Thursday, April 23, 2009

Preview of Walker vs Neumann

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker is announcing his candidacy for governor on Tuesday. Likely to join him in the Republican Primary is former Congressman Mark Neumann. In the Waukesha Freeman today (still just 50 cents), I previewed the race between the two Republicans for the opportunity to take on Governor Doyle.

Neumann has strengths as a candidate. He’s a credible budget cutter. He appeals to social conservatives. And as a former congressman he should have some ability to match the Democrats in fundraising.

Neumann is not from Milwaukee. It would be foolish not to recognize the amount of appeal that has to people from out-state.

Neumann’s undeclared candidacy was also recently boosted by former Department of Administration Secretary Jim Klauser, who was former Governor Thompson’s Cardinal Richelieu. Klauser’s assessment of Neumann’s candidacy should be taken as seriously as a Henry Kissinger pronouncement on foreign policy.

On the other hand, Neumann’s narrow loss to Feingold came in the same year Governor Thompson thumped Ed Garvey 59 percent to 39 percent. If you can’t win when the Democrats are led by the lawyer who caused the NFL players to go on strike, Republicans should have legitimate concern about Neumann’s appeal.

Meanwhile, while Walker may be hurt with the out-state voters because he is from Milwaukee County, it’s hard to imagine any Republican winning without making a dent in either the Democratic margins in Milwaukee or Dane County. Walker actually wins in Milwaukee County. The challenge for Walker will be whether he can transfer that success from the lower turnout nonpartisan spring election into a November victory.

Walker will need to minimize his mistakes in Milwaukee. Fortunately for Walker, the state’s takeover of one county agency suddenly became less of a liability when it was learned that the state will spend more than Walker’s administration did. And after fumbling the message on refusing the stimulus, Doyle’s misuse of the stimulus to temporarily plug holes in the state budget gets Walker off the hook.