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WI: Thompson courts conservatives, Ted effect

By   /   July 27, 2012  /   No Comments

By Ryan Ekvall | Wisconsin Reporter

STURTERVANT – If Hollywood wanted to produce “Grumpy Old Conservative Men,” it could do worse than to cast the co-stars of the “Rocking Rally with Ted Nugent and Tommy Thompson.”

Hard-rocking, big-game hunting, gun-rights advocating, liberal detesting Ted “the Motor City Madman” Nugent threw his support behind former governor and consummate politician Tommy Thompson for U.S. Senate.

“(Thompson’s) not a politician, he’s not going to be just an elected official. He’s a warrior,” Nugent told the 150 or so people who gathered for Thursday’s rally. “He will take on these politically correct, brain-dead, soulless liberal Democrats, and he will cause them pain and suffering.”

Nugent, gaining a “Stranglehold” on over-the-top conservative rhetoric, has repeatedly made national news this election cycle — most recently for penning an editorial in The Washington Times bashing Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion on the “un-American, Constitution-violating Obamacare.”

“I’m beginning to wonder if it would have been best had the South won the Civil War,” Nugent wrote, citing the federal government’s contempt for the 10th Amendment.

If the Harley fits …

But does Nugent’s raucous public persona fit with Thompson, a former, four-term popular governor, turned Health and Human Services secretary turned lobbyist. Sure, Tommy rides a Harley, but his suits never screamed heavy metal.

But in his campaign for U.S. Senate, Thompson has re-branded himself as a conservative’s conservative, ingratiating himself with Wisconsin’s tea party groups, a powerhouse voting bloc since 2010.

At a January tea party rally for Wisconsin conservative hero Gov. Scott Walker in Wauwatosa, Thompson took off his jacket to reveal a red University of Wisconsin jumper. Thompson turned around and pointed to the “W,” declaring it stood for “We win.”

“We are a red state and we are not going to let them take us back to a blue state, come hell or high water, ladies and gentlemen,” he hollered to a cheering crowd. “We are red. They are blue. And when we’re done with them, they’re going to be black and blue.”

The 70-year-old Thompson’s fiery streak continued at the rally in Sturtevant.

“I’m sick and tired of our president going around the world apologizing,” said Thompson to whistles and applause. “I’m sick and tired of apologizing for us because I think America is pretty darn good. I think the American people are pretty darn good.”

Nugent effect

Apparently, Thompson is more open to hanging with The Nuge than Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney, whose campaign has kept a flagpole’s length distance from Nugent since Nugent endorsed the presumptive GOP nominee. His campaign scurried away after Nugent’s politically incorrect tirade directed toward President Obama in April.

“If you don’t know that our government is wiping its ass with the Constitution, you’re living under a rock someplace,” Nugent said at a National Rifle Association conference in St. Louis.

“If Barack Obama becomes the president in November again, I will either be dead or in jail next year,” Nugent said, prompting a probe from the Secret Service.

On Thursday, Nugent, calling political correctness “a scourge,” did not back down from his previous statements.

“We’ve compromised ourselves to the tragic, anti-American horror of Barack Obama,” Nugent said. “We need to clean house. We are on the fast track toward the end of the American dream with this corrupt, power-abusing, criminal regime in the White House right now. These are bad people.”

While Romney distanced himself from Nugent, Thompson’s campaign may be responding to some polls that suggest GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde is running close to or even with Thompson.

In turn, Thompson has aggressively attacked Hovde as pro-bailout, and as a supporter of a former Dem. Gov. Jim Doyle. Hovde once wrote a $500 check to the Doyle campaign.

Thompson, who has been attacked in particular by challenger Mark Neumann, a former 1st District congressman, and his surrogates, for being a big-budget, big-government program politician and not being conservative enough, has gone after and picked up conservative endorsements.

“Nugent’s sort of a free-wheeling figure,” said John McAdams, political scientist at Marquette University in Milwaukee. “Suppose you have a reputation for (restraint) and you want to keep it, you might not get too close to Ted Nugent. Let’s suppose you’re a little stodgy and you want to seem hip — Tommy Thompson as Motorcycle Tommy and Ted Nugent kind of go together.”

Still, the governor was more politician-like speaking to the press after the rally.

“I think in the heat of the emotions, some rhetoric is said that can be explosive,” Thompson said, distancing himself from Nugent’s comment referring to the president a “Chicago gangster.”

But in the battle for the hearts and minds of conservatives, Thompson and his fellow GOP competitors are clearly cognizant of the strength of gun rights advocates. The NRA, nationally, numbers well more than 4 million members.

“If our 4 million members (all) voted, we could just about run the damn world,” said Buster Bachhuber of rural Wausau. He serves on the NRA’s board of directors alongside Nugent.