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OPINION - The state of the race

by Chris Conley

NEWS BLOG (WSAU) As the state GOP gathers for its convention, now is a good time to take the pulse of the campaign for Governor. Most of the talk involves democrats.

Ultra-liberal Brett Hulsey continues to embarrass his own party with two stunts. He's staking Mary Burke with a man in a chicken suit, claiming Burke is too chicken to debate him. He started this stunt with the unreasonable demand that they debate in all 72 counties. Now Hulsey has gone to Milwaukee handing out KKK-style white sheets to Republican delegates for supporting voter ID and other policies that he considers minority voter suppression.

The Republicans should throw a dinner in Hulsey's honor. He's weakened his own party's candidate (forcing a primary is bad enough), and he allows the Republicans to isolate their own far-right fringe. Hulsey is a political bomb-thrower; he dares to equate someone who insists voters identify themselves at the polls with cross-burners from the Ku Klux Klan.

The bigger story in the race is that Mary Burke is a weak campaigner. She's running against an opponent who is a polarizing figure, and starts with a strong base of union and liberal support. But she's been unable to pull any support from the political middle. Burke has gotten a little better on the stump since she kicked off her campaign, but she's still uncomfortable answering questions from reporters and her staff has the increasingly difficult task of keeping her clear of those Q & As. She would need a lot of coaching before being ready for a high-stakes one-on-one debate with Scott Walker.

Republicans have their own convention side show, (a debate on a succession plank for the state party platform, really?) but this is small potatoes compared to the Dems. Scott Walker is a seasoned, battle-tested politician. At this point, all he needs to do is stay on-message and he'll win reelection.

Chris Conley

Image: Rep. Brett Hulsey (D) from WisconsinBlueBook.com