By Matt Pommer
The media love a contest whether it involves the Green Bay Packers, the Milwaukee Brewers or politicians.
But while spring training or coach chatter gets some attention in the media, midsummer speeches in lightly contested political races are played far inside newspapers, if at all.
That’s why Mark Neumann’s candidacy for his party’s gubernatorial nomination seems sure to help Republican chances in November. Neumann is clearly the underdog to Milwaukee County’s Scott Walker in that race.
Neumann’s camp has complained that Walker won’t engage in debates and joint appearances. Walker’s camp may think that there is no reason to give any opponent any opportunity if you think you are ahead.
But Republicans Lee Dreyfus and Tommy Thompson and Democrats Tony Earl and Jim Doyle won hotly contested primaries before being elected governors of Wisconsin.
Then-U.S. Rep. Bob Kasten was so sure of getting the 1978 GOP nomination he left his political signs in a warehouse, planning to get them out after the primary. Kasten is now helping Walker’s campaign.
Neumann may not have a teenage band like Dreyfus, but he might be attractive to the anti-tax folks in the so-called Tea Party. Neumann pitches himself, like Dreyfus did, as a political outsider. The public seems skeptical of incumbent officeholders.
Liberal columnists are writing that Neumann could hurt the Republican Party by challenging Walker. Perhaps the liberal element would rather have Walker have an easy summer with limited media coverage.
Politicians of both parties — take your choice — often are one-fifth genius and four-fifths fudge. A serious primary contest helps a party and its candidates gather attention in the weeks leading to the primary.
Any discussion of Republican politics requires at least a mention of Tommy Thompson, who was elected governor four times. Thompson likes media attention and by refusing to take himself out of politics, his name comes up in polling efforts.
A recent test by Public Policy Polling showed Thompson’s popularity has declined in the past decade. Its latest poll showed 45 percent had an unfavorable opinion of the former governor.
James Klauser, who managed Thompson’s 1986 campaign and served as his chief aide for years, initially had backed Neumann but recently moved to Walker’s camp.
Matt Pommer worked as a reporter in Madison for 35 years. He comments on state political and policy issues.