Politico is garbage. But "fun garbage," as a Madison politico just said to me. Its tendency to manufacture news often comes at the expense of real news itself. For instance, despite its 24/7 coverage of Bristol Palin, the 15 hour police standoff her dancing inspired in Dane County completely missed its radar. On top of that, when they report Wisconsin affairs, they horribly mangle it, as this "story" about Ron Johnson's pledge to remain an outsider displays:
Wisconsin's newly elected senator has never served in public office. He didn't benefit from family political connections, as did Rand Paul of Kentucky or Mike Lee of Utah. He funded most of his campaign with his personal fortune, keeping special interests at bay.
It's hard to determine what "keeping special interests at bay" means, but it apparently allows for aid from the Chamber of Commerce, which ran ads against Johnson's opponent.
In fact, the 55-year-old Oshkosh plastics manufacturer recently boasted that he'd never set foot in Washington before launching his Senate campaign just six months ago, the start of an improbable journey that led to the defeat of a liberal icon, 18-year Democratic incumbent Russ Feingold.
Improbable that a multi-millionaire wins election to the U.S. Senate? It might seem so to the national media because they weren't paying attention to the Wisconsin GOP convention, where Ron Johnson was anointed the nominee by party leaders. His candidacy had most likely been developed and mapped by party strategists long before he declared in May.
Is it unlikely that millions of dollars (in a state with few millionaires) could propel a mild-mannered and unexciting candidate to office? I don't know, but I suspect Herb Kohl does.
But tea party groups that helped fuel his rapid ascent are already raising warning flags.
"We're not naive. We know it doesn't take much to adopt the stance of the professional politicians, and we'll be watching very carefully," said Tim Dake, an organizer with Wisconsin GrandSons of Liberty, a tea party group. "We're going to be watching from the start to see if he will waver, if he is sticking to his guns. If he doesn't, he will be hearing from us."
Another fact Wong is likely unaware of is that Johnson deliberately disassociated himself from the Tea Party movement after a disastrous vetting session with one group, the Rock River Patriots. Johnson cancelled meetings with other groups and his campaign was very "establishment Republican" in its message.
To say that Johnson's lack of political experience distinguishes him from other senators is a fair point. But it's unfortunate that Johnson's campaign narrative, which the Wisconsin media has punched so many holes in, goes reported as fact in the national media.
The real story Politico should be covering is the radical shift of power in state politics in Wisconsin.