We have a tendency in Milwaukee to look at statewide political races through our own Milwaukee optics. We instinctively presume that people in other parts of the state are looking at the candidates and the issues the same way we are.
That’s why many of us presume that the 2010 Wisconsin Republican primary in the governor’s race is a foregone conclusion. We presume Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker will win the GOP gubernatorial nomination easily. After all, that’s what the Milwaukee talk radio guys have been telling us for months. They complain about former Congressman Mark Neumann, saying he should abandon his futile campaign to challenge Walker.
In the end, Walker may well win the nomination. After all, he received the endorsement of the GOP insiders at the Wisconsin Republican Party Convention and he also has the support of Wisconsin Republican Party chairman Reince Priebus.
However, it is far from a fait accompli, even as GOP insiders such as Jim Klauser and Bill McCoshen are sending around nasty e-mails about Neumann. Ironically, their missives have had the unintended effect of solidifying Neumann’s bid to cast himself as an outsider in a year in which incumbents have struggled.
We must remember that most people outside of the Milwaukee media market could not pick Walker, Neumann or Democrat Tom Barrett out of a lineup yet, much less reach an informed decision about whom will get their vote this fall.
Don’t believe me? Just ask the folks up north.
“I think you’re right on. People up here at this point haven’t followed what’s going on in Milwaukee. They don’t have a lot of information to make an informed decision yet. It’s early,” said Paul Mitchell, managing editor of Sawyer County Record in Hayward. “I don’t think most people up here could pick those guys out of a lineup.”
People in Hayward and the rest of the northwestern part of the state get most of their local news from television stations in Duluth and Minneapolis. They are not hearing the Milwaukee talk radio machinery. They are more focused right now on the race to determine the successor of longtime Congressman David Obey (D-Wausau) than the state’s gubernatorial primary, Mitchell said.
In the northeast part of the state, Joe Casper, owner of Jokin’ Joe’s Bait & Tackle in Three Lakes, said, “I don’t know much about these guys at all. I couldn’t pick them out of a lineup. I heard one of them started a brown bag thing and gave some money back to the government or something. Which one is that? And who are the other guys? I think most people up here don’t know these guys at all.”
In the Fox Valley, Joan Cunningham, co-owner of Schreiner’s Restaurant in Fond du Lac, said, “In some ways I think the election is still so far away that no one wants to get started with all the campaign annoyances yet. There will be enough of that to come.”
This is not to imply that folks up north are stupid or uninformed. They certainly are not. They simply do not get their news from the Milwaukee media market. And when you’re sitting in a boat, casting for muskies on a lake in God’s Country, you too might have better things to do with your summer than to make the effort to monitor the trash-talking and mudslinging between gubernatorial candidates in Milwaukee.
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.