MILWAUKEE -- Wisconsin Republicans who attended the debate largely praised its content, while state Dem Chair Martha Laning called it “disappointing.”
State GOP Chairman Brad Courtney praised what he described as an issue-focused debate that didn’t feature “any food fights between the candidates.” He also predicted a long primary battle, saying “This is not a coronation.”
Courtney, a long time friend of the guv’s, sat next to Scott Walker and noted he received a warm reception.
“It was kind of bittersweet,” Courtney said. “I still think he would make a great president, but that’s for another conversation.”
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, said the “race is still wide open” and he didn’t see a clear winner.
“I think Wisconsin saw some pretty capable individuals capable of leading this nation,” Johnson said. “Right now America is hungry for leadership. I think we saw a number of individuals up there that would fit that bill.”
On immigration, Johnson said the crowd was on the side of “realism.”
Johnson said America has to secure its borders and deport criminals and those “feeding off the welfare system.”
“We’re also a compassionate nation and we realize it’s just not practical to identify and ship out 11 to 12 million people,” he said.
State Rep. Dale Kooyenga, R- Brookfield, had praise for Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul and Ben Carson.
Still, he didn’t feel Carson has a “huge command” of all of this issues, though Kooyenga believed he is someone who knows how to ask the right questions and could assemble a strong team. The Joint Finance Committee member, who doesn’t plan to endorse in the primary, also questioned Marco Rubio’s tax plan. Still, he "would be proud to support anyone up there probably with the exception of Donald Trump."
“I’m really focused on policy and so I made a conscious decision I’m not going to get into the race this time and endorse anybody,” he said.
Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester and co-chair of Rubio’s state campaign, said New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was the standout candidate during the undercard debate, calling the governor articulate and passionate.
Ahead of the main debate, Vos said he expected Rubio would be “head and shoulders above the other candidates.”
“I have no doubt that he’s going to shine,” Vos said.
Laning said Wisconsin voters heard from a GOP field that doesn’t care a whole lot about making their lives better.
Laning also said Wisconsinites have already seen many of the policies proposed last night in action in their state.
“We have seen the Republican plan in play,” Laning said. “Here in Wisconsin, Republicans have had total control. It clearly is not working. All of the things they’ve talked about, giving tax breaks, well, Republicans have given tax breaks and we haven’t seen the increase in jobs that’s supposed to be happening.”
-- By Samantha Nash and David Wise