“But our focus has always been on beating Tammy Baldwin.”

“Here we are, still winning the primary, with our focus directly on Tammy Baldwin.”

“It’s always good to have the voters with you, is the way that I look at it. So, our focus is going to remain directly on beating Tammy Baldwin.”

  • Kevin Nicholson on UpFront, June 25, 2018

Yvonne: Where were you last night?
Rick: That’s so long ago, I don’t remember.
Yvonne: Will I see you tonight?
Rick: I never make plans that far ahead.

  • Casablanca, 1942

Dear Readers,

I try to remind myself that politicians are human beings and that they’re prone to hypocrisy like everyone else. To a certain extent, a little hyperbole and a little hypocrisy are to be expected in a political campaign, which is why I tend to be skeptical of anyone promising to be different in politics.

But there’s a little fudging around the edges, and then there is the bold-faced lie. Kevin Nicholson’s campaign for U.S. Senate has decided to indulge themselves, nay, wallow in the swampy mud of politics he regularly decries.

Last night I received a press release from the Nicholson campaign along with their new ad attacking his Republican primary opponent, state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield). The ad follows just days after the Breitbart News hit piece on Vukmir accusing her of not being sufficiently pro-Trump.

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The ad, and the Breitbart article, has a video clip of Vukmir in March of 2016 saying to then-WTMJ radio talk show host Charlie Sykes that she was not going to endorse Donald Trump for president. After complaining about how Trump has offended nearly everyone (and he did), Vukmir said, “I’m not endorsing Donald Trump.”

The ad ends right there, but at least Breitbart showed Vukmir saying she would hold her nose and vote for Trump if he won the party’s nomination. That’s right, Breitbart was more honest than Nicholson’s campaign.

Neither of them give the full context. The video clip was from before the Wisconsin presidential primary, and Vukmir was clearly talking about not endorsing him in the primary. As some of you may remember, Trump lost that primary after insulting Wisconsin conservatives, Governor Scott Walker and even the wife of his opponent, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX). Vukmir opposed Trump in the primary, just like Kevin Nicholson who donated to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). If Vukmir is to be held accountable for her sentiments in March before the primary, so should Nicholson.

In fact, let’s point out that Richard Uihlein, Nicholson’s major financial backer in his U.S. Senate campaign, actually donated $2 million to Our Principles Super-PAC whose sole purpose was to stop Trump from getting the nomination. Remember the Real Donald Trump Quotes About Women ad? That was funded by the same person backing Nicholson. Perhaps Nicholson wants to give Uihlein all of his money back and turn down all of those Uihlein-engineered endorsements.

Nicholson is also supported by Club for Growth, which opposed Trump’s nomination. And, of course, Nicholson has said that he wants to emulate Cruz if he is elected a senator. Does that include Cruz’s  “vote your conscience speech” when he refused to endorse Trump at the Republican National Convention?

But, of course, while Nicholson’s friends were making life difficult for Trump, Vukmir actually campaigned for the future president. Vukmir was part of a Republican Women for Trump group and appeared in an ad endorsing Trump in the closing days of the 2016 campaign. That ad appeared after a video leaked of Trump saying that he could grab a woman’s private parts and get away with it because he was rich and famous, when it was a substantial risk to Vukmir’s political career.

Since then Vukmir has been a Trump loyalist on just about every issue, as has Nicholson. Vukmir was even faster than Nicholson to condemn Steve Bannon after he criticized the Trump family.

(Unfortunately, regardless of which candidate wins the primary on August 14, Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s campaign is going to exploit that candidate’s ties to the relatively unpopular Trump. Big league, as Trump would say.)

Nicholson running an ad trying to show that Vukmir is insufficiently pro-Trump is just dishonest and insulting to Republican voters’ intelligence. Maybe Nicholson is right with this gamble. Maybe he can get away with lying about Vukmir’s record. And since his campaign is staffed by “outsiders,” none of them will pay a price for their dishonesty, including those that have also criticized Trump in 2016 like consultant Jeff Roe. He predicted the Republican Party would have to change its name if Trump was nominated.

This level of dishonesty by Nicholson calls into question his honesty about everything else he has said in the campaign. When ambition means more to a former U.S. Marine than honor, when truth is just an inconvenience, then Nicholson is not fighting “the swamp.” He’s bringing “the swamp” to Wisconsin politics, and he is a creature of the swamp’s making.

James Wigderson

This first appeared in the RightWisconsin Daily Update on August 2.

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