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WI: Week in Review – Ryan pick, Thompson win set up key November battles

By   /   August 17, 2012  /   News  /   No Comments

By Kirsten Adshead  |  Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON – Former Gov. Tommy Thompson’s victory in the GOP U.S. Senate primary could have been the story of the week.

It was, indeed, worth noting.

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson won Tuesday’s four-way battle to represent the GOP in the November U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin.

Mitt Romney stole the spotlight days before Thompson had the chance to take it, announcing last Saturday that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-1st District, would be his vice-president running mate.

What do the two stories have in common?

They’re both key elements to setting up the two showdowns sure to get heavy focus heading into the November elections: The presidential election and the race to replace retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl.

Ryan seeks vice presidency

Presumptive GOP presidential Mitt Romney’s decision to tap Ryan as VP for once made both conservatives and liberals happy.

Analysts called the move both bold and risky, noting that Romney’s pick would put Ryan’s controversial budget plan front and center in the national debate.

The question for Wisconsin is whether Ryan’s vice-presidential candidacy gives Romney a better chance of winning the state.

“I’m not ultimately one who believes vice presidents are key to winning a state, even a home state. But it’s clear, at the beginning of the race at least, Paul Ryan will provide an advantage,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison political science professor Charles Franklin, who is leading the Marquette Law School political polling project.

Harry Banker of Janesville planned to vote for Obama before the Ryan announcement, but said he was pleased with Romney’s decision.

“I just think it’s a good idea that Paul Ryan got selected because he knows General Motors left here three years ago and he knows what it’s going to take to rebound, to get more jobs here,” Banker said.

That doesn’t mean, however, Banker has heard anything yet to make him change his decision in November.

It’s Thompson with the (primary) win

Wisconsinites chose their former, four-term governor Tuesday during the four-way race for the Republican spot in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.

Two candidates, former Congressman Mark Neumann and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, bowed out early in the night, but the election returns indicated a close race between Thompson and millionaire businessman Eric Hovde, a political newcomer.

Thompson beat Hovde by about 18,000 votes, winning by 3 percentage points — 34 percent to 31 percent, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

He now faces Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who represents the 2nd Congressional District and is the only Democrat in the race.

Thompson’s GOP opponents quickly pledged their support for the former governor.

“Because when it’s all said and done, ladies and gentlemen, we are Republicans,” Thompson said. “We’re going to make this country the country we’ve always wanted it to be: Fiscally sound, capable of doing anything.”

Baldwin, in her election-night statement, said the former governor won’t fight for the average Wisconsinite.

“Tonight, the Republican primary electorate presented Wisconsin voters with a clear choice for the November election,” she said in a statement. “Make no mistake, Tommy Thompson will stand with those who already have too much power and influence in Washington.”

The GOP Senate vote was just one of several on Tuesday’s primary-election ballot.

Among the other races was the primary to choose a Democratic candidate to run for Baldwin’s congressional seat, which she is vacating to run for Senate.

State Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, easily won that race, with 72 percent of the vote.

Confusion reigns over jobs numbers

Wisconsin’s economy shed 6,500 nonfarm jobs last month, according the latest datafrom the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, as measured by the federalBureau of Labor Statistics.

But, DWD Chief of the Office of Economic Advisors  Dennis Winters told Wisconsin Reporter, until BLS changes its monthly measurement, proven to be volatile at best and consistently wrong in general, he said he won’t “have a lot of faith in them.”

With voters saying that the economy is the No. 1 issue on their minds, the unemployment report has become a monthly weapon in the game of politics, with each side taking credit or assigning blame, depending on whether the jobs numbers are up or down.

But it’s undeniable that the initial unemployment numbers, based on a sample of 3 percent of businesses, usually have to be adjusted, sometimes significantly.

In March for instance, the monthly employment estimate showed Wisconsin’s economy lost 4,500 nonfarm jobs. Revised numbers showed a 2,800-job increase, a swing of 7,300 jobs.

On the other side of the equation, BLS reported nonfarm estimates showed a preliminary increase of 12,500 jobs, but the revised figures pegged the increase at 5,200 – again, a difference of 7,300 jobs.

“The varying job numbers all lead us to the same conclusion – that Wisconsin is losing jobs and lagging far behind the country on job creation,” Assembly Democratic leader Peter Barca said in a statement. “Having DWD spend time and energy to cover up Republicans’ unsuccessful record on job creation is wrong. Instead we should be working together to advance legislation to create good‐paying jobs for Wisconsin families.”


Kirsten formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.