What can a person say about the men who would be Wisconsin's next governor? You don't have to dig through their closets. There's a lot you can find out just from looking at what they want you to see.
The campaigns of Scott Walker, Mark Neumann and Tom Barrett are now in full swing, and the candidates are honing their messages in campaign ads, press releases, position papers and fundraising letters. These are not off-the-cuff remarks uttered in the heat and exhaustion of the campaign, but carefully crafted messages put out after careful consideration and consultation with advisers, perhaps even focus groups.
It might seem that this is the last place a voter should look to get information on what makes a candidate tick - but, as we found, it actually yields useful information. Here are some snippets from the campaigns of the three contenders, in their own words.
Milwaukee County executive since 2002
Wisconsin state assemblyman, 19932002
Frontrunner for the GOP nomination
- On Scott Walker (from his website bio): "The son of a preacher, Scott Walker grew up in the small town of Delavan, Wisconsin, and it's those small-town values that make Scott the man he is today."
- On his campaign's "brown bag" theme (from his website): "Scott drives a 1998 Saturn with 100,000 miles on it and packs the same brown bag lunch before heading to the office to save money: two ham and cheese sandwiches on wheat with mayo."
- On why Walker's campaign has spent at least $24,500 on food and drinks for fundraising events since 2008 (as explained by campaign spokeswoman Jill Bader): "Scott doesn't have the time to pack a lunch for everyone and not everyone likes ham and cheese on wheat."
- On likely Democratic nominee Tom Barrett (from a May 7 fundraising letter): "Barrett's record proves his commitment to added tax hikes. [He] voted for the largest tax increase in history."
- On his plan to eliminate unemployment (from a Feb. 23 speech): "If you elect me as your next governor, I'll get government out of the way and lower the tax burden so Wisconsin business owners and factories can create 250,000 jobs and 10,000 businesses in our state by 2015."
- On health care (from a press release): "I don't want bureaucrats in Washington or Madison picking my family's doctor or health-care plan."
- On Arizona's immigration bill (in a May 12 statement): "I have serious concerns about the Arizona law - both because the law impedes on the inherent right of the federal government to do its job and to protect our borders, and also because in America we don't want our citizens getting pulled over because of how they look."
- On Arizona's immigration bill, after his earlier remarks were criticized (in a May 15 statement): "If I were governor of Arizona, I too would sign the Arizona immigration bill."
- On how to help Wisconsin (from his website): "Make an impact by writing your personal check for $25, $100, $500, $1,000 or more.... Let's build a Wisconsin we can believe in again."
U.S. representative, 1995-1999
Underdog for the nomination, but with considerable wealth and name recognition
- On Mark Neumann (from a TV ad): "Mark Neumann. Not a career politician. A businessman, who understands how to create jobs."
- On what is special about him, as described by a supporter (in a web ad): "Mark Neumann is a Godly man."
- On Scott Walker taking "personal time" off work (from a May 17 press release): "In Walker's quest to move up the career politician ladder, the taxpayers of Milwaukee County are left holding the brown bag. At these hours he doesn't even need to pack a lunch."
- On Tom Barrett (in a May 26 statement): "It is puzzling that career politician Tom Barrett's first TV ad touts his record as a job creator."
- On the possibility that Harley Davidson will leave Wisconsin (from an April 29 statement): "It is telling that this is happening under the watch of a career politician [Barrett] who now wants to be governor. It is clear he doesn't have the ability to solve Wisconsin's jobs crisis.
- On Scott Walker's promise to create 250,000 jobs in five years (from a Feb. 24 statement): "It is more politics as usual from a career politician who has little real-world experience outside his government office."
- On his own career as a politician (from TV ad): "When I left Congress, the budget was balanced. That's the kind of thinking we need to get Wisconsin going again."
- On national health-care reform (in a May 24 speech): "This is the worst of the career politician mindset: ignore the will of the people and resist any attempt at innovation that can actually increase competition while bringing down costs."
- On the Arizona immigration bill (from his website): "It is incumbent upon all states to protect their citizens and to be responsible stewards of their tax dollars. Wisconsin should be no different."
- On how to help Wisconsin (from his website): "A Strong Wisconsin starts with you. Donate using this form."
Mayor of Milwaukee since 2004
U.S. representative, 19932003
Wisconsin state senator 19891993
Wisconsin state assemblyman, 19841989
Presumed Democratic nominee
- On Tom Barrett (from his website): "Tom grew up cheering for the Braves, and of course, the Brewers, along with Badgers, Warriors and the Packers."
- On why he should be elected (from his website): "Madison sorely needs adult supervision."
- On his attempts to keep Harley Davidson in Milwaukee (from an April 29 statement): "This is the adult leadership Wisconsin needs in these tough economic times; what we don't need are politicians who attack companies that are actually bringing jobs to Wisconsin just to score cheap points."
- On the Legislature's failure to pass the Clean Energy Jobs Act (April 22 press release): "Madison's failure to come together, work out differences and pass a common ground Clean Energy Jobs Act means Wisconsin has missed a tremendous opportunity, and it's another indication that Madison sorely needs adult supervision."
- On what's wrong with Republicans (from a May 16 speech to Democrats): "They don't talk about the middle class. They talk about their elite friends."
- On health-care reform (from the same speech): "If you meet [Walker or Neumann], ask them why a 23-year-old woman with diabetes should not be able to get coverage on her parents' policies."
- On his opponents (from an April 15 press release): "While they talk about being for everyday Wisconsinites, both Mark Neumann and Scott Walker propose cutting taxes for the richest 1% and for big corporations - while offering nothing for the middle class."
- On how to help Wisconsin (from his website): "I encourage you to consider making a donation or signing up to volunteer. Thank you for your support and I look forward to staying in touch with you throughout our campaign."