Scott Walker's most recent ad goes to show that in politics, anything can be portrayed as a positive or a negative. The Milwaukee County Executive released his first negative attack against Neumann, accusing the former congressman of voting for a transportation bill. You might think such an action would be commonplace for a member of Congress, however, according to the ad, the vote is a damning skeleton in Neumann's closet.
I eagerly await the analysis of the spot from Politifact Wisconsin, the new partnership between the national ad watchdog and the Journal-Sentinel. The ad is probably 100 percent true, but the implication is ridiculous. Sure, Neumann voted for funding for roads and bridges, which is apparently what Walker believes is the right thing to do with transportation funds. He did so a long with 142 other Republicans in the House.
Yes, Neumann did take the same position that Nancy Pelosi did. Frankly, I'm surprised Walker didn't mention that he took the same position as Rod Blagojevich. That position was supported by other flaming liberals, such as Wisconsin Republicans Scott Klug and Tom Petri, as well as out-of-state communist agitators such as Dick Armey and Jim Bunning.
Neumann's response is pretty good. It mocks Walker for comparing him to Pelosi, and includes a pretty effective counter-punch to the accusation of fiscal recklessness. "In Congress back in the 90's I fought to cut spending so hard the leaders of my own party kicked me off the Appropriations Committee."
I think Neumann wins in this battle. He has knocked Walker off the pedestal of presumptive nominee by forcing him to address his candidacy on TV. Moreover, he can now attack Walker, which is what he probably needs to do, without being guilty of running the first negative attack on TV. This despite the fact that he was attacking Walker earlier in the race on a variety of different grounds.
Walker's attack ad may represent the damage the attacks by Democrats have done to his polling numbers. As Barrett's campaign accuses Walker of being an incompetent administrator, some GOP primary voters have paid more attention to Neumann's ads, in which he emphasizes his commitment to fiscal conservatism and not-so-discreetly derides career politicians.
In my humble opinion, Walker took the wrong approach in his attack ad. The approach he took was too conventional, too predictable. Distorting the records of members of Congress is a time-honored tradition in American campaigning. It's impossible to avoid criticism after making thousands of votes on bills that are often thousands of pages long. But I bet voters see through these attacks more than campaigns give them credit for.
What Walker should do is discredit Neumann's claim of being an outsider. His campaign manager did so today, when he accused Neumann of trying to "scrub clean his six runs for office." Walker should run a spot in which he talks to the camera, and contrasts his political record with that of Neumann. Similar to the style Feingold employed in his Great Lakes attack on Johnson. No eery music, no third-party announcer. Just a swift, above-the-belt blow to Neumann's campaign message.
One thing is clear: Mark Neumann's campaign is not dead yet!