By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
Tommy: He’s OK, I guess.
Thompson in 2012: I guess he can’t hurt us.
Those might be the campaign bumper stickers and T-shirts of some of Wisconsin’s NRA rank-and-file.
Sure, Thompson picked up some much-needed Second Amendment street cred from Ted Nugent last week. The hard-rocking and rhetorical bomb-throwing “Nuge” is one of the main faces of the National Rifle Association, a hero to a lot of people with guns.
But the Motor City Madman’s pro Thompson rally and rants might not be enough to sell U.S. Senate candidate Thompson to gun-rights voters at home.
At least he’s giving pause to voters like Buster Bachhuber of rural Wausau.
Bachhuber, a long-time attorney and card-carrying member of the NRA for as long he can remember, serves on the organization’s board of director alongside Nugent. He’s gotten to know the rock star pretty well over the past several years.
He knows “Uncle Ted,” as Bachhuber calls Nugent, likes to poke at liberals with a stick, likes to stir up the pot, as he did at the NRA convention in St. Louis a few months ago. Nugent caught the attention of the Secret Service when he said that he would “either be dead or in jail next year” if Barack Obama is re-elected president.
Bachhuber knows Thompson, too.
While Thompson stood up for some important gun-rights initiatives during his four terms as Wisconsin governor, Bachhuber said Tommy wasn’t much for backing the “emotional issues.”
“I remember him being lukewarm as far as being pro-gun,” Bachhuber told me.
While Thompson vehemently said he has always supported concealed carry, a long list of publications show otherwise, as reported last week in Wisconsin Reporter.
Thompson’s website says the Senate candidate supports concealed carry and holds a concealed carry permit. It also boasts that Thompson owns more than a dozen firearms.
Wisconsin’s concealed carry law, pushed by Republican Gov. Scott Walker and passed years after Second Amendment groups first began pushing it, does not make permit holders public record. In short, there’s no way of knowing whether the former governor is packing heat.
The NRA generally doesn’t endorse candidates in a primary season, but it certainly has supported the governor in the past.
Of course, the organization rates highly all of the conservative candidates for Wisconsin’s open U.S. Senate seat – Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, R-Horicon, Madison businessman and Republican Eric Hovde, and former 1st District Congressman Mark Neumann, a Republican from Janesville.
“Don’t believe there’s a bad gun guy in the bunch,” says Jeff Nass, president of Wisconsin FORCE, or Wisconsin Firearm Owners, Ranges, Clubs & Educators, an NRA chartered state association.
Nass is politically reserved, only saying the obvious to gun-rights advocates: Anyone of the Republicans is preferred to U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a Madison gun-control liberal and the lone Democrat in the Senate race.
Bachhuber is more direct.
While he doesn’t speak for the NRA, he asserts Thompson may be the weakest of the Republican candidates on Second Amendment issues.
“On the other hand, if he is elected, I don’t think Thompson will hurt us anywhere,” Bachhuber said.
Not the kind of ringing-endorsement politicians like to print in their campaign literature.
But Bachuber said many Wisconsin NRA members believe there is an inevitability question with Thompson, that he will be the candidate to come out of the Aug. 14 primary bruised but victorious.
Polls are beginning to put Thompson’s inevitability in question, however.
And if that message gets out, gun-rights supporters may have some more pondering to do.
Maybe Tommy better place a favor with Tom – that other NRA icon.
You can hear the call now:
“Mr. Seleck, Tommy Thompson on line one.”