The bad news is that there’s only one marquee primary on the menu tonight. The good news is that there’s true suspense as to the outcome, with high stakes riding on the outcome in numerous ways. Starting with the fact that the 2024 election could come down to Wisconsin and whether the results there are certified or not may depend on which party controls the governor’s seat.
How suspenseful is it?
This one will be close. pic.twitter.com/GbpZfgf4ZM
— joe handrick (@joeminocqua) August 9, 2022
Rebecca Kleefisch spent eight years as Scott Walker’s lieutenant governor and was on track to win this year’s GOP gubernatorial primary in Wisconsin easily in early polling. Then businessman Tim Michels announced his candidacy. The death blow soon followed — Trump announced that he was endorsing Michels, erasing Kleefisch’s lead of 20+ points overnight and apparently setting Michels on track for an easy primary victory himself.
Why did Trump prefer Michels? There could be many reasons, but never forget that all that’s left of his brain at age 76 is a stew of grievances, some not so petty and others *very* petty:
Trump has also harbored a grudge against Kleefisch. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the former president in an April meeting with Michels criticized tweets about Kleefisch’s teenage daughter going to homecoming with the son of Brian Hagedorn, a state Supreme Court justice who ruled against Trump in one of his lawsuits seeking to overturn the 2020 results.
What looked to be a comfortable win for Michels hasn’t worked out that way, though. The last three polls of the race have had it statistically tied, making it anyone’s guess who’ll prevail tonight. How has Kleefisch managed to survive seeing her opponent endorsed by Trump? For starters, she’s amassed some big endorsements herself — Walker, of course, plus Ted Cruz, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence, making this the third primary of the year in which Trump and Pence are on different sides. They each have a victory against the other, as Pence-backed Brian Kemp crushed Trump-backed David Perdue in Georgia while Trump-backed Kari Lake topped Pence-backed Karrin Taylor Robson in Arizona. Kleefisch winning tonight would give “the establishment” another victory over Trump.
Although not much of one. Even the “establishmentarians” in the Trump-era GOP have to sound like lunatics about the 2020 election to remain viable.
When she started her campaign for governor of Wisconsin, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, a Republican, acknowledged that President Biden had been legitimately elected.
She soon backtracked. Eventually, she said the 2020 election had been “rigged” against former President Donald J. Trump. She sued the state’s election commission.
But she will still not entertain the false notion that the election can somehow be overturned, a fantasy that has taken hold among many of the state’s Republicans, egged on by one of her opponents, Tim Ramthun.
Decertifying the 2020 results in Wisconsin has become an obsession of Trump’s because he’s insane and refuses to accept that there’s no legal mechanism to do such a thing and so it’s also become an obsession of some MAGA voters because they’re willing to entertain any insanity endorsed by their cult leader. As a result, the spectrum of opinion among the three candidates in this race runs from Kleefisch believing the election was rigged but can’t be decertified to Ramthun insisting that it can be decertified while an uncomfortable Michels attempts to somehow navigate between the two. He’s tried to dodge the subject of decertification when asked, not wanting to make any promises he knows he can’t keep, but earning Trump’s endorsement means staying on the right side of his narcissistic delusions at all times. So Michels has been forced to backtrack, lately insisting that he’d consider signing a decertification bill.
The irony to all this is that, although he’s Trumpiest crank on the ballot, Ramthun’s insistence on staying in the race could end up tipping it to the candidate least favored by Trump, i.e. Kleefisch. Ramthun has taken eight or nine points in the last two polls of Wisconsin; presumably those votes would have gone to the Trump endorsee, Michels, if not for Ramthun’s candidacy. Watch Ramthun’s numbers as the results come in tonight. If Kleefisch ends up winning by less than Ramthun’s share of the vote, he’ll have ended up functioning as a stalking horse for her against Michels — and Trump.
Polls close in Wisconsin at 9 p.m. ET. I’ve embedded the widget for the state below, followed by the widget for Minnesota’s Democratic House primaries. Ilhan Omar is on the ballot in MN-05 and is facing a centrist challenger in Don Samuels with a bit more name recognition than the average longshot. Samuels is a former city council member and he outraised Omar in the second quarter. He’s also attacked Omar for wanting to defund the police. One analyst told CBS that he’s the most formidable opponent she’s faced in a primary. Odds of her losing are long, but keep an eye out just in case.