Thursday, May 26, 2011

Predicting the Kohl Seat

Many Wisconsin citizens have opinions about U.S. Senator Herb Kohl announcing that he will not seek another term in 2012. Kohl was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1988 to succeed the late Bill Proxmire. He would be 81 at the end of another term.

Some predict who the major parties will nominate to succeed Kohl. I am no exception to this. I would remind you that I predicted that State Senator Julie Lassa (D-Stevens Point) would take the free shot as Democrat nominee against Ashland County Prosecutor Sean Duffy in WI-7 in 2010. Although I targeted my “home” district, I hoped Duffy would win some couties in Lassa’s district. I never expected he would beat her so easily.

Many presume that the Democrat nominee to succeed Kohl will be former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold or Milwaukee Mayor Jim Barett. Both lost statewide in 2010. I think this is wrong.

Feingold might run but he will lose in a crowded Democrat primary for an open U.S. Senate seat. Former Congressman and dermatologist Steve Kagen (D-Appleton) will open his checkbook to enter the race. The winner and elected by a narrow margin to become the next U.S. Senator will be current Congressman Ron Kind (D-La Crosse). He will benefit from the turn-out of Wisconsin votes for President Barack Obama. Kind would have to have a singular terrible campaign manager to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Unfortunately for Kind, there is no shortage of losers. He could always hire staff from Klopfenberg, Feingold or the people who squandered large majorities in the Wisconsin Capitol or in the U.S. House.

Some thought Congressman Paul Ryan (R-Janesville) would leave leadership in the U.S. House to run for U.S. Senate. Some people think Wisconsin Attorney General JB Van Hollen should run. All you have to do is see how much JB loves his wife and how much they treasure their children to know that he would never give up either.

There will not be a Republican primary. If Tommy Thompson is serious about running for U.S. Senate, he will win the Republican nomination in a walk. I have loved Tommy since he was Wisconsin Assembly Minority Leader and mispronounced my name, perhaps confusing me with my father. I served Governor John Engler of Michigan when Thompson was Governor of Wisconsin. Although Engler was better at public policy, he was never as good a public speaker and retail politician as Thompson. If Thompson runs he will get 49 percent of the vote because most people who voted for him have retired and moved to lower-tax states with better weather like my parents.

He was still Governor when I first drove the newer four-lane highway that had been called Bloody 29 from head-on collisions when it was only two lanes. Younger people do not associate the road with Thompson.

Others are poised to enter the race if Thompson opts out. Former Congressman and home builder Mark Neumann (R-Nashota) can spend his own money. Former State Senator Ted Kanavas (R-Brookfield) wants to raise his name identification again. Wisconsin Senate Majority Leader (R-Juneau) has a free shot in 2012. They would be lucky to get 40 percent of the vote.

Sure, I admit time could prove me wrong. If the Democrats err by nominating Congressperson Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison), this is the only way that a Republican becomes U.S. Senator.