Boots & Sabers

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1832, 18 Feb 22

GOP Primary Gets Real

Here is my full column that ran earlier in the week in the Washington County Daily News

In a year when the utter failure of President Biden’s administration is expected to fuel a Republican wave at the ballot box, the Wisconsin Republican primary for governor is setting up to be a battle for the party’s soul. Let us hope that the primary battle isn’t rendered moot by helping the feckless Gov. Tony Evers win a second term.


There are some major shifts happening within the Wisconsin Republican base. First, there is deep frustration with the Republican elected leadership. The Republican base turned decidedly more conservative starting around 2004. The first real sign of it was when then assemblyman Glenn Grothman challenged incumbent Republican Senate Majority Leader Mary Panzer in a primary and defeated her with 79% of the vote. Grothman staked out a very conservative position to Panzer’s more moderate approach. Grothman’s victory signaled that the Republican base had shifted more conservative and it continued to move that way for the next decade.


By 2010, when conservative Scott Walker won the governorship with a solidly conservative Legislature, the conservative movement in Wisconsin was at its apex. Over the next four years, Wisconsin enacted more conservative legislation than any time in its history — perhaps in any state’s history.


By 2016, the base of the Republican Party was getting frustrated. The base was as conservative as ever, but the elected Republicans in Madison seemed to have lost their drive. Few conservative initiatives were being passed and the elected leaders seemed to be getting too comfortable in Madison. The Republican base’s frustration led to Walker’s defeat by Evers as some conservatives sat home. Wisconsin’s elected Republicans still aren’t listening and have lost 11 of the last 12 statewide elections.


2016 also saw the dramatic change in the Republican base with a wave of populism ushered in by President Donald Trump. Here was a new brand of Republican. While very similar to the conservative wing in terms of philosophy, they are very different in terms of priorities and style. They tended to be more socially liberal, less fiscally conservative, more willing to challenge orthodoxy, less willing to tolerate bull, and more aggressive in style.


The Republican populists rose out of a deep frustration with the establishment, and the elites in our state and nation are not only failing to represent and respect the people, but they are actively working against the people’s interests. Recent history has proven them right in many respects. While more traditional conservatives seek to advance change through existing institutions and power structures, populists seek to tear down those structures and replace them with something better.


The Republican primary for governor is a contest between all these various forces. Conservative versus populist. Establishment versus outsider. Madison Republicanism versus W.O.W. Republicanism.


Last week Republican Rep. Timothy Ramthun announced his run for governor. He is the fourth declared candidate for the Republican nomination for governor. Ramthun comes from the populist wing and is running on the issue that the 2020 election in Wisconsin was illegitimate.


Kevin Nicholson also comes from the populist wing, but he isn’t one of the flight feathers. He is determined to break Madison’s hold on the party and advocates a muscular conservatism.


Jonathan Wichmann is less well-known, but is advocating a more intellectual, business approach to governing.


Rebecca Kleefisch comes from the conservative wing. She first won election as a conservative outsider by challenging the old Republican establishment. She built her campaign with the support of the Republican establishment but is pushing to return Wisconsin conservatism to action instead of just remembering past successes.


Primaries are healthy. In a two-party system where each of the political parties is a confederation of groups that span a continuum of similar, but not identical, philosophies, primaries offer each faction the opportunity to be heard and shape the whole. The key to obtaining the power to make changes, however, is dependent on those factions combining their strength behind the winner of the primary to win in the general election. Otherwise, all the infighting is just a bunch of nobodies arguing with nonentities. Nobody cares.


The Republican Party should have a robust and full-throated primary election, and then line up to make sure that whoever wins the primary has the financial and organizational muscle to defeat Tony Evers.


1832, 18 February 2022


  1. dad29

    FWIW, at Waukesha County caucus, Kleefisch lit up the crowd. Nicholson–not so much.

  2. MjM

    Nicholson is a fraud.

  3. Owen

    I think that the scuttlebutt about Kleefisch not connecting with the base is overstated. Nicholson just rubs me the wrong way with his “you need to elect me to something… Senate… Governor… whatever… because I’m that important” perpetual campaign. Dude… I’m just not that into you. I think Kleefisch is sincere, conservative, and just about the hardest working politician I’ve seen since Tommy. I disagree with her on a few policies and priorities, but nothing serious enough that would make me not vote for her.

  4. MjM

    Nicholson just rubs me the wrong way…

    As liberal democrats pretending to be conservative republicans should.

  5. dad29

    Ran into a couple of moms who would vote Kleefisch at the risk of death. Seems that she and her office really helped them out on their “fix the schools” campaign, whereas Kevin did not.

  6. Merlin

    Lots of young liberals age out of liberalism as life’s realities descend on them. I suspect this is true for Nicholson. Not an issue unless you want to assume a leadership role as a conservative without a history of bonafides, which is exactly Nicholson’s problem. He has some convincing to do beyond his assessment of Kleefisch being “dumb as a bag of hammers.”

    Kleefisch has no doubt paid far more party dues than Nicholson. They’ve both spent considerable effort doing grass roots campaigning all over the state. Both will raise a ton of campaign money. That’s all good.

    What I find more than a little unsettling though is how willing some folks are to automatically bestow Scott Walker’s bonafides onto Kleefisch. Yes, she was definitely there. Yes, she had a very good mentor. But the list of bonafides uniquely her own are no longer than Nicholson’s.

  7. Le Roi du Nord

    I agree, Nicholson is a low-level carpetbagger, and only real claim as far as experience goes is that he was a Marine.

    But the “dumb as a bag of hammers.” statement is pretty accurate, based on her past episodes of foot-in-mouth:

    “At what point are we going to OK marrying inanimate objects? Can I marry this table or this, you know, clock? Can we marry dogs?

