With hours to go before the polls open in Wisconsin for the Republican gubernatorial widely dubbed a "proxy war" between former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence, the only thing anyone is predicting about the outcome is that it will be extremely close.
According to an Emerson College poll completed Aug. 5, former Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch holds a slight lead (41% to 39%) over construction company owner Tim Michels.
But that poll was conducted before Trump came into the Badger State and strongly urged Republicans to nominate Michels as their candidate against Democrat Gov. Tony Evers.
"Trump's rally was great, and Michels should be the nominee," Van Mobley, president of the board of trustees for the Village of Thiensville, Wisconsin, and one of Trump's earliest Wisconsin backers said. "If Michels isn't the nominee, Wisconsin will not take its rightful place, along with Arizona, Michigan, and Pennsylvania at the tip of the Save America Spear."
"The former president is the leader of the Republican Party and his endorsement means a lot in Wisconsin," Ellen Foley, prize-winning former journalist and Madison marketing firm owner, told Newsmax.
But Kleefisch is a potent politician herself and were it not for Trump's strong support for Michels, she would be an easy winner. A former TV newscaster, she served two terms as the number two elected official under fellow conservative Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Like Walker, Kleefisch emerged triumphant statewide in three trips to the polls — winning full terms in 2010 and 2014 and surviving an internationally-watched recall election in 2012.
Along with Walker, Pence has weighed in for Kleefisch — thus setting the stage for a clash with Trump for the third time in a gubernatorial primary this year (Pence-backed Gov. Brad Little of Idaho easily defeated Trump-backed Lieutenant Governor Janice McGeachin, but in Arizona, Trumpster Kari Lake edged out Pence-supported Karrin Taylor Robson).
Michels, the GOP's losing nominee for U.S. Senate in 2004, co-owns a thriving family-owned business in Brownsville, Wisconsin. But shortly after announcing his candidacy for governor last year, published reports revealed that he had been working in New York and living in Connecticut for the previous decade. Michels insisted he had been commuting from Wisconsin to the East Coast during that period.
"And, I am sorry to say this, but it is very difficult for a woman to win election to statewide office in Wisconsin and we lag behind other states," observed Ellen Foley. "We didn't get our first female senator, [Democrat] Tammy Baldwin, until 2012."
Foley pointed out that Republican Kleefisch in 2010 and Democrat Barbara Lawton in 2002 were the only women elected to the lieutenant governor post.
"But we have never elected a female governor," she added. "While former Lieutenant Governor Kleefisch has a good reputation and a strong record among Republicans, she faces a big challenge in tomorrow's vote more than 100 years after Wisconsin was the first state to ratify the 19th Amendment."
John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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