Some Props For Mark Neumann
The first poll released after last Tuesday's Republican Senate Primary shows GOP nominee Tommy Thompson with a commanding lead over uber-liberal Democrat Tammy Baldwin. For many of us who voted for Thompson based on our perception of his electability, these results come as no surprise.
Before looking ahead though, it's important to look back.
Former Congressman Mark Neumann is undoubtedly disappointed with his third-place finish in last week's election. Given that this is his third unsuccessful attempt at statewide office, one has to assume that his efforts to achieve elective office are probably finished. After all, who wants to become the Tom Barrett of GOP politics?
Still, if this is it for Mark Neumann, I think it's important to acknowledge the contributions he has made to the political discourse over the past twenty years.
First, Neumann was ahead of his time. When he was first elected to Congress in 1995, Neumann pushed for a balanced budget by 1999. This not only put him at odds with Democrats - but also with a lot of Republicans. The things that conservatives are talking about in 2012 with a great sense of urgency are the things that Neumann has been pushing for his entire career.
Second, Neumann has been a political risk taker. In 1998, Neumann gave up his seat in Congress to run for the U.S. Senate against Russ Feingold. At the time, many people thought that Feingold was unbeatable - yet Neumann came within 38,000 votes of winning. Actually, Neumann lost Milwaukee County by 68,000 votes - but won the rest of the State by 30,000. The point is that Neumann could probably still be in Congress today had he not decided to challenge Feingold (just 12 years too soon).
Third, without Mark Neumann, there probably wouldn't be a Paul Ryan. People forget that until Mark Neumann was elected to Congress in 1994, the seat had been held by a Democrat for decades. Neumann's narrow victories laid the groundwork for his successor, Paul Ryan - who has gone on to be elected and re-elected by huge majorities. Taking absolutely nothing away from Paul Ryan, I still think it's fair to say that Neumann's victories in 1994 and 1996 went a long way toward turning a reliably blue Congressional district red.
I realize that a lot of people still have issues with Neumann's decision to run against Scott Walker for Governor in 2010 (as opposed to seeking a rematch with Feingold). Still, I think the Primary contest helped Walker build some momentum for his successful race - while Neumann's decision not to run for Senate cleared the way for Ron Johnson. In other words, all's well that ends well.
When it comes to being a candidate for elective office, I don't know if Mark Neumann represents the future of the Republican Party of Wisconsin. I do know though that he's been an important part of its recent past - and for that he deserves some props!