The Loser List
Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, like every other governor in America, is struggling with an enormous state budget deficit created by the near-depression left behind by the Bush administration.
President Barack Obama, one of the most hyperactive presidents in history, appears to be pulling the nation out of an economic black hole by simultaneously averting the collapse of the financial industry, the housing industry and the automobile industry.
Meanwhile, state Republicans hope to benefit by blaming Doyle for the financial cataclysm governments are facing as a result of failed Republican economic policies.
But the recent state party convention in La Crosse made it clear that Wisconsin Republicans are going to have trouble finding a credible candidate to run against Doyle in 2010. Seriously, could the Republicans really be faced with choosing between Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, former Congressman Mark Neumann, Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, some guy named Todd from Appleton and the ghost of Tommy Thompson past?
We don't know whether Tommy Thompson has Brett Favre Syndrome or Brett has Tommy Syndrome. But when both of them are out of the public spotlight for too long, rumors start circulating that they are poised to recapture past glories. That's not very likely for either of them anymore-no one has even asked to look at Tommy's X-rays.
Thompson was governor for 14 years before joining the Bush administration as secretary of Health and Human Services. Thompson headed what should have been our nation's most important agency. Unfortunately, George Bush had no interest in providing health or human services to Americans.
Van Hollen, the highest-ranking Republican in statewide office, has been considered pretty much of a non-entity, even by his fellow Republicans. The attorney general did manage to get into the news recently by issuing an opinion backing the open carrying of deadly weapons on our streets. But the few goofballs who are eager to strap on six-guns are a pretty paltry political base upon which to build a campaign for governor.
When former Congressman Mark Neumann-another name out of the dim past-is remembered at all, it's as the mean-spirited conservative who ran against Sen. Russ Feingold back in 1998. During a publicly televised debate with Feingold, Neumann actually made a young college student cry when he attacked her for asking a challenging question. A candidate is seriously charm-deficient when he makes members of his audience cry.
Almost by default, Scott Walker seems to be in a stronger position than he was four years ago, when he limped away from a primary race against lackluster Green Bay Congressman Mark Green after failing to raise sufficient funds.
Walkerhas a more winning political personality than Neumann, but he still lugs considerable baggage as Milwaukee's county executive into a statewide race.
One of the crippling blows to Walker's last campaign for governor came when he announced that Milwaukee County might need a state bailout from Doyle to remain solvent. Milwaukee County's financial shambles has only continued to worsen under Walker.
Every year, as Walker is sure to tell state voters, he submits a no-tax-increase budget. What Walker never mentions is that his budget doesn't include enough money to run the county. So every year the County Board has to set Walker's budget aside and take political responsibility for raising the taxes needed to provide county services.
Even then, Walker's government has serious problems of mismanagement. Earlier this year, the state Department of Health Services took over management of Milwaukee County's public assistance programs because of the county's "sustained inability to successfully provide services" to poor and working families.
Perhaps even Republican voters around the state were taken aback when Walker announced he had no intention of applying for federal economic stimulus funds for Milwaukee County, the state's most populous county, which has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.
There's a big difference between standing on principle against government spending and irresponsibly passing up money to create family-supporting jobs for citizens who desperately need them.
Interestingly, the list of potential Republican gubernatorial nominees does not include the only real rising star in the state party. That would be 1st District Congressman Paul Ryan, who has moved into the vacuum of Republican national leadership in Congress to cheers from a fawning local press.
Ryan is as far right ideologically as the most virulent Obama-hating Republican. But, as is true of Walker, Ryan's boyish good looks and pleasant personality make him stand out among all the sour Republican gargoyles.
But, apparently, Ryan has decided that his future is in Washington. He'll probably bide his time until Sen. Herb Kohl retires before attempting a statewide race.
So, at this point, it looks as if the strongest candidate the Republicans might be able to field against Doyle actually could be some guy named Todd from Appleton.