Friday, June 25, 2010

The Wrath of Wall

There's a lot to digest from Terrance Wall's interview with WTDY, so let's get started.

Packing conventions with one's supporters is a time-honored tradition and just good politics, so I have a hard time sympathizing with Wall on this issue. Try visiting the Iowa GOP convention the year before a Presidential election and then finding fault with springing for a few hotel rooms. I have no idea why this a big deal.

As for "intimidating" voters ... well, one man's intimidation is another's "horse-trading," also a pretty regular feature of political gatherings since time immemorial. Political conventions aren't just organizing seminars and late night stops to the titty bar with old chums from the College Republicans. There's some work that needs to be done as well and sometimes that work involves cracking skulls.

In fact, most of Wall's accusations seem like sour grapes over the fact that Wall himself was never really able to set the world on fire when he was in the race, so I wouldn't put too much faith in the "vote buying" and "corruption" accusations. Did Wall himself not have a "hospitality suite" at the convention? Was beer not free there? Does that qualify as "buying people off"?

Let's not pretend for a second that the endorsement vote at the state GOP convention is some kind of sacred institution.

The accusation that seems most damning is that Johnson is actually an "inside man," that he's not the outsider he appears to be, but really an old school Country Club Republican, who thinks he can spend his way to victory. Johnson's implosion among the tea baggers probably set off enough alarms among the extreme right to plant that suspicion's seed. Wall's accusations will just give those suspicions credence. One thing I've noticed today is that the Wall's accusations are appearing on several Tea Party blogs (here, here, here, and here). Some of these blogs are open Westlake supporters, but it certainly seems to have struck a chord within the tea party set.

Now here's the most interesting aspect of the story: the Johnson campaign's completely impotent response:
Johnson’s campaign manager released a copy of an invoice for five rooms Johnson booked at the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee, the site of the convention.

One room was booked for Ron Johnson and his wife, Jane. The other four were occupied by campaign volunteers and staff, the campaign said.
A hotel invoice? Are you fucking kidding me? You call that rapid response?

When someone makes an accusation of this nature on a political campaign you come out swinging. You dismiss Wall as a sore loser and demand that he produce proof or otherwise shut the hell up -- you do not, repeat, DO NOT dig into your pockets and pull out a few receipts like you're taking the accusation seriously. This is PR 101. (This is better, but the push-back has to also come from the campaign itself, not just WisGOP surrogates.)

More importantly, the Johnson campaign should have never let it get to the point where Wall felt like he needed to unload to a liberal talk radio host. Wall should have been approached shortly after he dropped out and brought into the fold in some minor way precisely to prevent something like this from happening. It's pretty obvious no such meeting took place. That's a basic part of political etiquette that was ignored. Now the GOP has to deal with someone who's gone off the reservation. As a consequence, this is the third time Wall has burned Johnson -- the sign video and the abuse victims bill testimony being the other two -- since the convention.

These are not small mistakes -- they're big ones. Russ Feingold does not make mistakes on the campaign trail and in order to beat him, neither can his opponents. Shit like this will sink Johnson's campaign before he ever has a chance to define himself or talk about the issues. I don't care what the polls say now, right now the Johnson campaign looks like the captain still hasn't gotten his sea legs and his crew is on their maiden voyages.

Again, the problem here is not accusations of "funny business" at the state GOP convention, the problem is the damage it does to Johnson's image as an outsider. That's not just going to be a problem in the GOP primary. It'll be next to impossible to beat Feingold if he emerges from a battle with Westlake perceived as a puppet to the party.

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