Battle lines clear for fall election, except for Trump impact

The battle lines for the fall elections in Wisconsin started earlier this year, like most wars, as a muddle, but are becoming more defined as the skirmishes for the Democratic Party primary flush out candidate positions or non-positions.

Just as the Republicans ran an all-out, one-note, anti-Obama campaign in 2016, the Democrats in Wisconsin are running what is shaping up this hot summer as a largely anti-Scott Walker campaign. The Dems have been more reactive than proactive.

It doesn’t take much imagination to run again someone else’s agenda, but at least it creates a clear choice for voters in one of most purple of states, split right down the middle between Republicans and Democrats.

To understand the state’s bipolar politics, look at our two U.S. Senators. Republican Ron Johnson is one of the most conservative in the Senate, and Democrat Tammy Baldwin, is one of the most liberal. Both do head fakes towards the middle, looking for support from independents, but that’s not where they live.

The eight Democrats running for the gold ring in the Aug. 14 primary to decide who takes on two-term Gov. Walker are hitting many of the same notes on the campaign trail. The octet is singing in harmony by promising to reverse the Act 10 restrictions on public employee unions, to undo the $4 billion deal with Foxconn, to pump more money into education than Walker and to increase subsidies in one form or another for health care.

The Foxconn opposition is based on polls that show the massive Racine project is unpopular up state. But politically astute Foxconn is spreading a few dollars on old downtown buildings for innovation centers in Milwaukee, Green Bay and Eau Claire. These a hundred dollar chips in a billion dollar poker game.

No one really knows how the Walker-Foxconn bet will play out. The subsidies are more than $300,000 per job created, way more than any previous inducements. But the Democrats, who seldom come off as pro growth, cannot say it isn’t a bold play.

One the governor’s side, he is pretty much sticking to his track record. He will talk endlessly about the state’s low unemployment rate of 2.8%, knowing full well that all governors have less to do with job trends in the short run than do national trends. The Democrats say he could have done better, that the state’s job growth rate still lags the nation. The latter is true.

They will have a tough time, though, with that argument when there are more jobs that people to fill them and when wages are finally moving upward. In reality, the worker shortage has become a constraint on economic growth.

None of the candidates have addressed the brain drain from the state, which moderated last year but has been running are some 10,000 college graduates per year.

Both parties are fully behind workforce training. It’s necessary, safe ground, but not a party differentiator.

Several of the Democrats have proposed free education at the technical college and two-year community college level. That’s unique, but has lacked a fiscal note – how it gets paid for.

Both parties are ducking major issues. The Democrats have been silent on how to increase economic strategy, always showing a certain antipathy for the corporations that make the economy go round.

Neither party has shown much leadership on stimulating the startup economy, despite the recent learning that entrepreneurs reinvent the economy and create most of the new jobs.

Both parties are paying needed attention to the opioid crisis.

The GOP has developed a blind spot on the environment. The want fewer regulations on development, but look past the enormous challenges to the Great Lakes, like the dead zone in Green Bay, the mussel invasion that came through the St. Lawrence Seaway and wreaks havoc on the fishery and the Asian Carp that will soon be ripping up the five lakes.

The Democrats worry about access to health care and want to make it free. The Republicans worry about the high taxes to pay for care. Neither has a clue about managing the costs that are driving prices of care to obscene levels.

Gov. Walker has chosen the debt route to fund highway construction. The Democrats want to raise taxes to fund the big highway costs.

All in, there are enough differences for voters to make a choice. It would be even easier of the parties would take on all the tough issues.
Of course, the wild card in all of the above is the Trump factor. The president’s minority base adores him. His opponents don’t oppose him; the despise him. Above all, he is divisive. Voters in the middle are still trying to figure out just what he is.
How his impact plays out this fall in Wisconsin, a state he carried in 2016, is anyone’s guess.

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  • Jim

    The Presidents minority base? Really John are you that stupid or in denial that he still won in 2016? Oh I understand you have your 100 plus reasons why we should not have voted for him but frankly those of us who voted for him did it because he cares about the average worker and person in this country. By the way you might want to take the word minority out of your article. It is way more than you claim. Now go John and visit your company down in Mexico. You know the one you have that took jobs away from the people that worked here.

    • psilos1

      Trump cares about the average worker??!! Wow, I have some nice , well sorta low, land in Florida you might want to buy. And the minority of the populace voted for him, so John is accurate.

      • Jim

        Well then please send your tax cut money back to the government if you wish, that is if you work. I’ll gksfly keep mine plus the bonus my employer gave me this year. My guess is you Still have your head under a rock.

        • Jim


        • psilos1

          Have you figured out how much you are getting in your tax cut?

          • Jim

            Tell you what I’ll take some of my tax cut and rent out a safe space for yourself so you can cry your eyes out. It seems like you liberals can’t get over Trump winning. I love watching you people melt.

          • psilos1

            It’s really too bad that you won’t engage in discussion but rather just relying on ad hominum attacks.

            I asked what your tax cut is going to be because I believe that unless a person is already very wealthy they are going to be near meaningless. If you are in a high income bracket, maybe you will genuinely benefit, but if you got a bonus from your employer, I am guessing — GUESSING — that you are not the owner of a well-to-do business.

            I prefer to think of myself as a progressive rather than a liberal, but you are, of course, free to label me as you wish. I am retired, so I guess I am no longer “working.” I was never unemployed, and always had a meaningful job. Because of my life choices, I am in the position to believe that there are issues more important than how much money I might get from a tax cut. I don’t understand how other can look past character – morality, intellect, honesty and compassion — when thinking about the Presidency. No person is without shortcomings, but Mr. Trump fails badly, to my way of thinking.

          • JohnTorinus

            Thanks for the constuctive commentary. Insults do not advance the polity; dialogue does.

          • Jim

            psilos, I will engage you real fast. Since you no longer work you would not notice that you receive more take home pay in your check. I find that very gratifying since I work very hard for my money and no I am not a owner of a well to do business. I’m just your average middle class person you liberals and Torinus love to ridicule because we voted for Trump.
            May I also add your claim that you are a progressive and not a liberal. I hate to burst your bubble but the 2 are the same just different words. Google it up sometime.

            By the way Torinus you started all the insult BS with your ridiculing of certain school board candidates that ran in West Bend. Congratulations on that!!

          • psilos1

            For the record, I did not think I was ridicule you personally. I believe you are wrong about Trump caring about the average working class person. Maybe your paycheck increased, and only you know how much. Or what percentage. I can’t imagine it’s much. I guess whatever it is makes having him as President worth it to some.

            Please address my comment: “I don’t understand how one can look past character – morality, intellect, honesty and compassion — when thinking about the Presidency. No person is without shortcomings, but Mr. Trump fails badly, to my way of thinking.”

          • Jim

            And you think Hillary has any sort of honesty and compassion? Ummm she lied through her teeth.

          • psilos1

            She’s not the President. What about Trump?

  • psilos1

    John: brain drain. Can you cite the source that 10,000 left WI? How many came in? If there were more jobs for highly educated people I don’t think the number would be nearly that high. And a lot of academics, who are highly educated, have left or are looking because of the evisceration of the UW System.