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On a roll

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Publication:Waukesha Freeman (Conley); Date:Aug 16, 2012; Section:Opinion; Page Number:6A

On a roll
Tommy ready for one more time

(James Wigderson is a blogger publishing at http://www.wigderson.com and a Waukesha resident. His column runs Thursdays in The Freeman.)

The evil that men do they can blame later on their political consultants. The Republican primary for Senate was negative, even silly, over picked nits that had little to do with the candidates’ philosophies.

National conservative groups like Club for Growth and Tea Party Express took their lumps Tuesday night for backing former Congressman Mark Neumann. It was a huge mistake for them, and by backing Neumann instead of Hovde they effectively split the conservative vote to allow former Gov. Tommy Thompson to win.

Neumann learned the hard way that his political career really ended with his unethical campaign against Gov. Scott Walker in 2010.

On the other hand, Hovde said it was the end of his political career, and it would be hard to find him a spot in Wisconsin politics right now. His best chance would be to run for Congress in Dane County, and he’d probably get killed.

Thompson emerged from the fight on Tuesday looking ready to take on another campaign. He said he had one last campaign in him, and listening to him Tuesday night give his victory speech reminded the television audience of the Tommy of 1992.

Wisconsin Republicans love a winner, and Thompson is certainly a winner. Including the Republican gubernatorial primary in 1986, Thompson has now won statewide six straight times.

In 1994, Thompson won every county in Wisconsin except Menomonee County. He even won Dane and Milwaukee counties.

There is another reason why Republicans think fondly of Thompson. When he was governor, the state was prosperous. People have good memories of his time as governor because they were working and businesses were coming to Wisconsin.

Thompson was also an innovator. He was the first to, “end welfare as we know it” by requiring a work component. In education, Thompson pushed the then-revolutionary private school voucher program in Milwaukee. Thompson also put caps on local taxes by school boards.

Finally there’s the personality. Thompson is just one of those politicians that people like, foibles and all. He’s not the most polished speaker. He’s not the smoothest politician. He’s not the most handsome politician.

But there is a reason Wisconsinites know instantly who you’re talking about when you say, “Tommy.” He is just one of the best retail politicians this state has ever seen.

Some old political observers talk about the late Sen. William Proxmire. Thompson takes personal campaigning to a whole different level with the energy he brings.

If anyone thinks Thompson is too old, they haven’t seen him on the campaign trail lately. He’s got that campaign magic in him for at least one more run.

Thompson faces Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, a product of Madison. Baldwin has a voting record that makes her one of the most left-wing members of Congress, and she has the affiliation with Madison’s protest class to go with her record.

Already on Tuesday night, Baldwin was talking to an assembled group of Democrats in the language of the Occupy movement, promising to tar her then-unknown opponent with standing up for rich people.

Baldwin is going to be President Barack Obama’s chief apologist in the days until election day. She will be defending Obamacare and the $800 billion stimulus.

On social issues, Baldwin is far to the left of Wisconsin values, including Obamacare’s attack on religious institutions. From gay marriage to abortion, Baldwin is far outside mainstream of Wisconsin voters.

Baldwin already has a sizable financial war chest for the upcoming campaign and she can count on plenty of more contributions from out of state just because of her status as an openly gay politician.

Because of the importance of the race and Thompson’s stature as a politician, he should be able to effectively raise enough money to match her. Of course, it helps when Wisconsin has taken on such a prominent role in national politics thanks to Republicans like Walker, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Sen. Ron Johnson, and, of course, vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan.

We know Thompson can win as he has won so many times before. It also looks like he’s ready for that sprint to the end.

Thompson declared on Tuesday night that Wisconsin is on a roll. That’s certainly true for Wisconsin’s Republicans.

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