The highest-profile candidates in the GOP primary race for the Wisconsin Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Herb Kohl are also in a contest to see whom among them will go the farthest over the top to get elected.
Eric Hovde and Tommy Thompson are currently tied for that lead.
And maybe a race to the bottom is a better metaphor.
Newcomer Hovde, a Madisonian who went off to Washington to run a hedge fund, is unashamedly spending his fortune on ads while mining deeper for conservative support in a four-person contest among conservatives by attacking food stamp recipients and calling Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin, the only Democrat in the race, a communist.
Veteran pol Tommy Thompson also left Madison for Washington, where he parleyed a Cabinet position into a slew of corporate positions and board seats, and also like Hovde, is mining deeper for support into a GOP conservative base redder than it had been in Tommy's heyday by reinventing himself, as the Journal Sentinel reports, to be at least as conservative as is Hovde and the other two GOP candidates - - the genuinely conservative Mark Neumann and the equally-authentically right-wing State Assembly leader Rep. Jeff Fitzgerald.
Hovde will say anything for conservative votes.
Tommy will say anything for conservative votes.
In that Journal Sentinel piece about Tommy's political makeover:
He described himself as "way over on the right, but I'm also an individual that can get things done."And:
Thompson sounded regretful about signing, in 1999, "smart growth" legislation that works against sprawl and emphasizes conservation, land-use planning and environmental protection.This isn't the first time this iteration of Tommy Thompson has run from his record, whether abandoning his love affair with Amtrak to sidle up to train-killing Scott Walker, or claiming to be a new wave small-government devotee after having added thousands of employees to the state payroll and agreeing to generous wage and benefit settlements through collective bargaining.
He said he was against it but told business, municipal and environmental leaders that if they could agree on a bill he would sign it.
"I wish they all wouldn't have signed it," he said. "But I gave my word because I never thought they would come together."
And while Hovde is saturating the airwaves with commercials, Tommy is running an ad of his own that says he'll stop the government takeover of health care - - PolitiFact's Lie of the Year for 2010 - - while a neutral party like the Wisconsin Historical Society has catalogued Tommy's multiple health care initiatives that gave government a role far bigger than played under his predecessors:
Thompson also worked to extend health care benefits to low-income and disabled people. His BadgerCare program provided health insurance to uninsured families, and had enrolled more than 77,000 people by 2000. Wisconsin's Pathways to Independence was the nation's first program to ensure the continuance of health benefits for disabled individuals who entered the workforce, providing easy access to a system of service and benefits counseling. Another health program, FamilyCare, allowed elderly and disabled citizens to receive care in their homes as long as possible.Say anything, do anything, be anyone to be a US Senator.
A few weeks ago I wouldn't have give Hovde a prayer, but you can spend you way to a path to win.
Tommy is certainly the front-runner, and he might be able to sell himself out to a win.