Wednesday, September 13, 2006

And the BIG primary winner was...

...probably not who you think. The real Democratic winner on Tuesday was Jim Doyle. Not only did he take down Peg Lautenschlager, the only prominent Democrat left in Wisconsin who was willing to stand up to him, but Steve Kagen's win in the 8th CD also neutralized what was potentially a huge drain on Doyle's ability to fundraise for the general election. Kagen is quite wealthy, and will largely self-fund his race against John Gard, freeing up millions of dollars to go into other hot contests like, for instance, the governor's race.

And the big losers on Tuesday were Wisconsin progressives, because Peg's loss eliminated the only effective opposition to Doyle within the Democratic party of Wisconsin. Which isn't to say that Kathleen Falk isn't a progressive, but it's very unlikely she'll bite the hand that feeds her by challenging Doyle in any meaningful way.

Politics is the intersection of self-interest and power. It's like a huge game of chess using live pieces, and politicians move those pieces to their advantage. Jim Doyle has shown once again that he's a master at this game. The problem, of course, is that the interests of the people at the top of the party don't always coincide with the interests of the party as a whole.

This primary was a classic example.

2 comments:

Stephen said...

Nusbaum was the candidate of choice - continually supported in a number of underhanded ways, by the State Party. Kagen's decisive victory is a slap in the face for Madison management who felt that Nancy was much easier to control, a real party animal. Because of Kagen's wealth he, like Herb Kohl, will answer to no special interests, be they corporate lobbyists or Party bosses. Kagen, unlike Kohl is a grassroots Democrat who will not take orders from the top-down leadership. His win is a big victory for the progressive populist base.

Russell Wallace said...

> Nusbaum was the candidate of
> choice - continually supported
> in a number of underhanded
> ways, by the State Party...

Stephen, I think you're confusing support for Nancy from individual Dem party members and a few county level Democratic leaders with that from Doyle and the statewide party leadership. Mighty big difference.

County parties have a lot of freedom to go their own way, but very little control over what the state party does, and therefore almost no ability to swing any real resources either towards or away from a candidate.

> Kagen, unlike Kohl is a grassroots
> Democrat...

We do seem to have very different definitions of grassroots. Kagen is a rich guy who, as far as I can tell, basically just bought himself a seat.

Contrast his race with that of Ned Lamont in Connecticut. Lamont is also wealthy, but worked very hard to earn the respect and support of the grassroots and the Democratic base.

I met and talked to all three candidates in the 8th, and Steve Kagen was my absolute last choice for the seat. In person he was both rude and arrogant. If not for his money advantage I don't think he would have had a snowball's chance in hell of winning.

...

You point out some of the advantages of wealthy self-funded candidates, but there's also a very dark side as well. Perhaps a subject worthy of a future post.