So, today we got our third candidate to try and take out Russ Feingold as US Senator in November. I'm not really sure what to make of it either. First, it says a lot about Feingold's perceived vulnerability that three candidates - and a rumored fourth in Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson - want to take him on. It also says a lot about the perceived weakness of the two candidates already in the race - Terrence Wall and Dave Westlake - that a man who just spent 18 months in the Doyle administration thinks he can win.
That last point is what everyone will focus on. Leinenkugel absolutely needs to address it and minimize if he wants to win. He needs to point out areas of disagreement with Doyle and - if possible - provide proof that he did voice those disagreements behind the scenes. In his announcement in Janesville he talked about the fact that he joined the administration to serve the people and not any particular party. That sounds nice, but you better back that up with some evidence that you did. Unfortunately, that means he needs to show he didn't get along all that well with Governor Doyle.
On the Leinenkugel for Senate website, he lays out a fairly mainstream conservative platform. There's certainly nothing there that is offensive to GOP primary voters. But the giant elephant in the room is his time as Commerce Secretary and the question of "Why should we trust you now?" is bound to be raised.
Right now, I just don't know how he answers it. In his announcement he mentioned failures as Commerce Secretary. A lot can depend on how he defines those failures. The best way would be to define them as not standing up forcefully enough to bad ideas - like the massive tax increases in the last budget, or the not-so-high-speed rail line - from the Doyle administration. Or failure to prevent the massive job losses we have seen over the last year and a half. Or failure to get the manufacturing jobs from the Talgo deal for a Wisconsin based company rather than the Spanish firm. That would be a good first step.
The GOP field for Senate is wide open. No one is a favorite at this point and they all have problems. Anyone who has any political skill can conceive of a legitimate strategy in which Leinenkugel wins. He's got a very steep uphill climb, but it is possible.
It certainly will be an interesting summer.