Mordecai Lee Weighs In On Governor's Race

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Mordecai Lee Weighs In On Governor's Race

Premiere Date: 
February 21, 2014

The UW-Milwaukee governmental affairs prof. talks about the RGA attack ad and John Doe.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

In other news, the start of this week saw the first attack ad in the race for governor hit the TV airwaves. The Republican Governors Association launching the first and early salvo against Democrat Mary Burke. By the end of the week headlines like this were awash in John Doe investigative notes, decidedly negative news for Scott Walker. It's not yet March and we are off to the races. UW-Milwaukee governmental affairs professor and political analyst, Mordecai Lee, takes a look at all of this with us. Mordecai, thanks for being here.

Mordecai Lee:

Thank you.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, so we were going to start by talking about this attack ad that came out this week, but with these headlines like this, who needs paid time?  

Mordecai Lee:

You know, for people who are political insiders and who love juicy gossip, it's been a great week. It's fun to see the insides of a campaign and of a governmental office. But as for it going beyond that, will it influence public opinion? Will there be voters out there who will change their mind about Scott Walker? I guess not.

Frederica Freyberg:

Because it should be said, it should be noted that Scott Walker was not charged in John Doe number one. But, you know, there's another John Doe, John Doe number two. And so these kinds of headlines are going to keep on keeping on, I would assume, at least, you know, beyond the point of John Doe two, whatever happens to that. And then there's another kind of release of these kinds of records. If you're Mary Burke, do you just kind of sit tight and let all this criminal probe stuff wash over everyone?

Mordecai Lee:

Well, the issue becomes, clearly there is no indictment of the governor. Clearly, he was not a target of the first John Doe. I think it's highly unlikely that he's a target of the second John Doe, because any accusations about coordination, I can't believe he would have been in the room when those conversations occurred. So the question becomes, does public opinion start thinking there's something about this guy that's wrong? It might not be criminal, but I'm not sure this guy is okay? In other words, is it a political crime as opposed to a criminal crime? That sometimes happens to politicians, that people just sort of start wondering about them and turning against them. I think Scott Walker is such a disciplined politician, he's handled the last couple of days so well, that I think it's unlikely that just the headlines per se, the way you described them, would have a fatal impact on his political image.

Frederica Freyberg:

But now we're seeing that the Washington Post, the New York Times, the CNNs of the world are talking about Scott Walker in connection with this John Doe. But you still-- you think that he's just going to be extremely successful and disciplined as always going forward even as he is being talked about now, really, as one of the potential front-runners for the presidential race?  

Mordecai Lee:

I think so, because if you compare it to Bridgegate and Chris Christie, with Chris Christie there was a criminal activity that occurred when he was governor, and he says he didn't know about it in advance, he didn't order it. In other words, stepping aside from the crime, people say, well, how could he not have known about it? How could he have had rogue chiefs of staff and deputy chiefs of staff? I think if anybody like the Washington Post or New York Times tries to apply that to Scott Walker, it doesn't quite work because this is talking about when he was county executive. This is after a very in-depth probe. I think it's unlikely that it's going to get traction. And you know what, I think Scott Walker's personality, that-- he's a much calmer person, a more disciplined person compared to Chris Christie. You know, Chris Christie yelled at reporters, yelled at people, insulted them, really sort of pushed people around. And now you almost get the natural reaction to that personality. Scott Walker, because he has such a softer public persona, I think it doesn’t trigger what it did with Chris Christie.

Frederica Freyberg:

Let's move on now to the Republican governor’s 30-second spot. We’ll take a look at that together.

Announcer:

Who's Mary Burke? Burke was a senior member of the Doyle administration that left Wisconsin with 130,000 fewer jobs and a $3 billion budget shortfall. Investigations into Burke's department found major shortcomings and mismanagement, wasting millions and failing to create promised jobs. While families here struggle to find work, Mary Burke's family business outsourced Wisconsin jobs to China. Waste, mismanagement, fewer jobs, Mary Burke will take Wisconsin backwards.  

Frederica Freyberg:

So how successful do you think this string of attacks will be against Mary Burke?

Mordecai Lee:

Well, we have to remember that the Wisconsin political situation has been very frozen in terms of public opinion. Governor Walker is a very divisive figure in the sense that there are 45%, 46%, 47% of the people who like him and aren’t changing their minds. And there are 45%, 46% of people who are Democrats who want to vote against him. What seems to be going on right now is two things. First of all, it means that his campaign and people who support him are going on the attack right away. In other words, they're not waiting until later. This is what, for example, George W. Bush and Karl Rove did to John Kerry. They attacked, attacked, attacked. The other thing that's going on here is I think taking the playbook of Obama. Obama very deliberately defined who Mitt Romney was early in the campaign, before Mitt Romney really introduced himself to the public at large. So here you've got a situation of trying to define who she is before people get to know her.

Frederica Freyberg:

And so what does Mary Burke do in her playbook if they're defining her so early?

Mordecai Lee:

Well, I think we have to look at the John Kerry campaign. He wanted to take the high road. He wanted to stay positive. He wanted to leave a positive message. That doesn't work in contemporary politics. I'm afraid the lesson is that she and her allies, independent allies, need to start hitting back tomorrow with the same level, the same ferocity. This is going to be very much like the ads between Tommy Thompson and Congresswoman Baldwin. It's going to be awful. You're right, it's not even March.

Frederica Freyberg:

We should say that Mary Burke spokesman says, “Scott Walker's Governor's Association is clearly panicked at the realization that they are running against a proven job creator.”  So Mordecai, we leave it there. Thanks very much. Thanks for your time on this.

Mordecai Lee:

Thanks for inviting me. 


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