Author: | Daily Kos ||
● WI-Sen: On Thursday, Wisconsin GOP Rep. Sean Duffy announced that he wouldn’t challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin next year. Duffy’s decision comes as a bit of a surprise, since he took the time during his uncompetitive 2016 re-election campaign to run a joint ad with Sen. Ron Johnson that seemed to have been partially an attempt to give Duffy some extra exposure ahead of a future statewide bid. At least one other potential Senate candidate, state Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, also said that he’d defer to Duffy if he got in.
But Duffy may have decided that it wasn’t worth giving up his secure hold on his rural district for a risky Senate bid, especially with Donald Trump’s antics threatening to make 2018 a nasty year for Team Red. Indeed, as the University of Virginia’s Kyle Kondik points out, quite a few other GOP House members have already passed on Senate bids. Of course, it’s early in the cycle and things could change quickly. On the other hand, Duffy has a history of saying awful or just plain dumb things, so maybe Republicans really are better off without him.
Trump narrowly carried Wisconsin last year, and the GOP plans to make Baldwin a top target. No one has entered the race yet, but there are plenty of Republicans eyeing this seat. Fitzgerald, whose brother Jeff Fitzgerald took a distant fourth place in the 2012 primary, recently reaffirmed that he’d consider getting in without Duffy. But Fitzgerald, who also may be wary of repeating his sibling’s fate, warned that a crowded primary could hurt the party’s eventual nominee. Fitzgerald’s state Senate seat is also up in 2018, so he might not want to sacrifice his powerful post for a tough bid.
A number of other Republicans have expressed interest. Wealthy businessman Eric Hovde, who took a close second in the 2012 primary, said in mid-November that he’d decide over the next six to nine months. Businessman and veteran Kevin Nicholson also recently said he was looking at a bid. State Sen. Leah Vukmir, who is also up for re-election in 2018, also has now confirmed that she’s considering, though she said she had no timeline for when she’ll decide, while state Rep. Dale Kooyenga hasn’t said no. Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch has also been periodically mentioned, though she hasn’t said anything publicly about her interest.
There’s also Trump fan and Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who repeatedly runs for re-election as a Democrat but is really anything but. Clarke doesn’t sound incredibly excited about running, but he declined to rule it out last month. A recent PPP survey gave Clarke a horrible approval rating at home, so he may just decide it’s a better bet to finally make his alliance with the GOP official and challenge Baldwin rather than seek another term next year.