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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Tuesday, June 25, 2024

With Barrett in, Dems can go full speed ahead

Until last Sunday, one man save Brett Favre was the most talked-about person in the state. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett kept his mouth shut about his campaign until relatively late in the 2010 gubernatorial race, yet has received more free press than either Republican candidate.

For months a Barrett run has been inevitable. Barrett has vied to be Wisconsin's governor before. In 2002, he lost the Democratic primary to current Governor Jim Doyle. With both U.S. senators keeping to the senate and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind sitting out, Barrett is the highest profile Democratic candidate in Wisconsin.

Why did Barrett sit on the sidelines so long? Whether or not his injuries were the reason he waited, as he said, Barrett set up a serious campaign in the time he's stayed mum.

Had the mayor announced earlier, he could have raised more money and been discussing his issues in the news longer. But by waiting, he was still a hot topic, with reference to his now nearly defining act of helping a grandmother and her grandchild outside the Milwaukee County Fair.

Barrett successfully kept the media spotlight on him without publicly running, affording him every politician's dream—a lengthy campaign period of fundraising and platform-building outside media scrutiny.

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Had Barrett announced sooner, it may have appeared he helped pressure Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton out of the race. More consequently, with the weeks that passed between Lawton's withdrawal and Barrett's announcement, discussion about Lawton ceased completely. The spotlight is on Barrett exclusively for the next 10 months of campaigning.

Surprisingly, Doyle's late decision not to run for a third term did not hurt the governor politically, nor has it hurt the Democratic race. He is nowhere near a lame duck and has been asserting himself politically recently. Without an election on the line, Doyle can be more willing to take risks in his last year as governor. So far, discussions about Barrett have lacked any mention of Doyle. The Republicans began with the advantage, but the Democrat can use his open race to make his way to the top of the polls.

Barrett may well have already started his general campaign. He is the only Democratic giant left standing with enough name recognition and fundraising capabilities to be a frontrunner from the onset. Any other Democratic candidates will be white noise, quickly squashed in the primary. Their best hopes for the election could be to gain statewide notoriety among hardcore Democrats for running against Barrett. The separate lieutenant governor election may be more contentious than usual if ambitious mid-level Democrats decide to jump into the number two race.

The Democratic Party of Wisconsin is sending pro-Barrett e-mails, raising money and making web ads for him. Most Democrats statewide will quickly find themselves Barrett supporters, luckily not by force or default.

The Republicans have a more contentious race, with two electable candidates. Although Scott Walker will trounce Mark Neumann in the GOP primary, the longer Neumann stays in, the more money, volunteers and Twitter followers he keeps from Walker. The September primary is just two months before the general election. Next fall, Walker may be scrambling to unite Republicans while Barrett cruises forward with months of party support behind him.

The opposite situation didn't exactly keep the White House from the Democrats in 2008 when Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton fought a divisive primary. But in 2010, as in 2008, the Democrats have the upper hand just by being Democrats.

With both parties' leading candidates from the Milwaukee area, their biggest hurdle––being from Milwaukee––is negated.

Barrett's next biggest obstacle may be separating himself from the currently unpopular governor, while Walker's difficulties include winning over moderates and attempting to squeeze meaning out of his ineffective tenure as Milwaukee County Executive.

Either way, Wisconsin will soon have a governor from Milwaukee. It seems a running of the Brewers sausages at the Capitol is in order.

Jamie Stark is a sophomore intending to major in journalism and political science. Please send all feedback to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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