Making Lemonade: Record turnout, the New Era, the End of the Walker Machine, and What’s Next

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‘When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.’

The 2022 primary elections will go down in history as one of the most unexpected primary election seasons since Lee Sherman Dreyfus came out of nowhere and won his primary. Here are my takeaways and in order to avoid knee-jerk reactions I decided to reflect a few days before writing.

THIS IS NOT A SPIKING OF THE BALL, as that’s just not my style. This is just my heartfelt analysis.

Let me begin by saying thank you to Rebecca Kleefisch for putting herself out there and working her tail off over the past couple of years. I am certain there is not an inch of road she did not touch on her journey. And, she raised a record amount of money for a non-incumbent statewide candidate.  That’s impressive! Yes, I did not support her this year, but I can still respect and give credit for her hard work. 

While she did not prevail on Tuesday, I am certain she’s not going anywhere. I watched her concession speech the other night and she was quite sincere and graceful. 

30,000 votes.

A few articles ago I reminded people that during the 2012 recall election, Kleefisch received 30,000 less votes than Walker did. I said it could be a factor, turns out that I was correct. Tim Michels won by more than 30,000 votes. I’m just glad that factor will not be an issue in November.  Michels win was decisive.   

In my opinion, Wisconsin’s Republicans made the right choice for Governor. Clearly Tim Michels made his case and that connected with voters. Some say Michels won based solely on his financial advantage over Kleefisch.  That’s wrong. 

His  message of being a non-politician, outsider, veteran, and successful businessman connected with voters; he had an amazing statewide grassroots field organization which produced wins in every media market including Milwaukee, he won 62 out of 72 counties; and he had the personal financial resources to quickly fund his message and organization.  Oh, and he was endorsed by Donald Trump. That was ‘yuge!’ 

He was a fresh face to Wisconsin politics with a plan to move beyond just fixing, but to effect real change. He was able to connect to every type of conservative; Republican, Evangelical, blue collar Reagan Democrats, etc. Not just the traditional base.

It was surprising to see the RECORD TURNOUT (700,000+) and how significantly the vote map had changed. Michels made major inroads in SE Wisconsin. This is a good sign, and more proof that he’s different. On top of that, he will not be carrying the perceived Walker baggage. This will be a different cycle for sure.

And, kudos to his campaign team who had little to no time to ramp up and fully develop a campaign network, get a ground game going, and achieve name recognition for a candidate who had not been a recognizable name in nearly two decades. 

Clearly, the Michels team was given a big bag of lemons and they were able to make one amazing batch of lemonade! Congratulations! 

“I don’t say these things because I believe in the ‘brute’ nature of men or that men must be brutalized to be combative. I believe in God, and I believe in human decency. But I firmly believe that any man’s finest hour — his greatest fulfillment to all he holds dear — is that moment when he has worked his heart out in a good cause and lies exhausted on the field of battle – victorious.”

– Coach Vincent T. Lombardi, Green Bay Packers

Now it is time to unite the party.  I look forward seeing Tim Michels, Becky and Tim Ramthun on the trail together.  Kevin Nicholson is also welcome. I think the grassroots would love it, and, frankly, they need to see it. 

The Trump Factor

Of course, lemonade was a subtle reference to Donald Trump’s first episode of ‘the Apprentice’ where he made the contestants compete by selling lemonade. Donald Trump has been and is still an incredible force and not to be discounted. His successful endorsement track record is unprecedented. 

In fact it was so strong that Adam Steen, a political unknown, was almost able to unseat Assembly speaker Robin Vos, a 9 term professional politician. It is noteworthy because only 262 votes separated the two candidates. Message sent, but will Vos hear it? Probably not, but that’s another article.

The Trump bump has been consistently 6-8%. I’d be lying if I were to say the FBI raid on Mara Lago was not a factor. I’m certain there will me more. Brace yourselves. In the end the Trump bump should help us all in November.

The Scott Walker Machine and the Madison Establishment

One gigantic takeaway from the results is that we have witnessed the end of the Walker political machine. It was already damaged after his failed presidential run in 2015/16. The lack of any major action in his final term was a big factor in the 2018 loss to Tony Evers. Wisconsin did not forget.

I believe Walker saw the Kleefisch run as a way to vindicate himself and gain political favor once again. While, Rebecca was quite capable of standing on her own, I’ve seen it, she chose to basically run as a 3rd Walker term. Because of this, I believe Walker likely damaged Kleefisch’s efforts because she failed to emerge out of Walker’s shadow. 

It was plain to see that Walker was no longer the political force he was a few years ago. Rebecca only received a meager 2% bump in the polls. It was also bad for Walker endorsed candidates down ballot.

Several Walker Endorsed candidates like Milwaukee County Chairman David Karst, who received a resounding spanking from Challenger Bob Donovan. 

Yes, Scott Walker did some great things for Wisconsin, that cannot be denied, but it is now time to move beyond. The primary voters reinforced this.Total proof; THE WALKER ERA IS OVER.

As for the establishment, they had a mediocre night. The perceived Establishment candidates, Adam Jarchow, Patrick Testin, and Orlando Owens did not prevail. The only statewide race they won was for Secretary of State. Times are changing. 

The biggest loser.

The biggest losers, of course, were all of the pollsters. They were ALL way off. I think polling firms need to scrap and start over. They were all about 5% off. We have ben seeing this phenomenon since the 2016 election of President Trump. Trump was always out performing the polls 5-8%, the same seems to be holding true to candidates he endorses.

What’s next?

Well, here we are, the stage is set. While I am absolutely thrilled that Tim Michels prevailed, because I supported him in the primary, I recognize that this means nothing in the grand scheme of things. This is merely our Omaha Beach, we still have to climb that hill while being shelled from every direction, including some of our own. We merely gained a few inches when we have hundreds of miles to go in order to win.

I will say this only once, TONY EVERS WILL NOT BE EASY TO BEAT! Remember? Evers literally came from the bottom of the barrel of Democrat candidates. He was ‘very beatable’ in 2018 and he still won.

A good friend of mine reminded me of the unquestionable victory we had in the 2012 Recall. That was ONLY POSSIBLE with a UNITED front. The primary is over. The time for licking wounds is over. IGNORE THE NOISE, it is just noise after all.

Also, the time for preaching to the choir is over. The choir alone will not deliver victory. Tim Michels and Ron Johnson need to connect with voters beyond traditional Republican circles. Trump and Reagan proved it could be done. WE NEED TO THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.

NOW THE REAL WORK BEGINS and it doesn’t end in November. 

WE MUST: Step 1: Reclaim Wisconsin. Step 2: Save Senator Ron Johnson and build a Senate Majority. Step 3: Solidify the WI Supreme Court in April. Step 4: The White House and Tammy Baldwin. Step 5: Repeat!

The extreme left never sleeps, and neither do vampires. Wait! What? What an odd coincidence.

All joking aside. WE CANNOT AFFORD TO SLEEP, this is ongoing. Are you ready? I am looking forward to ‘laying exhausted on the field of battle – VICTORIOUS!’, and with a nice tall glass of lemonade. Onward Wisconsin!