I attended the Wisconsin Republican Party convention in Milwaukee over the weekend, and with the cobwebs finally gone from my skull, I have some thoughts:
* – Mark Neumann apparently thinks he’s running for the wrong office. It appears he is running to be 8th grade class president, not governor of Wisconsin. Think about it – he began his campaign by starting a ludicrous rumor about Scott Walker dropping out of the race to run for lieutenant governor. Then he started putting out goofball press releases bragging about all his phony Facebook followers and about how his website was winning awards for its design. At his next press conference, I fully expect him to announce that Justin Bieber is totally dreamy.
Neumann did build up some goodwill during the convention by pledging that he would support whoever the GOP nominee would be. This was likely in response to rumors that Neumann would run as an independent after losing the primary to Scott Walker, thereby handing the election to Democrat Tom Barrett. (Many people still blame former Libertarian Ed Thompson for stealing votes from Republican Scott McCallum in 2002, which handed the election to Jim Doyle – who won with only 44% of the vote.)
But whatever goodwill Neumann garnered by vowing to support Walker, he lost by pulling a stunt in which his supporters picketed outside the Frontier Airlines center, claiming they were denied entrance. Of course, anyone that wasn’t credentialed was denied entrance, not just Neumann’s supporters. (Owen Robinson and Deb Jordahl had these angles covered.)
All in all, it looks like Republicans are where they were before the convention. Walker is the huge favorite, Neumann plans to continue to go negative on him on petty issues. And for those who believe Neumann isn’t running as an independent, I give you Florida Governor Charlie Crist, who proclaimed on national television that he wasn’t going to run outside the Republican party, then two weeks later, announced that he was doing just that.
* – Ironically, there were two people who earned my newfound respect by their reaction to their damaged campaigns. Obviously, Dick Leinenkugel’s popularity increased tenfold when he pulled out of the U.S. Senate race and endorsed new entrant Ron Johnson. That was really the only way the ex-Jim Doyle cabinet member could have earned a standing ovation at the GOP Convention.
But I was equally impressed by Lieutenant Governor candidate Rebecca Kleefisch, who finished last among the four Lt. Gov candidates on the first delegate ballot. The first ballot came in with Rep. Brett Davis at 37.5 percent, Superior Mayor Dave Ross at 25.5 percent, former Green Beret Ben Collins of Lake Geneva with 13.78 percent, and Kleefisch with 13.69 percent – which bumped her off the ballot. (Davis won the final ballot over Ross by 14 percent.)
I can only imagine how tough it was for Kleefisch to suffer such a defeat, given the time and effort she’s put into her campaign. But as I walked out of the convention hall, there she was – still smiling and shaking hands. As Alec Baldwin once said it takes these to take a hit and keep a brave face – and no matter how badly she felt at the time, she kept on working. I found that monumentally impressive. (Of course, I sobbed inconsolably after watching “The Lion King” for the first time, so I might just be a world class pansy.)
* – Apparently, there are twenty-six GOP candidates running in the 8th Congressional District against Democrat Steve Kagen. And I kept hearing about how State Representative Roger Roth is everyone’s frontrunner, but I didn’t see Roth anywhere near the convention. There may have been signs and stickers that I missed, but it was hardly the convention presence I expected.
On the other hand, former State Representative Terri McCormick was everywhere, shaking hands and talking with delegates. Then again, maybe I just noticed her more, as I was afraid she might run over and karate chop me in the eyeballs after I wrote this post about her.
* – Everyone knows that all the real convention action happens at the candidate hospitality suites, which serve up free drinks and entertainment. It seemed the most popular suite was that of former lumberjack Sean Duffy, as it featured a game called “hammerschlagen.” In the game, contestants stand around a tree stump and attempt to hammer nails into it by using the pointed end of a hammer. The first one to hammer their nail all the way in wins. (Naturally, the first time I stepped up and took a swing, I hammered my nail in in one shot. ONE SHOT, BRO! This led to a long evening of trash talking on my part.)
One might question the wisdom of mixing alcohol with pointy hammers – but I’m certain 9-1-1 was on speed dial all along.
I actually did get to spend some time talking to Duffy and even more time talking to his wife, Rachel Campos-Duffy. They seem like wonderful, genuine people with a beautiful life and adorable family. Come to think of it, I think I hate the Duffys.
(SIDE NOTE: My apologies to the Dan Kapanke for Congress hospitality suite-goers. They had a game set up where you could hit a baseball, and if you hit a sign on the wall, you won a t-shirt. I apparently hit the ball a little too hard, and it caromed off the wall and drilled an intern in the head. I was then asked to leave. I sincerely apologize to everyone involved – I tried to swing lighter, but couldn’t make contact. Anyway.)
* – Wispolitics was in attendance, and conducted their usual straw poll of delegates. (One of the question on the poll was “Do you support the Tea Party movement?” Which caused my friend Mike to wonder if at the Democrat Convention, they’ll ask “Do you support ACORN?”) I was surprised to see that among delegates’ preference for president, Representative Paul Ryan finished fourth (behind convention speaker Tim Pawlenty, Sarah Palin, and Mitt Romney.) What’s most surprising is that Ryan finished fourth despite not being on the ballot. People actually wrote his name in. Sadly, Ryan had to leave the convention after the death of his mother-in-law.
* – Finally, a special shout-out to Reince Priebus and the whole staff at the Republican Party for putting on a first-class event. Especially since this was one of the largest conventions in history. The stress on these people to keep things running smoothly is immense, and they deserve a lot of credit.
As a writing assignment, I was actually going to attend the Democratic Convention in Madison in a couple weeks. I e-mailed one of my Democrat friends to see if that was feasible, and he responded by asking if this was some kind of Hunter S. Thompson stunt. I said no, but that I did plan on dropping a lot of acid before I went.