By Tom Still
MADISON – A source close to the toy industry has once again leaked a copy of Santa’s perks list for Wisconsin politicians and newsmakers. Here’s what the good boys and girls in Madison and Washington will reportedly find in their stockings this Christmas. But they better not pout and they better not cry if an alert district attorney asks why gifts were delivered down chimneys after midnight.
House Speaker Paul Ryan – The Janesville Republican obviously lost his razor, so Santa could drop some fresh blades in his stocking. However, Wisconsin’s bearded gift to Congress deserves a bit more under his tree this year. How about more time to restore order to the House of Representatives before the presidential race completely hijacks the agenda?
Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold – Democrat Feingold holds a 10-point lead over incumbent Republican Ron Johnson in early polls heading into their 2016 grudge match, with the key word being “early.” Margins historically get tighter as Election Day draws closer. Will Hillary Clinton pull Feingold through – or must it be the other way around? Santa’s gift to Feingold is long coattails.
U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson – The Oshkosh businessman got off to a rough start his first few years in office, but he now appears more comfortable in the nation’s original debating club. Still, one conservative donor predicts Johnson needs a “flawless” campaign to win. Santa’s elves are good, but they can’t guarantee perfection.
Gov. Scott Walker – A year ago, Walker was coming off a convincing re-election victory, his third race in four years. He celebrated by quickly embracing another campaign, this time as a Republican candidate for president. He’s back home now, sticking pins in Donald Trump voodoo dolls and keeping his nose to the grindstone. Santa’s gift to Walker is more than two years without an election, which is an eternity in politics – especially if he’s harboring thoughts of 2018.
Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch – Speaking of 2018, Santa’s will loan her Marlon Brando’s line from On the Waterfront: “I coulda been a contender.”
The Wisconsin Legislature – “Now Fitz, now Lazich, now Shilling, she’s no Nixon! On Robin, on Barca, on lawmakers in search of less friction! To the top of the ticket! To the end of the stall! Will anything worthwhile pass before fall?”
Wisconsin’s presidential stock – With history as a guide, the 2016 election is already over in about 40 states that fall predictably vote Democratic or Republican. California and New York are cornerstones in the “blue wall,” for example, while Texas is redder than a fire hydrant. Wisconsin’s electoral votes last wound up in the GOP column in 1984, but some observers contend the state is truly up for grabs. Santa’s gift to campaign junkies is a copy of “Presidential Swing States: Why Only Ten Matter,” in which the authors count Wisconsin among the 10. Go figure.
Wisconsin’s startup world – Let’s admit it, folks. We’re tired of hanging our heads at parties where people keep asking, “Is it true Wisconsin is 50th out of 50 states in startup companies?” Well, actually, it’s not true … unless you believe Mississippi and Wyoming are economic powerhouses. But the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City says it’s true, so we’re stuck with that story for now. Santa’s gift to Wisconsin entrepreneurs: “Nowhere to Go But Up” T-shirts.
Former Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson – One day you’re the top jurist in Wisconsin, someone who worked hard to improve the courts. The next day people pass a constitutional amendment that scraps the Supreme Court’s seniority system and you’re kicked to the curb. A gift for Abrahamson: A personalized coffee mug that reads “Chief for Life.”
For Wisconsin’s rising political stars: In an era when sharp personal attacks and partisanship drive more good people away from politics than it attracts, it’s reassuring to know that some quality office-holders continue to be attracted to public service. That’s a gift to Wisconsin citizens. Happy holidays, everyone!