Takeaways from Republican Wisconsin gubernatorial debate (copy)

Tim Michels is introduced at a televised Wisconsin Republican gubernatorial debate on July 24 in Milwaukee. 

Got a mailing from Rebecca Kleefisch’s gubernatorial campaign the other day, and it made a reasonably good case for voting in the Republican primary. Not for Kleefisch, mind you, but for her rival, Tim Michels.

I have to admit that I had a negative impression of Michels, a swaggering millionaire businessman who has spent so much time at his mansion in Connecticut that he couldn’t get his Wisconsin address right when he was filling out his nomination papers.

But Kleefisch’s mailing painted a picture of Michels as a Main Street Republican in the tradition of former Govs. Warren Knowles and Lee Sherman Dreyfus — or, at the least, Tommy Thompson.

According to Kleefisch’s camp, Michels has a record of supporting labor unions, standing up for immigrant workers and favoring responsible tax policies. Indeed, the Kleefisch mailing suggested Michels and Democratic Gov. Tony Evers are “two peas in a pod.”

That created the impression that Michels might actually be a responsible Republican — like Gov. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts or Gov. Phil Scott of Vermont — who have rejected the lies and extremism being promoted by Donald Trump and his allies. I often disagree with Baker and Scott, but they’re rational human beings who care about their states and the country and are committed to preserving democracy.

But, alas, Michels says Kleefisch is lying about his record, and that he didn’t realize he was a leader of groups that opposed anti-worker laws and Republican assaults on hard-working immigrants and their families.

Indeed, Michels reminds us, he’s endorsed by Trump. So apparently both Kleefisch and Michels are wrong for Wisconsin.

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. jnichols@captimes.com and @NicholsUprising. 

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