Saturday, October 23, 2010

Another Late-Blooming Newcomer

The countdown is on. With less than two weeks to the midterm elections, the stakes are heightened every day. Final debates become more riveting. Last minute gaffes in tight races prove costly. Poll fatigue is setting in with the phrases like "solid Republican," "toss-up," and "leans Democratic." Almost analogous to an Olympic athlete about to discover how his or her backbreaking preparation will result on game day, candidates on the exhausting campaign trail are about to realize how effectively their messages have been delivered. Sure, anti-incumbent sentiment is in the air. But some Senate hopefuls are becoming very adept at conveying just how they will change the status quo in Washington.

Take Ron Johnson of Wisconsin. A relative newcomer to politics, he breathes fresh air into the shady arena of politics. Emerging from obscurity, his small business success story has taken the state by storm. Speaking at tea party events, he essentially fell into the Republican forefront accidentally. His basic message is simple: Reform big government through fiscal responsibility, repeal Obamacare and lower taxes. His success as an entrepreneur and his background in accounting have resonated with voters. Frequently, on the campaign trail, he discusses the ratio of lawyers in the Senate to actual accountants and manufacturers. Not surprisingly, the latter is close to zero.

Johnson co-started his plastics company, Pacur, in 1979 with his brother-in-law and understands how to balance a budget. He appreciates the difficulty of meeting payroll deadlines. He is familiar with job creation. Pacur began with two employees and has grown to 120. Over the years, the corporation has led the medical packaging industry market for specialty plastics. Johnson is recognized by Wisconsin voters as someone who has the experience to help the state distance itself from the economic hardships facing the nation. The Wisconsin unemployment rate (just under 8%) is better than the national average. However, it's biggest city, Milwaukee, has been proclaimed by the Census Bureau to be the nation's fourth poorest city with a poverty rate of 27%.

Recent polling gives the edge to Johnson. The race is tightening, but Johnson has held the critical majority for some time. Feingold, pursuing a fourth consecutive Senate term, is below 50% which is considered dangerous territory for a long-standing incumbent. He is a rare Democrat that boasts voting for Obamacare but let's give him credit for voting against TARP. Seen as one of the most liberal Senators, he's against extending "tax cuts for the rich:" a seemingly endless mantra from the left these days. Additionally, being a life-long public servant is not seen as being part of the solution. Rightly or wrongly, it's increasingly being associated with the problem.

In recent debates, Feingold tried to paint Johnson as a political novice and a member of an out of touch Tea Party. Another head scratcher: does the left not understand that's precisely what an irritable nation wants? The public is growing impatient with the message of "it's the previous administration's fault." They want to elect a different breed of politician. Not the traditional lawyer, a life-long legislator. And most Americans can identify with the Tea Party movement for they are hard working, genuine and loyal citizens. Can Congress and the mainstream media really be this out of touch with their constituents?

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