Friday, May 12, 2006

Belling Hops on the Tommy Train in Staggering Fashion

The latest op-ed by Mark Belling at GM Today is both surprising and remarkable.

Belling seems to have changed his view on the likelihood of a Tommy Thompson gubernatorial bid. While before he thought the talk was just rumors and Tommy stroking his ego, Belling now seems to be believing the hype.

But what is really staggering about the piece is Belling's belief that Thompson represents the far fiscal right segment of the state GOP. Belling writes: "As a candidate, he would likely develop an aggressive tax plan and sell it with the same zeal he brought to welfare reform and school choice."

Belling even goes after Green in the op-ed: "Many in the Republican base are ambivalent about Green. He seems clueless about how to exploit voter anger over high taxes."

This is when it becomes clear what Belling's change of heart on Thompson is all about: The failure of TABOR. Green pushed hard for a constitutional limit for the entire month prior to the legislative vote, and that vote still failed miserably. And, in the eyes of Belling, Green's promise as a leader went down with it. Green lost his balance on the tightrope walk.

Toward the end of the piece, Belling makes this comment: "The death of the Taxpayer Protection Amendment in the Legislature last week demonstrates again that the real power in Wisconsin government lies in the governor's office."

Through reading all this, I kept asking myself: Who is Belling kidding? Thompson publicly opposed TABOR and anything like it. He's not going to change his mind if re-elected governor -- why should he? Tommy doesn't need talkers like Sykes and Belling to get elected or to stay in office. He has no reason to cater to them like Green did in the weeks before the TABOR vote.

Thompson is as close to a populist as a Republican can get, which is why he's well-liked across the state. What Belling hasn't figured out in his southeastern Wisconsin talk radio bubble is that writing stringent fiscal policy into the state constitution is not a populist idea.

This explains why Belling had the audacity to call outstate Republicans, who represent a majority of the state GOP, "out of touch" after they helped to vote down TABOR last week. Belling can't come to grips with the fact that the far fiscal right is a minority in the state GOP.

But here is the extreme Belling -- in a desperate attempt to back a winner -- trying to jump into bed with the moderate Thompson. This can only get more interesting if Thompson actually does announce his candidacy.

UPDATE: Sykes takes issue with the stance of his comrade-in-arms on Thompson. Like I said, this can only get more interesting if Thompson really goes through with it.


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