Boots & Sabers

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Tag: Tim Michels

Michels Highlights Problems With Wisconsin GOP

He’s not wrong.

“I don’t mean to throw anyone under the bus here on the Republican side, but we’re probably operating in a lot of aspects as we did three election cycles ago. In some cases 10 or 20 years ago,” Michels added. “The Democratic Party of Wisconsin has 20 people on staff, full time, year round. … The Republican Party of Wisconsin has five people on staff.”


Michels said Wisconsin Republicans simply cannot keep up with Democrats by relying on volunteers every two years.


“[Democrats] are using the most modern Silicon Valley technology to do voter identification, ballot identification, following-up with these people, and getting them to the polls,” Michels explained.


“They had 90% voter turnout in Dane County. That’s incredible. I don’t know how you could get 90% of the people, in say Oconomowoc, to show up for anything. You could give out $100 dollar bills and I don’t know if 90% of the people would show up, ” Michels said. “But they drove all of those people to the polls. And then the results were 80-20. That is a huge, huge hurdle that has to be overcome by conservatives and Republicans.”

It is also worth noting that the Democrats have a structural advantage because their voters are so concentrated in Dane and Milwaukee Counties (with a couple of other pockets). It’s logistically easier to focus efforts on a smaller geography while Republicans have to turn out voters in 300 small towns.

If Republicans really increase staff, they have to get that staff out of Madison and into the communities where Republicans live. If there are 20 GOP staffers, they better be in places like Wausau, Oshkosh, Osseo, Hayward, Manitowoc, New Berlin, and other communities that turned out Republicans. If they hire 20 staffers to sit around Madison and Milwaukee, they will lose the next election too.

Winning the election is just the start

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

The outcomes of elections are always uncertain and replete with surprises, but it is looking more and more like the Republicans are going to do very well next week. If that should come to pass, I fervently hope that the Republicans govern boldly. Winning elections is the goal of politicians. Leaders act to use the power loaned to them by the voters to solve problems for the betterment of our state and nation, and boy, do we have some real problems.


The biggest problem facing our nation right now is inflation. There are many other problems, but runaway inflation kills nations. America is not invulnerable to the whirlwind economic forces that inflation unleashes that have obliterated a hundred nations before us.




At the state level, Wisconsin’s biggest problem is the deplorable state of our government education system. Despite lavish spending averaging over $16,000 per child per year (an increase of 19% in just five years), our kids are learning less than ever. Test scores have plummeted to the point that barely a third of Wisconsin’s kids can read, write, or do math at grade level.


Our government education system is not just an embarrassment, it is a generational brutality committed on our own children. We are condemning a generation of Wisconsinites to be less educated, less capable, and more ignorant than we are. We are robbing them of their potential and a lifetime of opportunities. Our state government schools’ failure to provide our kids with even a mediocre education – much less a good education – is a cruelty for which our kids will rightfully condemn us.

Michels to Challenge Evers for Governor

I can almost guarantee that Evers had this statement written irrespective of who won. He just needed to fill in the name.

Wisconsin Democratic Gov. Tony Evers responded to Trump-endorsed Tim Michels’ projected win in the Republican gubernatorial primary on Tuesday by labeling him as “radical” and “divisive.”


Michels defeated former Wisconsin Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and two other Republican candidates in the GOP primary, and will face off against Evers in the general election in November.


In a statement following Michels’ projected primary victory, Evers’ campaign said his upcoming Republican opponent is “the most extreme and divisive nominee possible” who will say anything to appease former President Trump.

A couple comments on the GOP primary…

As I stated before, I supported Kleefisch because I think she would have been an indefatigable champion of conservatism as governor and I thought she stood the better chance of beating Evers. But… it’s close. Michels is a lifelong conservative and experienced business leader. He would also be a fine governor. I hope that Michels learned the lessons from his 2004 loss and makes the appropriate changes to his campaign strategy. I also hope that Michels has the same energy to move the conservative cause as governor as we saw in Walker’s first term.

Also, it is clear to me that the Republican base in Wisconsin has changed significantly since the Tea Party movement swept them into power in 2008 and 2010. It is more Trump than Reagan. More Hannity than Buckley. It is a different brand with different priorities. It’s good from the standpoint that it is an aggressive style that can get some big things done. Unfortunately, it is also a brand of conservatism that believes in big government doing big things – even if they are conservative things. It is not a brand that believes in small government. It’s not my brand, but it is far preferable to the Marxists on the Democratic side.

All that being said, I’m firmly in the Michels camp. Let’s git er dun.

Michels’ NRA Endorsement Flub


MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The National Rifle Association on Monday issued a stinging rebuke of former President Donald Trump’s pick for Wisconsin governor, accusing him of misleading its members after his campaign falsely claimed the gun advocacy group had endorsed him.




