Leinenkugel’s in, and the reaction’s flat

After weeks of speculation, it’s official: former Doyle administration commerce secretary Dick Leinenkugel is joining the Republican U.S. Senate primary, with hopes of unseating incumbent U.S. Senator Russ Feingold.

To say the reaction to Leinenkugel’s announcement unenthusiastic would be a gross understatement; reaction to Leinenkugel’s announcement was about as flat as a three-day old Leinie’s Honey Weiss (I just had to get one gratuitous beer joke in there).

Jack Craver of Isthmus had the least harsh take (at least of those I read) to Leinenkugel’s announcement, offering his opinion that Dick Leinenkugel will not win the Republican primary, as Leinenkugel would represent too great a compromise this fall for conservative voters who seem to be looking for an ideologically pure Republican candidate.

Over at Letters in Bottles, Mike H says conservative voters are bound to ask the question, “Why should we trust you now?” in regards to Leinenkugel, in reference to the roughly 18 months Leinenkugel spent as commerce secretary in the Doyle administration. It’s a question Leinenkugel’s going to be forced to answer over and over again to conservative voters who largely despise anything associated with Gov. Doyle.

Jason Haas of Haas 414 isn’t impressed at all with Leinenkugel’s campaign website, noting that Leinenkugel’s claim that Sen. Feingold isn’t listening is a bunch of hot air. I’ve lived in Wisconsin all my life, and as Jason notes, Sen. Feingold has done an excellent job of listening to his constituents during his tenure in the U.S. Senate, having held listening sessions with his constituents in each of Wisconsin’s 72 counties during every year he’s been in office. Whether you agree with Sen. Feingold’s politics or not, there aren’t many elected officials anywhere in the nation who do a better job of listening to their constituents than Sen. Feingold.

And over at Playground Politics, the Recess Supervisor, Dick Leinenkugel’s entry into the U.S. Senate race may ultimately benefit dark horse candidate Dave Westlake the most, as Westlake could try to catch lightning in a bottle (Sen. Feingold did in 1992) by capitalizing on a race between two millionaires that’s bound to get nasty in a hurry.

An editorial posted on CapTimes.com isn’t too kind to Leinenkugel, calling him an “uninspired bureaucrat of fluid partisanship, unclear ideology and ill-defined principles” and noting “we’d have to drink an awful lot of it to think that there is anything in Dick Leinenkugel’s record or agenda that recommends him for serious consideration as a senator.”

Shortly after officially announcing his candidate for the U.S. Senate, Leinenkugel appeared on Charlie Sykes’ Show, and Leinenkugel wasted no time in asserting he’s a “Ronald Reagan conservative.” However, what’s interesting is that while Leinenkugel touted his conservative credentials as a “Reagan conservative,” he admitted he supported combined reporting (after trying really hard to avoid answering the question), he admitted he supports a high-speed rail network around the upper mid-west, and he also called Rep. Dave Obey a “terrific friend of Wisconsin.” Having listened to Leinenkugel’s appearance on Sykes’ show, I got the sense things were definitely tense and more than a bit adversarial at times, and Charlie Sykes certainly didn’t seem too impressed by Dick Leinenkugel.


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15 thoughts on “Leinenkugel’s in, and the reaction’s flat

    1. Interesting is one word, but I also think it’s going to be really nasty and negative. Wall’s entire campaign is centered around slinging mud, and Leinenkugel has shown he’s not afraid to sling some mud as well. Ironically enough, Dave Westlake’s the only official Republican candidate who strikes me as being unwilling to sling mud.

      1. The Wispol story on Leinenkugel illustrated the mudslinging…I’ve got something coming up on it when I find time.

  1. I listed to most of his appearance on Sykes & while originally I was trying to give the guy the benefit of the doubt, I’ve heard enough.

    He’s dead in the water and anybody who flings mud at him is an idiot when there’s mountains of legitimate, low hanging fruit. I don’t care about name recognition, I don’t care about how much money he has, it’s a Republican Primary first and no way I see him escaping. Aside from coming across as slimy and avoiding most of the question, the fact of the matter is for Republican primary voters, he’s got to have a good answer to his “Doyle problem.” He does not.