  8. Mar

    Oh, Dunbass Le Roi, we have already gone down this road and you got your ass handed to you on a silver platter.
    People have married dolls, dogs and other animals and who knows what else.
    .but nice try but try to be a grown up instead of a 300 time loser.

  9. Mar

    lover. Guess the senility has hit Lying Karen Le Roi pretty hard when does not remember this previous argument.

  10. Le Roi du Nord

    What (or who) did you marry? I’m sure you are well versed on the “what else” you refer to.

  11. Mar

    Oh, poor, poor Senile Lying Karen Le Roi.
    I already linked to stories about people marrying sex dolls and marrying their pets, among other things.
    Don’t blame your short term and long term memory loss and your cognitive disabilities on others.

  12. Le Roi du Nord

    As suspected, you are well versed in the “what else” in marriage partners. So what was your choice/choices?

    And do you really feel that was what kleefisch was talking about?

  13. Mar

    So, once again, Pervert Boy Le Roi, you have nothing.
    I thought you said you admit to your mistakes.
    I said that was utter bullshit and again you prove me right.

  14. Le Roi du Nord

    You proved absolutely nothing, other than your reluctance to answer the question.

  15. Le Roi du Nord

    I’ll type real slowly so maybe you can comprehend: which of the “what else” you referred to did you choose?

    I can understand how answering might be embarrassing for you, but since you brought it up, and seem so enlightened on the subject, you might be willing to prove your point.

    So, did you go inflatable? Inanimate? Mammalian?

  16. Mar

    Lying Karen Le Roi says”At what point are we going to OK marrying inanimate objects? Can I marry this table or this, you know, clock? Can we marry dogs?”
    I pointed out to the moron that he is wrong, as usual and I provided links that I found in about 30 seconds.
    So, Dummbass Le Roi, who has said that she admits her mistakes, well, obviously, that is a lie.

  17. dad29

    “What else”?

    Well, there’s (Walker-approved) homosexual “marriage” for openers. Scalia made the obvious point: if the US can establish the legal fiction that men can marry men, it can certainly establish the fiction that women can marry dining-room tables, or other odd objects such as LeeeeeeeeeeeeeRoy.

  18. Jason

    >I’ll type real slowly so maybe you can comprehend:

    You can couch it in whatever terms you want, everyone knows from how you communicate here that you type with two fingers only.

  19. Mar

    Hey, Jason, I hunt and peck so.
    Lying Karen Le Roi is like the pitcher in baseball who has no ERA because he never got anybody out.
    Well, Lying Karen Le Roi has never gotten anything right, though I am sure his dog has because thevdog knows when not to talk or bark. Pervert Boy Le Roi doesn’t even know tgat.

  20. Mar

    Oh crap, I spelled a couple things wrong. Nazi Grammer police officer Le Roi will surely call me out on that.

  21. MjM

    Lots of young liberals age out of liberalism as life’s realities descend on them. I suspect this is true for Nicholson.

    First part is true, though personally, I understood killing the unborn was sick narcissism long before I came to know the word “narcissism” in high school.

    As for Nicholson…

    “Obviously, the next president is going to have a huge impact on the court, And I personally believe and people in my organization, the College Democrats of America, believe that Al Gore needs to be elected in order to ensure that the simple issues, base issues like a woman’s right to choose must be protected.” – Nicholson, July 2000, “Equal Time”, MSNBC.

    Fraud Nicholson claimed “he was “absolutely sure” he was no longer a Democrat” after speaking, as president of the CDofA, at the 2000 Democratic National Convention.

    In 2002 FEC records reveal Nicholson was paid $7,300 by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in MN. He took a semester off at Gopher U to work for the MN Dems.

    Nicholson claims he voted for Bush in 2004

    In 2005 he registered as Democrat in Pender County, North Carolina.

    In 2008 Nicholson voted as a Democrat in North Carolina’s presidential primary, He claims to have voted “no preference” but only one ballot – an absentee – in his precinct showed “no preference”. Nicholson vote in person. He claims to have voted for McCain in the general.

    While his military service record is exemplary his public face is a garbage can reeking of deceit and outright lies holding obviously nothing more than political aspiration. He claims to be an “outsider” yet has constantly groveled for – and won – support and cash from some of the biggest GOP insiders.

    His only goal is to become one of them.

    We know that because Nicholson was eying both the governor’s chair AND Ron Johnson’s senate seat. It wasn’t until Johnson decided to run again that Nicholson tossed his hat into gov race:

    Benson: “Is it fair to say that Kevin Nicholson’s name will be on the ballot in 2022?”

    Nicholson: “Yes, it is.” [it doesn’t matter where]

    Benson: “It sounds like you’re saying you know, next year I might play for the Green Bay Packers, or I might pitch for the Milwaukee Brewers. They are different jobs?”

    Nicholson: “I disagree with your analogy, because at the end of the day, either one of those jobs where you’re really working for is the people in the state of Wisconsin, period, and you’re solving problems that they face.”

    IOW, Elect me! Somewhere! To Something! Anything (but with a big salary and large influence)!

    Ask yourself: Why does Nicholson, after months of hounding the Walker administration for some/any state appointment, never mention his 4 year stint on the Department of Veterans Affairs board? Because after Walker relented, and for all his bloviating about “a mission to do everything I can”, Nicholson did absolutely squat for Wisconsin’s vets.

    Remember the heat Tammy Baldwin took in ’17 for failing for five months to follow up on the Tomah federal VA facility’s opioid crisis?

    WDVA Board member Nicholson, having received direct and numerous requests and emails, ignored the decrepit King home in Waupaca for four years and responded only AFTER Baldwin was called out.

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