A few weeks ago, while we were still waiting for Dick Leinenkugel to officially announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, I prognosticated that millionaires are unable to defeat Senator Russ Feingold. Historically, that’s been true. And now, Dave Westlake is in (and having a ball), Terrence “Terry the Tax-Dodger” Wall is in, Leinenkugel is in, Ron Johnson is in, and TOMMY! is out. (Got that?) As I see it, there are three millionaires hoping to take on Feingold in the November election: Leinenkugel, Johnson, and Wall. (TOMMY!, who now gets the extra-small print, would have been the fourth, but oh well. Westlake, who gets full-sized print, either is not a millionaire, or has simply not billed himself as such, and in any case doesn’t seem to act like one.)
Now, the state Dems have also noticed that Ron Johnson has hired Darrin Schmitz, the man who is responsible for the notorious race-baiting ad that aired for Mike Gableman’s 2008 Wisconsin Supreme Court campaign. And Johnson apparently has paid for former National Republican Senatorial Committee executive director Mark Stephens to come work for him.
Well, the state Dems have picked up on the idea that I raised a week ago, in which I argued that Johnson will “try to play very dirty against Feingold, and will probably try to turn the primary into a real mudfest.” (Note that this was not refuted in the comments.) Here’s the DPW’s press release on the matter, in which they say as much, and more.
Thinking back to the 1992 campaign, Feingold presented himself as the positive alternative to the negative campaigning put on by his opponents Joe Checota and Jim Moody, and won the primary. He went on to beat the Republican incumbent Senator Robert “Bob” Kasten, Jr. Going negative in those races cost Moody and Checota the primary. (I don’t remember hearing much about Kasten, though I wasn’t paying much attention to this stuff back then.) So, my take on it is that in 2010, Johnson will go negative early. Terry Wall will reciprocate, and both will go down in flames. (Jim thinks Wall will drop out first. I dunno; Wall’s had some experience fighting the Madison City Council, but that’s a different game. He’ll probably duke it out till he loses.) Leinenkugel has met a very tame reaction, so he may be the first one who gets out. Despite Jeff’s assertion that you need money to win, the millionaires would have been eliminated by their raging mudflaps.
Where’s that leave Dave Westlake?
That’s a very good question.
I have a hunch he’ll make it.
Sure, the conventional wisdom’s against Westlake. But Feingold was the underdog who cruised past his infighting primary opponents to win the big race. I haven’t seen any recent poll numbers, save for something saying Westlake was neck-and-neck with Wall. Maybe it’s my logic-and-history-addled thinking. Though I don’t think that he would go on to unseat Feingold, I have a hunch that he could make it through the primary. Will history and logic prove me right? We’ll find out in about six months time.