    Doyle has to be about the most hated man in the state for Republicans – hell a lot of Democrats quit defending him (though I’d guess if he were running for re-election most would change their tune and return to their position as apologists). Anyway, if he is at all serious about being a Republican – since you know, he’s running as a Republican – he needs answer for his actions. He needs to distance himself from Doyle’s policies. And considering Doyle is a lame duck from the opposing party, why the hell wouldn’t he be critical of the guy? It’s not like there would be any risk, right? I’m convinced the guy is either posing – or doesn’t know if he really wants to be a R or D yet and is afraid to burn bridges. Normally I cringe at the RINO stuff – often I think it’s thrown at people who are principled, independent thinkers who don’t pass some “purity” test. Leinenkugel definitely came across as a RINO. Defending many of the Doyle positions, unwilling to take a stand on others. I haven’t voted in a partisan primary in probably a decade – I don’t like either party enough to want to consider myself a member. I may reconsider.

  2. I don’t know why this seems so hard…all he has to say is that he loves his country, he loves the state of Wisconsin and he believes in public service and giving back to the community. So when his governor asked him to serve the people of Wisconsin, he had no right to refuse!

    1. Agreed that it shouldn’t be so hard, but disagreed on what he has to do. To put it as blunt as possible: he needs to slam Doyle. He might have a chance at beating Feingold by crafting himself into a nuanced and triangulated position (though this seems beyond his abilities) but he will not come out of the primary without bashing Doyle. You may argue that it’s not fair or that it’s stupid, misguided whatever. But it is the fact of the matter – that is the situation he is in.

      1. I don’t argue that Leinenkugel needs to bash Gov. Doyle in order to come out of the Republican primary, but I’m not sure that his bashing Gov. Doyle will help at this point.

      2. To make an analogy – imagine one of the Democrats running in the last Presidential primary refusing to criticize Bush. The way things were set up, anyone who didn’t slam Bush, blame him for everything imaginable didn’t stand a chance. Now imagine that guy having a position in the Bush Admin.

  3. Locke, don’t you think that a lot of Democrat-leaning voters might cross over and vote in the Republican primary? It’s not like there’s a compelling Democratic primary to attract them. Somehow I doubt the primary challenge against State Treasurer Dawn Sass is going to be a main attraction for the Democrats. I think a lot of Tom Barrett’s supporters will cross over just for the chance to vote against Scott Walker early. Who are they most likely to want to run against Feingold?

    1. Jill, that’s an excellent point; Democratic voters could certainly cross over and vote in the Republican primaries, and given the lack of any meaningful Democratic primary, I could see it happening.

    2. Which is why I think the parties are foolish for not having closed primaries. And people who whine about closed primaries are ignorant. The only people who have any right to decide what candidate a party runs are those who belong to that party. Which is why I haven’t voted in a primary in years – I don’t belong to any party. I never miss voting in the general elections, but I don’t have any business selecting which candidates they put forward.

    3. The primary cross-vote is never really a big deal. As far as Dems voting against Walker, I don’t know that Neumann would be easier to beat. Walker is so hyper-partisan in everything he does, it may be easier for Barrett to beat him. Of course the right loves him but that doesn’t mean much in a general.

  4. Has cross-over voting ever shown to have a real effect on any race? And if there was malicious cross-over in the GOP Senate race, why would they pick Leine?! He’s probably the strongest candidate in a general election (relative to the other 2 contenders) by presenting himself as a moderate who can work with both sides. Still probably not enough to stack up against Feingold enough to win, but then I really don’t know enough about Leine or how angry voters may be at incumbents come November. But that would actually put Feingold in a position to bash Doyle’s policies that Leine was a part of!

    To address Ed’s point, yes he can say he believes in public service and serving the Governor when asked. However, he was out there defending and advocating some Doyle policies that are none too popular with the GOP crowd. It’s not like he was dealing with a lesser partisan-type of issue like veterans or tourism. This was the economy.

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