Michels’ campaign sent out a flyer that landed in mailboxes Saturday that claimed the NRA had endorsed him. Scott Meyer, a Wisconsin lobbyist who has done work for the NRA, said the group hasn’t endorsed anyone in the GOP primary and doesn’t plan to do so.




Michels’ campaign spokesman Chris Walker said in an email to The Associated Press on Monday that the claim was an “unintentional error” and has been immediately corrected with a new mailer that says Michels received an “AQ” grade on an NRA questionnaire about his stances on gun rights. Meyer said that grade indicates he answered the questions to the NRA’s satisfaction.

I have no doubt about Michels’ 2nd Amendment bona fides. He has a lifelong history supporting gun rights. I also have no doubt that this was just an honest mistake.

But it does worry me that this is yet another unforced error by the Michels’ campaign. He has some of the most experienced, highly-paid campaign people in the state working for him. How do they let something like this happen? It’s all fun and games in the primary, but every day lost to a stupid mistake like this in a general election is a day that Evers is winning.

On a side note, the first campaign I covered in depth as a blogger was the 2004 Senate Republican primary election. There were three candidates. I interviewed them all and wrote exptensively about it. It really was the race the pulled this blog to some modicum of prominance. Michels ended up winning the primary and losing the general election.

Years after the election. It was probably 2014… 2016 maybe? I stopped at Midwestern Shooters Supply in Lomira to look for a new carry holster (I didn’t find one) and ammo. Looking down the aisle I see Tim Michels. He recognized me immediately, said “Hi,” and we chatted about guns for a couple of minutes before we went on our mutual ways.

Republican primary race enters final stretch

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

With three weeks to go until the primary election for governor, the Republican race just took the last turn toward the finish line and the cars are starting to swerve with melting tires and engines are smoking. I will forgo any more hackneyed race car metaphors for the remainder of the column and allow the reader to conjure their own relevant imagery.


In a somewhat surprising twist, Kevin Nicholson dropped out last week. Although his name will still appear on the ballot, he is no longer campaigning and has withdrawn himself from consideration. With a consistent 10% of the Republican electorate supporting him, he acknowledged that his odds of winning were slim. Also, in correctly understanding the mood of the Republican base this year, he stated that he did not want to go negative on his opponents in an effort to change the election’s dynamics.


Nicholson affirmed his commitment to support whichever Republican wins the nomination, which is also the mood that most Republicans are in this year. In a year when frustrated Republicans are looking for an outsider to shake up Madison, Nicholson was the only true outsider and could not attract enough support to win. His withdrawal from the race was done in a smart and classy way such that we hope to see him remain a significant figure in Wisconsin Republican politics for years to come. With Timothy Ramthun still struggling to get more than 3% support, the primary election is really down to two Republican juggernauts — Tim Michels and Rebecca Kleefisch. Up until last week, all of the candidates had been working very hard to stay positive and focused on how bad Governor Tony Evers has been for Wisconsin. After pouring money into advertising with a message that is resonating with voters, recent poling seems to indicate that Michels is pulling into the lead. This has triggered a change in the campaign with Kleefisch and her surrogates beginning to take some negative shots at Michels.


Negative campaigning is a necessary and important part of politics. While voters always carp about negative ads, they are also reliably swayed by them. Politics has never been pickleball. Negative campaigning also serves an important role in making sure that the voters are aware of a candidate’s bad spots before casting their votes. After all, the candidate is not going to go negative on themselves, so it is up to the candidate’s opponents to do so. It is up to the voters to decide if the negative aspects of a candidate are legitimate and important. Negative campaigning is particularly important in a primary election so that the eventual nominee has been properly vetted and considered before entering the general election. While the whole process can be unseemly, it is the best way to weed out unseemly candidates if it is done well.


The Kleefisch campaign is criticizing Michels for being a leader in industry trade groups that have supported increasing infrastructure spending and the increased taxes that go with it. Michels claims that while he served in leadership on behalf of his family’s company, he has never personally supported raising taxes. Both assertions may be true. Interestingly, Kleefisch is not attacking Michels for the well-documented fact that he has been a part-time resident of Wisconsin for several years with a large home on the East Coast. Evers will surely attack Michels for that if he is the nominee, but Kleefisch is keeping her fire on perceived policy differences.


What is really happening is a continuation of the generational and ideological clash in the Wisconsin Republican electorate. With support from the old Republican guard like Tommy Thompson and coming from the conventional Big Business-Republican symbiosis, Michels represents an older style of conservatism. With support from the new Republican guard like Scott Walker and coming from a grass roots with a sharper edge, Kleefisch represents the modern conservative mold. Both candidates come from established wings of the Wisconsin Republican Party that have been wrestling for supremacy for almost 20 years.


