I have sad news to report. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett will not be running for governor this year. “I hope to serve as mayor for many years to come, to continue to advance Milwaukee forward,” Barrett told WisPolitics on Tuesday. “I’ve still got the fire in the belly, and I wake up every day ready to roll up my sleeves to get to work.”
As my friend Brian Fraley noted, “In related news, the odds of him becoming governor did not change with this announcement.”
This leaves the Democrats with ten possible candidates for governor speaking at their convention next weekend in Oshkosh. If you don’t think it’s a problem for Democrats, consider that it’s going to be really hard for one of the candidates to stand out from the pack. We’re more likely going to see headlines like, “Democrats say they would repeal Act 10 if they unseat Gov. Scott Walker.”
The whole Barrett-for-governor trial balloon was about the weakness of the Democratic field. If the Democrats had a strong challenger to Governor Scott Walker, Barrett would never have considered entering the race to risk losing to Walker a third time. When the Democratic field is so weak that someone like former state Rep. Kelda Roys (D-Madison) enters the race because she had just as much money as the other Democratic candidates, that’s not a good sign for the party.
That doesn’t mean that Walker is unbeatable. This should be a Democratic year, and Walker is vulnerable, especially if Republicans take his re-election for granted.
In 1992, Democrats fielded a weak group of candidates for President of the United States against, President George H. W. Bush, who was presiding over a recovering economy after a small recession, had led the country in the first Iraq War and had led the country during an invasion of Panama. The Democrats nominated a draft-dodging, womanizing, pot-smoking governor from the corrupt politics of Arkansas out of a field of weak candidates while Democratic Governor Mario Cuomo of New York sat out the race.
President Bill Clinton served two terms and, despite being impeached in the House of Representatives, almost got his wife elected president, too. His daughter is being groomed as Democratic royalty.
The Democratic candidates for governor may look like an angry mob of political pygmies, but Republicans cannot underestimate the Democrats’ motivation to vote out Walker.