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May 13, 2011, 2:20 p.m.

The 30-minute fail­ure of the Mil­wau­kee Po­lice Dept.’s new ra­dio sys­tem “dom­in­ated” the race 10/8, with Mil­wau­kee Co. Ex­ec. Scott Walk­er (R) “ac­cus­ing” ‘02 can­did­ate/Mil­wau­kee May­or/ex-Rep. Tom Bar­rett (D) of fail­ing to en­sure that the sys­tem works prop­erly. 10/7’s fail­ure “forced of­ficers to rely on cell phones and com­puters in­side their squad cars to com­mu­nic­ate.”

Bar­rett “re­spon­ded by ac­cus­ing Walk­er” of turn­ing 10/7’s city­wide fail­ure in­to a polit­ic­al is­sue, not­ing that the Po­lice Dept. and Har­ris Corp., the com­pany re­spons­ible for the ra­dio sys­tem, have said the fail­ure was in­ad­vert­ently caused by a Har­ris em­ploy­ee who was work­ing re­motely on the sys­tem without prop­erly no­ti­fy­ing the dept (Hag­gerty/Sand­ler, Mil­wau­kee Journ­al-Sen­tinel, 10/8).

Want More On This Race? Check out the Hot­line Dash­board for a com­pre­hens­ive run­down of this race, in­clud­ing stor­ies, polls, ads, FEC num­bers, and more!

Journ­al Entry

Wis­con­sin State Journ­al has en­dorsed Walk­er (10/10).

Lam­beau Leap Of Faith

Fol­low­ing the 9/14 primary, Bar­rett and Walk­er have stumped in the Lam­beau Field sta­di­um park­ing lots be­fore the home open­er.

Most polit­ic­al ex­perts agree that North­east­ern WI “will swing many of the statewide polit­ic­al races this year, and can­did­ates seem to real­ize it as well.” Univ. of WI Green-Bay prof. Scott Fur­long: “It’s ob­vi­ously a place where there’s a lot of people in one place at one time and they’re gen­er­ally in good moods in a very in­form­al at­mo­sphere” (Con­torno, Green Bay Press-Gaz­ette, 10/9).

It’s A First

With­in WI, the con­test between Bar­rett and Walk­er “has drawn no­tice as the first time” in 70 years that two Mil­wau­kee Co. res­id­ents have com­peted for the gov.’s of­fice.

But “it also ap­pears to be the first time any­where in the coun­try that the may­or of a state’s largest city has faced the elec­ted” chief ex­ec. of that city’s co. in a GOV elec­tion, ac­cord­ing to a Mil­wau­kee Journ­al-Sen­tinel sur­vey of his­tor­i­ans and lib­rar­i­ans na­tion­wide (Sand­ler, Mil­wau­kee Journ­al-Sen­tinel, 10/10).

One of the biggest story lines of the year is that the Re­pub­lic­an Party has moved so far to the right that they’re ali­en­at­ing cru­cial swing voters. But look at this year’s Sen­ate land­scape, and it’s the Demo­crats who are run­ning can­did­ates with lib­er­al con­vic­tions, while Re­pub­lic­ans are sport­ing mil­quetoast mod­er­ates.

The po­ten­tial Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate nom­in­ees in­clude former Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle, who has been com­pli­ment­ary to­ward Pres­id­ent Obama and em­braced the “Re­pub­lic­an-In-Name Only” la­bel; former Rep. Heath­er Wilson of New Mex­ico, one of the most mod­er­ate mem­bers of the House dur­ing her ten­ure; and former Wis­con­sin Gov. Tommy Thompson, who sup­por­ted ele­ments of Obama’s health care law. And one of the two Re­pub­lic­an sen­at­ors fa­cing a tough gen­er­al-elec­tion cam­paign is Scott Brown, who is flaunt­ing his bi­par­tis­an cre­den­tials as he tries to win in true-blue Mas­sachu­setts.

This isn’t a roster of fire-breath­ing con­ser­vat­ives. In fact, even the more-con­ser­vat­ive Sen­ate re­cruits, like Rep. Rick Berg of North Dakota and former Rep. Pete Hoek­stra of Michigan, have come un­der fire from tea party act­iv­ists over their con­gres­sion­al vot­ing re­cords. Rep. Jeff Flake of Ari­zona, an ar­dent fisc­al con­ser­vat­ive, has one of the most lib­er­al re­cords on im­mig­ra­tion of any Re­pub­lic­an mem­ber, and Rep. Con­nie Mack of Flor­ida once com­pared Ari­zona’s pun­it­ive im­mig­ra­tion law to Nazi Ger­many.

In Montana, Rep. Denny Re­hberg was one of just four House Re­pub­lic­ans who voted against Paul Ry­an‘s en­ti­tle­ment-bust­ing budget, break­ing with his party’s lead­er­ship.

