• WisPolitics


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

 4:52 PM 

The WisPolitics post-election Stock Report

POST-ELECTION POLITICAL STOCK REPORT
--A collection of insider opinion--

RISING

Conservatives: Scott Walker, Ron Johnson, Sean Duffy, Reid Ribble and a host of Republican legislative candidates ride a Tea Party-fueled wave to dominate Election Day 2010 and grab back the reins of power in Madison. Republicans credit the GOP for working hand-in-hand with the movement to avoid the kind of party tension that derailed pickup opportunities in other states. At the federal level, conservative hero Paul Ryan is poised to become chair of the House Budget Committee, giving him a platform to promote his philosophy of smaller government. Now comes the tricky part, say insiders: governing in an economic malaise and finding the right candidate to challenge Obama in 2012. Observers are also watching to see how Republicans will govern now that they’ll hold the guv’s office and comfortable majorities in both houses. Some look at the majorities and the conservative bent of the newcomers and predict a staunchly conservative Legislature, particularly in the Assembly, and that could make it hard to subdue conservative demands for controversial legislation.

Fitzgerald brothers: The brothers Fitzgerald, Sen. Scott and Rep. Jeff, became the second-most politically powerful tandem in the state after Scott Walker and his top aide, whoever that will be. Their teams not only won back the houses for the GOP but exceeded expectations by rolling up significant majorities and knocking off the sitting Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker.

Political rookies: Six months ago, the political community knew nothing about Ron Johnson and Reid Ribble. Now the plastics maker and the roofer are going to Congress. Insiders say this proves it was a good year to be an outsider without a record. Insiders on both sides praise Johnson’s campaign and say he was the right candidate for the right time with the right message to capitalize on the public’s anger toward Washington, D.C., and Madison. Ribble’s campaign wasn’t nearly as steady, but the GOP rebound in the Fox Valley likely helped make up for any shortcomings in his campaign, observers said.

Tim Cullen: Twenty-three years after leaving the state Senate to join Tommy Thompson's administration, the respected Janesville pol is about to return to the Legislature. The victory by Cullen, a retired insurance industry exec, to hold Judy Robson's seat is one of the few Dem bright spots on Election Day. With Russ Decker gone, could the ex-Senate majority leader be the next Senate Dem minority leader? While some consider Cullen the strongest candidate to lead the caucus after the big losses on Election Day, others aren’t so sure Cullen will be embraced by Senate Dems after he spent a good chunk of his campaign running against the Legislature.

Feingold speculation: The Middleton Dem tells supporters “it’s on to 2012” after his concession speech, fueling speculation about what he may do now that he won’t be returning to the U.S. Senate this January. Some national pundits peg him as a liberal, anti-war challenger for President Obama in two years, while others suggest hypothetical appointments to the Supreme Court, attorney general or even a 2012 U.S. Senate candidacy if Herb Kohl were to retire. Feingold allies say he's unlikely to pursue a presidential run in 2012, but all other options are on the table. They say he's still the leading progressive voice in the nation with a big base of support across the country, and they expect him to use that mantle. An adviser says Feingold will focus on his job working for the people of Wisconsin until his term ends in January, and it’s too early to speculate on what he may do.

MIXED

Milwaukee Co.: Now that Walker is the guv-elect, politicos speculate on who will try to be the next executive in a county where influential leaders are calling for a dismantling of the government. Among the names circulating are Sheriff David Clarke and state Reps. Jon Richards, D-Milwaukee, and Jeff Stone, R-Greendale, among others.

Ron Kind: Not so long ago, the 3rd District congressman was being touted as a possible guv candidate. But after a brutal October, in which Kind endures charges of pay to play and a big conservative-funded media campaign, he limps into office again with a narrow victory over GOP state Sen. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse. Some say the allegations and the close race have damaged Kind’s prospects for a future run. Others say he’ll have time to recover, especially if he moves more toward the middle after voting for cap-and-trade and the health care bill, opening himself up to dings that he was supporting the Pelosi agenda. Some credit him for swimming upstream in a difficult environment. Unlike other Dem incumbents who were viewed as relatively safe just a few months ago but ended up in close races, Kind was prepared for the wave and spent heavily on TV to define Kapanke, some say. Still, some think Kind could have been another wave victim if Republicans only had a better opponent.

Kleefisch family: The next lt. guv has a tough last week of the campaign, getting raked for months-old disparaging comments about gays. No wonder the Walker campaign didn't want Rebecca to debate, insiders joke. Now some insiders suggest she'll be shelved to second-rate duties just as Gov. Jim Doyle did to Barb Lawton. Others aren’t so sure, pointing out Walker specifically touted Kleefisch as someone who could work on business issues for his administration. The proof will be in the pudding, some say. The good news for the Kleefisch family is that commuting to work just became easier. Husband Joel is easily re-elected to his Assembly seat.

FALLING

Dem incumbents: Republicans don’t lose a single incumbent in the state Legislature this year, a first in some time. Dems can’t say the same. Four Dems go down in the state Senate -- Russ Decker, Pat Kreitlow, John Lehman and Jim Sullivan -- while 10 Assembly Dems go down in defeat. That includes “Snarlin’” Marlin Schneider, a Wisconsin Rapids Dem who's the longest serving member of the Assembly, having won his first term in 1970. In Congress, incumbents Steve Kagen and Russ Feingold go down.

Liberals: After a sweep in 2008 that put Republicans on the ropes, Dems now are in the same position. They'll be licking their wounds and strategizing a comeback soon in advance of the 2012 election. But they'll be doing so without a host of familiar names in office such as Jim Doyle, Russ Feingold, Russ Decker, Mike Sheridan, Steve Kagen and Dave Obey. Tom Barrett remains as mayor of Milwaukee, but he likely will have to focus on his own re-election in 2012, though some believe he's in a position to fill the leadership vacuum in the party for the interim. That leaves Herb Kohl, 75, as the Dems' senior officeholder in the state -- who, while popular, doesn't embrace a liberal agenda. Many Dems are glum looking down what they see as a short bench for statewide candidates with little time to find some fresh blood to lead the party back to power.

-- By Staff

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