Don’t be surprised if the county-by-county map of today’s Republican primary for President looks exactly like the one for the GOP primary for governor two years ago. Mark Neumann, who is also running for the U.S. Senate this year, won 42 of the state’s 72 counties. Just judging by visual appearances, Neumann did quite well. But of course, those maps only mean something if deer and trees could vote. Since they don’t, the only thing that matters is votes of real people. And in the Republican Party, most of those persons live in southeastern Wisconsin, specifically the three-counties of Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee. Throw the usual GOP stronghold of Walworth County plus the Racine and Kenosha county suburbs and eastern Jefferson county and what you have is a half of the state’s GOP electorate if not more. Throw in the Fox Valley and maybe even the ethnic German-Catholic “Holy Land” between Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan and it becomes to two-thirds.
One can reasonably predict that former U.S. senator Rick Santorum will win the majority of counties in the state tonight when the results are counted. Ron Paul has a shot to do decent in the second and third Congressional Districts. But unless they can run reasonably well against Mitt Romney in eastern Wisconsin, they will lose and lose soundly.
The GOP primary is playing itself out in the same fashion it did two years ago, both for governor and the U.S. senate too. The establishment candidate gets support from the political grassroots and from elected officeholders who have grassroots support and credibility to which gives the establishment tabbed candidate the boost they need to win.
If Romney does win it will largely be due to the endorsements coming from state Congressman Paul Ryan of Janesville and U.S. Senator Ron Johnson of Oshkosh. Romney already has establishment GOP support but getting Ryan and Johnson’s support is a signal those more independent but activist conservatives to get behind Romney. Oh, and a million dollars’ worth of TV ads doesn’t hurt either. Given the way state politics plays itself out on TV these day, that may be all that’s necessary.
Romney may not be the ideal conservative to GOP voters but considering the number of items in Santorum’s career that one might consider less-than-conservative (harped home by those very same ads) then there’s no sense of Romney’s apostasies on questions like health care as being any more damaging.
If everyone is a bimbo, then the prettiest one is going to win. For many voters this may well be Romney. Santorum is hoping to convince voters to give him look instead, or at least enough in eastern Wisconsin to have a chance. But do GOP officials have to worry if a good chunk of the state’s voters feel like once again their voices are being ignored in the primary process, especially they support candidates with starkly different backgrounds?
Or to put it another away, would Mark Neumann have been so brazen to have eliminated collective bargaining for public employee unions given the counties he won those unions will have more of an impact on local politics given the per capita ratio of government jobs to private sector jobs, especially in more rural and less wealthy counties?
Maybe he would have, but one does not have question Walker’s intent given his background, where he’s from, who supports him and why. It’s tailor made for Southeast Wisconsin. But if the governor is successfully recalled, state GOP leaders may wonder if it’s wise for just one region of the state to have so much power in one party. After all, have they themselves not complained of how Dane and Milwaukee counties have led the state’s Democratic Party by the nose over the years?
And yet again, aren’t those where the voters are as well?
About the Author: Sean Scallon is a freelance writer from Arkansaw, Wisconsin