And so begins Dick Leinenkugel's campaign to convince Republicans that he is one of them:
Announcing his campaign in Feingold's hometown of Janesville, the former Marine bashed the Middleton Democrat for voting "against treating terrorists like terrorists," for voting for "government running car companies" and for voting "against the Patriot Act -- twice."
"Wisconsin has not been overlooked by Washington, it has been victimized by Washington," Leinenkugel said.
Leinenkugel said if elected he would vote to repeal and replace federal health care reform legislation, said the expansion of high speed rail should not be a priority right now and promised he would be able to raise enough money to defeat Feingold.
The best national parallel to Leinenkugel would be Mitt Romney, whose self-proclaimed political ideologies wavered between "more liberal than Ted Kennedy" to more war-hungry than Attila the Hun. Romney's clear divergence from conservative ideology during his tenure as governor apparently didn't bother Republican voters too much though. He came in second to McCain and had hacks like Pat Buchanan delivering his talking points on the daily.
Leinenkugel could make the argument that he accepted the post in the Doyle administration out of a desire to serve his state, but that the policy decisions were just too horrendous for him to continue supporting. This argument would be much more convincing if Leinenkugel had resigned less than many, many months after all of the policies that he is currently deploring were put in place. High speed rail, for instance:
Wall campaign manager Ryan Murray said Leinenkugel's Republican reinvention is getting off to a rocky start.
"He keeps calling himself a conservative, but his record tells a different story," Murray said. "His headlining of a Democratic fundraiser and his support for a state budget that raised taxes by $3.5 billion, a stimulus boondoggle that didn't stimulate and a high speed rail quagmire that will saddle Wisconsin with millions of dollars in future liabilities is anything but conservative."
My prediction: Dick Leinenkugel will not win the Republican primary. Conservative voters aren't looking to compromise this fall. Leinenkugel represents a big compromise.