By con­trast, most of the lead­ing Demo­crat­ic nom­in­ees have been proudly ad­vert­ising their lib­er­al­ism. In Mas­sachu­setts, Eliza­beth War­ren has be­come a na­tion­al spokes­wo­man for voters look­ing for an out­spoken ad­voc­ate of pro­gress­ive policies. Rep. Tammy Bald­win, D-Wis., has con­sist­ently been ranked one of the most lib­er­al mem­bers of the House by Na­tion­al Journ­al, and is sup­port­ive of the labor-fueled re­call of Gov. Scott Walk­er in her home state. Former Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee Chair­man Tim Kaine of Vir­gin­ia was Obama’s chief back­er, and has closely tied him­self to the pres­id­ent’s po­lar­iz­ing first-term policies.

The biggest ques­tion loom­ing for Sen­ate Re­pub­lic­ans in 2012 is wheth­er the tra­di­tion­al cri­ter­ia of what makes a strong Sen­ate can­did­ate still hold. Not long ago, the time-tested for­mula was find­ing someone with polit­ic­al ex­per­i­ence, proven fun­drais­ing abil­ity, and a vot­ing re­cord that wasn’t too far out of the main­stream. By that stand­ard, Re­pub­lic­ans boast an im­press­ive re­cruit­ing class filled with many former mem­bers and former gov­ernors whose mod­er­a­tion was con­sidered a lead­ing vir­tue.

But by the new stand­ards, au­then­ti­city is more highly val­ued than polit­ic­al ex­per­i­ence. As I’ve noted in past columns, a sig­ni­fic­ant num­ber of po­ten­tial nom­in­ees are run­ning more on their past re­cord than fu­ture vis­ion. Thompson hasn’t won a statewide elec­tion since 1998. Wilson was one of the most battle-tested mem­bers of Con­gress, but her last suc­cess­ful cam­paign was in 2006. In Vir­gin­ia, former Sen. George Al­len hasn’t won an elec­tion since 2000. On pa­per, these can­did­ates sport deep re­sumes, but the polit­ic­al cli­mate has changed markedly over the past dec­ade.

Demo­crats are mak­ing the op­pos­ite bet. They’ve been ral­ly­ing be­hind con­vic­tion can­did­ates whose ideo­logy is to the left of the con­stitu­en­cies in their states but who have made little at­tempt to pa­per over their polit­ics. Eliza­beth War­ren is the best ex­ample of this phe­nomen­on. She has been giv­ing a vir­tu­al work­shop on the per­ils of rising in­come in­equal­ity, a mes­sage that the pres­id­ent has be­latedly ad­op­ted. Her class-tinged rhet­or­ic, even as it risks ali­en­at­ing mod­er­ates, has drawn a na­tion­al fol­low­ing and a huge fun­drais­ing base. The race is already dead­locked, with some polls show­ing her ahead of Brown.

In Wis­con­sin, Bald­win is the left’s ver­sion of Michele Bach­mann.  She’s been a lead­ing an­ti­war voice in the House, sup­por­ted gov­ern­ment-run health care, and has been on the front lines of the cul­ture war. In­deed, she was one of the most out­spoken de­fend­ers of Obama’s ini­tial de­cision to man­date re­li­gious char­it­ies provide con­tra­cept­ives in their in­sur­ance policies, even though the state she’s look­ing to rep­res­ent has one of the highest con­cen­tra­tions of Cath­ol­ic voters in the coun­try.

Even in the battle­ground state of Vir­gin­ia, it’s strik­ing how closely former Gov. Kaine is ty­ing him­self to the pres­id­ent, not run­ning away from his sup­port for Obama as former DNC chair. At a youth sum­mit last week­end, Kaine said that “noth­ing was as sweet “¦ noth­ing was as mean­ing­ful for the coun­try and the world” as help­ing elect Obama in 2008. Obama’s ap­prov­al rat­ing in the Old Domin­ion is stuck at 46 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to the latest Quin­nipi­ac poll.

But Kaine hasn’t suffered polit­ic­ally from his as­so­ci­ations, even as he’s been hit on the air­waves with more than $1 mil­lion in neg­at­ive ads from the U.S. Cham­ber of Com­merce and Amer­ic­an Cross­roads.

“At a time when people are dis­gus­ted with politi­cians, hav­ing someone who em­braces their re­cord and stands by their prin­ciples is at a real premi­um with voters,” said Kaine ad­viser Mo El­leithee.

For Re­pub­lic­ans, the biggest ques­tion in 2012 is wheth­er voters value mod­er­a­tion more than au­then­ti­city. The party has placed a big bet on re­cruit­ing can­did­ates who pass the tra­di­tion­al elect­ab­il­ity tests. But if Demo­crats man­age to hang onto the Sen­ate, they can cred­it their nom­in­ees for stand­ing up for their be­liefs.

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