When a four term Senator retires, it naturally sets the political world ablaze with thoughts on who will step to the plate. Herb Kohl's announcement on Friday is certainly no different. We've heard several names tossed around on both sides, but unfortunately I'm not even certain that we'll get a competitive primary at all.
The problem is that for big races, the Democrats and Republicans in Wisconsin act far too much like machines. The retirement of Dave Obey last year should have been an opportunity for many ambitious state legislators, but the party feared a "waste" of resources and anointed Sen. Lassa as the nominee behind closed doors. The same holds true for the gubernatorial primary. Lt. Gov. Lawton suddenly dropped out of a race she'd wanted to run for eight years and Mayor Barrett was basically told that he would run and he would be the nominee.
On the Republican side, many in leadership acted disgracefully in the way they treated Mark Neumann and seemed to do just about everything possible to make the "undesirable" Senate candidates go away. While not as successful in limiting the field as the Dems, it was still bad.
So, while I would love to see a knock-down-drag-out fight between Ron Kind, Tammy Baldwin, and any number of state legislators, I simply don't believe it will happen. The DNC is still run by the White House and they will not allow that many open seats to defend in one of the most important states to the President's reelection. To borrow a phrase that's popular among the left right now, that would be shameful.
And honestly, the same goes for the GOP. There should be a lively and vigorous debate about the future of our nation and how best to combat the problems of entitlement reform and perpetual deficits from a conservative perspective. But I fear we won't get that because it's just far too costly in a presidential election year.
I'd love to see a big free-for-all next year and it would make Wisconsin one of the most watched states in the country, but it's more likely that the Dems will have picked their nominee by the end of the year and the GOP won't be far behind them.