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Pay no attention to the people behind the curtain

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

WI-Gov, the folkbum endorsement: Jim Doyle for governor

If you're thinking Duh upon reading the title of this post, well, fine. I'll not waste your time recapitulating the last two years of this blog's coverage of the guy I affectionately call J-Dizzle and his opponent, that Green fella (and his other opponent, that other Green (Party) fella). Instead, I'm going to let others do the talking for me--two unlikely endorsements from conservative sources who, looking at the same choices you and I will face on Tuesday, have decided that Jim Doyle is the better option.

No one was surprised when the liberal Capital Times yesterday endorsed Jim Doyle for governor. And I predicted long ago that, whatever the intentions of their news editors, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel would, too. They've been dribbling it out, though--Michael James Caughill calls it "The Death of a Thousand Editorials". But the conservative Madison paper, the Wisconsin State Journal, also pulled the trigger for Doyle.

Let's look back four years, when the WSJ ran this:
For the first time in 20 years, the Wisconsin State Journal urges youto elect a Democrat as governor. Jim Doyle has some shortcomings, but he will be a more effective leader than our current unelected governor, Scott McCallum, who has struggled and failed to chart a clear course for the state over the past two years.
So, yeah, you could perhaps call the WSJ's endorsement this time around mere consistency--or stay-the-course-ism (all the rage in conservative circles this year). But I don't think that's the case; clearly, the WSJ was displeased with McCallum and wanted someone more--what's the word?--competent in charge. This year, the choice is not between an incompetent McCallum and a lesser-evil Doyle; Green is almost an ideal Republican candidate. And yet, here's what the WSJ says about the matter this year:
Wisconsin is better off than it was four years ago.

That's a simple yet powerful reason for re-electing Gov. Jim Doyle to a second term. Doyle, a Democrat, deserves a measure of credit for Wisconsin's progress in economic development, education and health care. [. . .]

Since Doyle's election four years ago, Wisconsin has gained more than 90,000 jobs, when seasonally adjusted. The state's per-capita income is rising. The vast majority of workers and more children in Wisconsin have health insurance.

Doyle's opponent, U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R- Green Bay, has some good ideas. But he has failed to make a compelling case for change at the top.

And while Green is not extreme, the Republican-run Legislature sometimes is.

Doyle stopped the Legislature from putting barriers between patients and the medications their doctors prescribe. Doyle made sure women, including university students, have easy access to birth control. Doyle vetoed legislation that would have allowed concealed handguns in shopping malls, movie theaters and on playgrounds.
Two points to note there: Mark Green failed to make his case (we'll come back to this), and Doyle has been our firewall against a legislature that lives far to the right of most of the state. I have said often, and occasionally proudly, that while I don't like everything about Jim Doyle, he has been the only thing standing between us and the Alabama-ization of Wisconsin. Groups like Wisconsin Maufacturers and Commerce, who see Wisconsin ranked high in taxes or low in business climate, look longingly at the other end of the scale dominated by such economic powerhouses as Montana or Mississippi and demand to know why we aren't more like them. This legislature, obligingly, tries its darnedest to get us there. If that's what you want, well, don't vote for Doyle.

The first of those points, thought, about Green's failed campaign, was a theme in this endorsement from the conservative anonymous Madison insider known as the Recess Supervisor:
Mark Green is about as nice and genuine as a politician can come. Unfortunately, his campaign plan appears to have been ripped out of a book entitled "Generic Campaign Plans for GOP Gubernatorial Candidates." There's nothing new there, or innovative, or exciting. It's just the same old ideas that Republicans have been selling for years, sometimes successfully, sometimes not. And since Mark Green is not the most exciting fellow, he's basically a stand-in, a cardboard cutout, for the Republican Party and the Republican agenda. In some years, that might've been enough. Not this year.

Green's campaign, in a few words, is boring. Lackluster. Just plain blah. And in politics, boring will never knock off an incumbent unless that incumbent steps in a huge pile of something during the race. Doyle doesn't have to make a case for being governor. He already is.

I wanted Mark Green to be a great candidate. I wanted him to make a case. Sadly, he hasn't. I crapped a lot on Scott Walker earlier this year, but I can guarantee you something--and I'm sure the Walker supporters would agree with me on at least part of the statement. I don't think Walker would've won, but at least Scott Walker would've had an agenda. You knew what Scott Walker was about. You knew what he wanted to do. [. . .]

Green has hammered on the only opening he's been given--ethics. And unfortunately, these issues aren't easy ones for voters to grab. The Adelman Travel matter isn't something that can be explained in ten seconds, especially considering that the state saved money by rebidding the contract. The Elections Board matter? Mark Green's stuck trying to get back a bunch of out-of-state money donated by Washington lobbyists.

Besides, Doyle smartly cemented in voters' heads a connection early-on between Mark Green and Jack Abramoff. Not that voters remember that guy anymore--with Mark Foley, Jack's become yesterday's news. But what Abramoff allowed Doyle to do was create an impression of "hey, this guy Green isn't perfect either." And having done that, the ethics issue becomes a colossal push. Green can't score big points with it because people are as suspect of the messenger as they are of the guy he's accusing. [. . .]

Mark Green says you should vote for him because Jim Doyle is a crook. Is there anything else there? Go watch all of his commercials on his website. Go. Find me a message other than "I'm a nice guy and I think the other guy is a total crook." That message you can't find is the one that would've won this race.
These are damning words, and words that seem accurate to me. I comment on this race on some of the national blogs, and I remember a while back, someone worried that Doyle might lose, knowing that even liberal Madison had previsouly elected a Republican, Scott Klug, to represent them. I said, look, Green is no Scott Klug. He's not even a Scott Walker. I'm glad to see the Recess Supervisor agree.

And what the Recess Supervisor says about the discernable bits of Green's agenda being, at best, generic, well, they are. It's a theme I picked up on looking at Green's education "plan," which was cobbled together from old Doyle proposals and, I think, whatever he could come up with Googling "conservative education proposals." Doyle at least has a record to stand on (a record that doesn't include things like voting to gut student loans), rather than a heaping helping of leftovers, and voters deserve more than leftovers. The Recess Supervisor, like the WSJ, does talk about that record, and why it isn't enough to fire Doyle, if you, as they say, Read The Whole Thing.

In any election with an incumbent, the challenger has to make the case that the incumbent doesn't deserve another chance. I think people are still waiting for Green to really, really make that case. After almost two solid years of Republican attacks, Doyle has as much or more support as he did four years ago. No one who voted for him the first time seems to be changing their minds.

So that's that: Jim Doyle is winning the support--and Mark Green is losing the support--of people from across a wide range of the political spectrum. When conservatives see that Green offers nothing interesting or exciting, and that Doyle has actually done relatively well on the bread-and-butter issues, they go Doyle. When liberals are reminded of the extremity of the state legislature--and that imminent threat of Alabama-ization--they go Doyle. When teachers learn that Green wants to strip them of collective bargaining rights, even though Doyle didn't come through on vouchers and the budget, they go Doyle. When women learn that Green thinks they're too stupid to make decisions for themselves, they go Doyle. When anyone who cares about health issues realize that Green will stifle promising research and allow pharmacists to substitute their moral values for your doctor's judgment, they go Doyle. And so on.

The choice, for me, is clear. I'm hoping that you, too, see what I--and the WSJ, and the Recess Supervisor--see, and you vote Jim Doyle on November 7.

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