Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Nobody Wins
Wisconsin's most magical political name, for those of you not from around here, is La Follette. The legendary Fighting Bob La Follette served as governor just after the turn of the 20th century, but made his fame as a progressive member of the U.S. Senate, and ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket in 1924. One of his sons, known as Young Bob, succeeded Fighting Bob in the Senate until he was defeated in a 1946 primary by then-little-known Joseph McCarthy. In 1953, Young Bob died, apparently a suicide. Some blame depression, but a few claim it was because McCarthy was ready to accuse him of having Communists on his Senate payroll, and would call him to testify. Another son of Fighting Bob, Philip, was Wisconsin's governor for two non-consecutive terms in the 1930s. The dynasty lasted into a third generation: Young Bob's son, Bronson, was Wisconsin attorney general for seven terms, ending in 1987. Wisconsin's current secretary of state, Doug La Follette, is a distant relative.

Second place on the list of magical political names isn't close--but if any other Wisconsin name makes people's hearts beat faster, it's probably Tommy Thompson, who was first elected governor in 1986 and would probably still have the job today if he hadn't been drafted into the Bush cabinet in 2001 as HHS secretary. Since leaving HHS after Bush's reelection, he's been lecturing and practicing law in Washington. Many Wisconsin Republicans dreamed that he might run against Russ Feingold for the Senate in 2004. When the party couldn't find anyone willing to sign onto what looked like a kamikaze mission against U.S. Senator Herb Kohl this fall, some started dreaming dreamy dreams of Thompson making that race.

Thompson is reportedly thinking about it--and a new poll is likely to keep him thinking. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Thompson would have a 45-41 lead over Kohl if he were to run for the Senate. The poll also tosses Thompson's hat into the governor's race for him. It shows that if he were to get in, he'd thump the only remaining Republican candidate, Congressman Mark Green, by something like 69-20, and would beat incumbent Democrat Jim Doyle by 58 to 30.

I don't expect Thompson to run for governor. Although few politicians ever seemed to enjoy their jobs as much as Thompson enjoyed being governor, he's done that already. Although his family is opposed to him running for anything (his wife famously stayed home in Wisconsin when Thompson went to Washington in 2001), nobody would be surprised if he entered the Senate race. He's said he will announce his future plans at the state Repug convention later this month, so stay tuned.

Getting thrashed by a guy who isn't in the race is not all that big a deal. If Jim Doyle is losing any sleep tonight, it's over this: More than four months before the Republican primary that would presumably introduce him to the electorate, Mark Green is in a dead heat with Doyle. On top of that, only 12 percent are undecided.

That's awful news for Doyle. This blog predicted, as early as 2003 (but in pre-Blogspot days, so I can't link to anything that proves it), that Doyle would be a one-term governor. He's disappointed nearly everybody in the state--Democrats for being too willing to crawl in bed with the Repugs, and Repugs for being a Democrat to begin with. Even taking his weaknesses into account, however, I'd never have imagined he'd be in this much trouble already, even before his general election opponent has been definitively determined.

Politicians like to say you can't beat somebody with nobody, but that's more or less what's happening to Doyle right now.

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