle takes the podium Friday night (shouldn’t he be vetoing something?), what can he say to rally the Democrats to his cause? What will inspire them to make phone calls, knock on doors and even raise more money?
Since Doyle has little to offer, he will offer the Democrats fear. Expect a speech worthy of Shakespeare’s Richard III to his troops just prior to the Battle of Bosworth Field. Only instead of telling the delegates the Republicans will rape Democratic women when they win, Doyle will demagogue on stem cell research, abortion, gay rights and guns. He’ll claim the Republicans will pillage the schools, destroy the environment and sell out to the road builders (okay, on that last one he may have a point).
It’s no surprise that Democrats have already started touting Governor Doyle’s 101 vetoes as “saves” (as if he was a hockey goalie). In the absence of a positive agenda, Doyle is going to sell himself to his base as the only one who can save the state from extremists on the political right.
Realistically, we can expect Doyle’s speech to be as effective and inspiring as Richard III’s who lost to Henry VII. One only hopes someone writing Doyle’s speeches will remember, “A horse! A horse! Wisconsin for a horse!”
Does Adelman Travel offer horseback tours?
If nothing else, Democrats in La Crosse this weekend should remember the last time Wisconsin held an election midway through the second term of a Republican President. Democrats gained everywhere nationally. That is, everywhere but Wisconsin, where Republican Senator Bob Kasten held on to beat Ed Garvey and Democratic incumbent Governor Tony Earl lost to the Man from Elroy, Tommy G. Thompson.
I’d say Democrats have a good reason to feel down this weekend.