” type=”icon” newwindow=”yes”] Note: this first appeared in the RightWisconsin Daily Update newsletter on Wednesday, May 23. Click here to get your free subscription.

Dear Readers,

As I’m getting ready to take off for a few days of fun, hopefully some sun, and some relaxation, I find myself scrambling to get things done. Perhaps the real reason vacations seem so restful is that we’re so stressed out by getting ready for our vacations. It’s even true when you have a house-sitter, perhaps more so, because we have to get everything ready for them, too. I’ll contemplate that and get back to you after a few umbrella drinks.

Candidates, of course, have no vacations. There are only 80 days left until the August 14 primary if my math is correct. That’s not a lot of time to win over voters if you’re in a competitive primary.

Then there is a scramble to get signatures and secure a place on the ballot. The deadline is June 1, but Democratic candidates for governor hoping to speak at their convention have until this Friday. One person who is not waiting until the last minute is Kevin Nicholson, one of two Republicans running for U.S. Senate. According to the Associated Press, Nicholson “quietly submitted his nomination papers to the state Elections Commission to get on the ballot.”

That means, regardless of the polls, Nicholson is ahead because so far he is the only candidate on the ballot. I doubt they’re popping champagne over at the Nicholson household just yet, because state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) will also be on the ballot, and she has the Republican Party’s endorsement. They’re even running ads for her on the radio.

But, given the short time between now and the primary, it seems an odd time for the Nicholson campaign to be losing their campaign manager, John Vinson. The Associated Press (AP) does not have word on who is replacing him, and I have yet to hear from the Nicholson campaign, too. Nicholson’s spokesman Brandon Moody told the AP the campaign is “full steam ahead” without Vinson.

The fear is that the change signals some turn in tactics by the Nicholson campaign towards directly attacking Vukmir who has gained momentum since the Republican Party state convention. The problem for Nicholson is that to attack Vukmir’s record he has to attack Governor Scott Walker’s record. Vukmir is correct in saying that she was with the governor every step of the way (and then some) since his election in 2010. It’ll be hard for Nicholson to separate the two, and the “Madison swamp” rhetoric, if he attempts to apply it to Vukmir, will just sound silly. It wasn’t exactly persuasive when he tried to blame the “Madison swamp” for losing the state Supreme Court race earlier this year.

So it’s probably not a good idea for Nicholson to go negative. Not only will Nicholson’s campaign face a backlash, as it did when the national Club for Growth attempted to go after Vukmir’s record, but Nicholson runs the risk of hurting the party’s chances of winning the Senate seat and holding on to the governor’s office. Nicholson is probably smart enough to realize that even if the out-of-town talent surrounding him doesn’t.

If not, Republicans should hope that Nicholson was paying attention to Senator Ron Johnson’s speeches at the party’s state convention when he advised Vukmir and Nicholson not to harm each other in the primary. In trying to harm Vukmir, the collateral damage may hurt his party’s candidate for governor, and may harm Nicholson’s reputation in the long term.

Nicholson’s campaign started out using the same consultants as former Congressman Mark Neumann used in his failed campaign for governor in 2010 and U.S. Senator in 2012. In many ways, Nicholson’s campaign in 2018 and Neumann’s campaign for U.S. Senate in 2012 have been similar. Both of them relied upon national endorsements while not getting the traction with Wisconsin’s grass roots Republicans. If Nicholson is considering going negative against Vukmir, and we have no indication yet that he will, perhaps he should ask Neumann how much his political reputation suffered during the 2010 and 2012 campaigns when he attacked Walker and former Governor Tommy Thompson.

James Wigderson

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