By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter
Hovde stops in Green Bay as part of statewide push
GREEN BAY — Eric Hovde’s campaign for U.S. Senate is shifting into high gear.
Following the blueprint from Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson’s successful 2010 run, the political newcomer is largely self-financing his campaign to bring his message of small government to Wisconsin voters ahead of the Aug. 14 election.
On Thursday, the multi-millionaire took his bus tour to Lambeau Field in Green Bay, more steaming hot than frozen tundra on this sun-soaked July afternoon.
His stop attracted a few dozen supporters, several media outlets — and a solitary Democratic Party operative, Hovde said, has followed the campaign around Wisconsin.
Among the supporters was state Sen. Frank Lasee, a De Pere Republican up for re-election in 2014. Lasee said Hovde has been his guy since October.
“I trust him to go to Washington and focus on the economy and balancing our budget,” Lasee said. He said he wasn’t as confident in the other Republican candidates — former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann of District 1, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald of Horicon and former Gov. Tommy Thompson.
“The criticism I have — and I served with both Tommy and Jeff Fitzgerald — is they’re both big-government Republicans. That’s what got us into trouble in Washington, that’s what got us into trouble in Wisconsin,” Lasee said.
Hovde said his experience as a banker and hedge-fund manager give him the edge over his Republican counterparts.
“You have to have a basis of understanding of how our economic and financial markets work,” he said. “I know how our financial markets work inside and out, and I think that’s critical because we need people who are going to start creating sound policy in Washington. The policies that have been put forth have been ruinous to our economy.”
Recent polls suggest Hovde’s strategy is doing well. His ad buys — around $3 million so far — and eight-day, 21-city tour helped boost him 9 percentage points in a month, from 14 percent to 23 percent, according to the latest Marquette Law School poll.
Hovde has jumped past the fading Neumann into second place, trailing early favorite Thompson by 12 points.
A left-leaning poll from Public Policy Polling actually has Hovde ahead of Thompson by 2 percentage points.
Hovde’s supporters say he is similar to Johnson beyond financial success and self-financed campaigns.
“It’s all right up there on his website,” said Frank Vogel, of Green Bay. “I know where he stands on the issues and I know he has a plan. I’m not really sure of the others.”
Vogel, who voted for Johnson in 2010 and plans to vote for Hovde in August, said his biggest concern as an American was the national debt — now approaching $16 trillion. He said he believes Hovde is the best Wisconsin U.S. Senate candidate to take on the debt.
Johnson, who made his millions in manufacturing, also ran on reducing the debt in 2010.
“They are substantially analogous,” said John McAdams, political scientist at Marquette University in Milwaukee, comparing Hovde to Johnson. “The truth is a rich guy with a lot of money to spend can sometimes pop in and take the nomination.”
McAdams said conservatives haven’t yet embraced Hovde as they did Johnson in 2010.
“I sense just a little more reservation about Hovde from conservatives. They’re not entirely sure where he’s coming from. They were wholeheartedly for Ron Johnson,” McAdams said.
Conservative Theresa Zoesch, however, is not on the fence. She said she likes Hovde, in part, because she sees him as a straight shooter.
Hovde “speaks the truth,” she said. “Most politicians will tell you what you want to hear.”