While not preordained, it is probable that whoever the Republican nominee is will oust Governor Evers and set the direction of the state Republican Party for years to come. Do Wisconsin’s Republicans want Thompson Republicanism or Walker Republicanism?

Kleefisch and Michels in Dead Heat

Interesting readout from the latest Marquette Poll

Michels and Kleefisch are tied. What’s interesting is where Michels’ support so far has come from. Ramthun and Nicholson are virtually the same. They clearly have a loyal, if small, support base that isn’t moving off of them. Of Michels 27% support, 14 points came from the pool of undecided and 6 points came from Kleefisch.

It appears that there was a portion of the Republican base that was undecided because they were unhappy with all of the candidates. About a third of them came off the fence to support Michels. And almost 20% of Kleefisch’s support has fled to Michels. This is after a major media blitz by Michels without anyone really going negative on him.

Now what? My guess is that the people who are planning to vote for Ramthun and Nicholson don’t move. They may bleed a point or two one way or the other, but they appear to have peaked. That leaves about 85% of the GOP base for Michels and Kleefisch to fight for. They will need about 42%-44% of the vote to win a plurality.

At this point, I don’t think that Michels or Kleefisch can take votes away from the other. Their core bases are set. That means that the only pool of votes to get are the remainder of the undecideds. I also don’t think that the remaining undecideds will break from Ramthun or Nicholson in any great numbers. Those two candidates have very specific messages and if they were going to work on an undecided primary voter at this point, it would have. That means that Kleefisch or Michels will have to win over half of the remaining undecideds to win.

So the real question is, why are those primary voters still undecided? What are they waiting for? What are they not finding in the existing slate of candidates? The first candidate who figures that out will win.


Tim Michels’ Residency Questioned

Good reporting from Wisconsin Right Now. There’s no doubt that Michels is a born Wisconsinite who lived in the state for many years. But if you get rich, buy homes on the coast, and live there, can you still be the governor of Wisconsin?

Republican gubernatorial candidate Tim Michels left some key facts out of his campaign biography: Namely, a $17 million Long Island Sound home located in a Greenwich, Connecticut neighborhood. The home was purchased in October 2020 through an oddly named LLC that makes ownership hard to trace. However, we have uncovered a building permit buried in a tranche of public documents that lists the owners as Tim and Barbara Michels.


Furthermore, from 2013-2021, all three Michels children attended and graduated from high schools in Connecticut and New York City, Wisconsin Right Now has documented. They are not boarding schools, and the kids were extensively involved in high school sporting activities there.


The youngest son graduated from a Greenwich high school in 2021, where he was on the sailing team, skippering yachts. That’s just the start of the family’s extensive east coast lives over the past decade. Tim and Barbara Michels accumulated more than $30 million in homes in Connecticut and New York City, with some of the ownership hidden through LLCs.


Michels and his wife gave Weill Cornell Medicine in New York a large donation last year in honor of their daughter’s inspirational recovery from brain cancer. A story on that gift reveals, “By 2017, the family was living in the New York area…” That article describes the family as “natives of Wisconsin.”

The language of the story is a little inflammatory. I doubt that the use of LLCs to purchase the homes was an attempt to hide anything. It is common practice for wealthy people who buy multiple properties. And I also give allowance for the issues of residency are a bit more nuanced for people with a bit of money. There are legions of Wisconsin retirees who are officially residents of Florida or Arizona, but they still consider themselves to be Wisconsinites.

Still, those issues of nuance are not applicable when running for public office. You live here or you don’t. The fact that the Michels kids have built lives in another state seems to indicate that they live there. We can reasonable think that their parents do too – even if they live a more nomadic lifestyle between multiple homes. Even if the parents are still spending most of their time in Wisconsin, it is a valid issue for the voters to consider where Tim Michels’ mind is really focused when his family life is oriented on the East Coast.

As Expected, Tim Michels Enters the Race for Governor

The table is finally fully set.

MILWAUKEE — Republican businessman Tim Michels is running for Wisconsin governor, TMJ4’s Charles Benson reports.


Michels is the co-owner of Brownsville, Wis.-based Michels Corporation with his brothers. Michels Corporation is an infrastructure and energy contractor.


Michels is jumping into the race with about fours months until the August primary. He ran for U.S. Senate in 2004 and lost to Russ Feingold.

I like Tim Michels. He’s a good guy who has done a lot for Republican causes and for the state. But I just don’t see what the differentiator is between him and Kleefisch. At least, I don’t see what the positive differentiator is. Kleefisch is right on almost all of the issues. There are questions about Michels when it comes to government spending. Is he really going to fight for less spending on things like roads when his company is the recipient of that spending? Maybe. Maybe not. Why take the chance?



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