A tale of two Republicans, part two: The campaigns

Today we continue examining the differences between Governor-elect Scott Walker and U.S. Senator-elect Ron Johnson, but this time we turn our attention to their respective campaigns.

The differences between Walker and Johnson didn’t stop with their backgrounds, but also transcended to their campaign organizations.

The general consensus among insiders in Madison and Washington, D.C. is Walker’s campaign was executed poorly on a number of fronts.  The gimmicks were over played.  There were times when campaign staff became “unhinged.”  Walker Campaign email responses about Mark Neumann to supporters were emotional, defensive, and angry.  As the frontrunner, there was no need for that.

Some campaign staff made the wrong kind of headlines.  Some put their own self interests ahead of Walker’s.  Unfortunately, their careless mistakes got their boss in hot water not only once, but twice

Walker’s ads were also puzzling.  When watching Walker ads, I would just cringe.  There seemed to be an inexplicable detachment between Walker and his 30-second spots.  Watching the commercial with Walker driving his Saturn just didn’t seem real to me.  As Walker exclaimed “I pack a brown bag each day,” it sounded like he had an Irish accent.   Walker just doesn’t talk that way. 

The worst ad was where Walker accused Barrett of throwing punches at him and then donned a pair of red boxing gloves proclaiming he’ll go the distance for us.   In light of the attack on Barrett at the Wisconsin State Fair in 2009, was that so smart? 

Whose idea was that and WHY are they doing political ads?

I don’t know who produced Walker’s ads.  However, in my view Walker’s media firm did a disservice to him and the ads were a complete non-starter for me.

On the other hand, when Ron Johnson got in front of the camera, I felt like I was seeing the real deal.  They let Ron Johnson be Ron Johnson.  One of his last commercials where he was speaking in a café setting sold me – not only on my vote – but the man himself.  

Despite a late start, Johnson’s campaign got up on the air with effective messaging, had very few gaffes and executed one of the best run statewide campaigns I’ve ever seen in Wisconsin.

Juston Johnson, Ron Johnson’s campaign manager, was a complete pro.  He came back to Wisconsin after a brief stint at the Republican National Committee to run Ron Johnson’s campaign.  He hit the ground running fast and assembled an effective campaign operation in a very short period of time.  If Wisconsin political professionals could hand out an MVP award for this cycle, Juston Johnson would win hands down.

As far as the Walker campaign, I don’t believe campaign manager Keith Gilkes turned Chief of Staff was necessarily the problem.  I’ve heard good reports regarding his management style and his treatment of campaign staff.  However, I believe Gilkes inherited some obstacles inherent within Walker World and did the best he could to deal with them.  Campaign consultant R.J. Johnson seemed to be the target of much internal angst on a regular basis.  Republican insiders, even at the highest level, are debating whether R.J. Johnson was a liability or an asset for Walker.

For part three tomorrow, we’ll look at what governor-elect Scott Walker and U.S. Senator-elect Ron Johnson had in common.


  1. After reading two parts of the triology I’m left wondering why…is this some classroom exercise? I appreciate to work you’ve put into this, but to what end?

  2. It’s not a secret. Bill Eisner at Nonbox did Walker’s TV.