By Kevin Binversie | Wisconsin Reporter
The cloud hanging over the 2012 U.S. Senate candidacy of former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, R- District 1, is tough to miss.
The dark, vaporous mass represents how Badger State conservative activists have felt about Neumann since the 2010 Republican gubernatorial primary. During that time, many believed Neumann went unnecessarily negative against then-Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, doing things such as dropping rumors that Walker would be abandoning his run, lying about Walker’s stance on issues and staging a protest at the state GOP convention.
Interestingly, and somewhat ironically, the Neumann campaign — not one of his primary opponents — has most recently called attention to the past.
Tuesday, the Daily Caller reported that Neumann’s campaign released a radio ad that included Neumann saying, “Frankly, if I had known what a bold, conservative leader Scott Walker would be, I wouldn’t have run. I’m just glad I endorsed him on primary night, worked for his election and then kept on working right through the recall.”
Such a statement may be the closest thing to a mea culpa from Neumann.
It’s a sign that not only is the campaign aware of the negative perception, but that it also believes it enough of a problem to address it through paid media.
Strategically, it’s a smart move for the Neumann crew to have such an ad, acknowledging a divide between Neumann and a portion of the GOP base. It also shows Neumann is willing to mend fences.
But the cynic in me questions the timing, less than a week away from what could be a tight primary contest. If Neumann’s camp was serious about offering an apology to its grassroots supporters, an ad like this would have been in rotation months ago, and not in the campaign’s final week.
That suggests the Neumann campaign is trying to put out a fire, not acknowledge it created a problem.
Otherwise, why would they have even brought up the subject in the first place?
Pointless committee, pointless bill, political ploy
When is a legislative proposal not a legislative proposal? When is it nothing more than a political shield?
When the proposal is introduced fewer than 100 days before an election.
With Democrats now in charge of the state Senate — and few thinking they will remain in charge after November — the behind-the-scenes wrangling has begun to find something — anything — containing the words “The Mining Bill.”
Democrats say it’s about jobs and, in a way, it is.
It’s about theirs.
When the bill to ease the state’s regulatory burden for a proposed iron ore mine in northern Wisconsin died in April, the debate wasn’t just about jobs versus the environment. A game of electioneering was afoot. Legislative Democrats, in the midst of trying to secure victory in the recall against Walker, were doing all they could to ensure the governor got no major legislative wins — especially on the jobs’ front.
Passage of the mining bill would have been seen as a huge win for Walker on jobs.
But that short-term political thinking backfired when Walker survived the recall. As a result, Democratic opposition to the mining legislation has become a tempting and powerful cudgel for Republicans to use in targeted races.
Control of the upper chamber is up for grabs in November, after all.
This has the new state Senate Democratic majority scrambling to create “Son of Mining Bill” to show “they care” about creating jobs in Wisconsin. Last month, they reconstituted the state Senate’s Mining Committee with a plan to fashion a bill and force a special session of the Legislature before November, just to have a vote to give vulnerable Democrats on the ballot some cover.
People have their reasons for getting cynical over politics. The politics at play over the mining bill is just one of them.
Veteran political blogger Kevin Binversie is a Wisconsin native. He served in the George W. Bush administration from 2007-2009, worked at the Heritage Foundation and has worked on numerous state Republican campaigns, most recently as research director for Ron Johnson for Senate. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.