Friday, July 28, 2006

What to Do About Bush: The Mark Green and Mark Kennedy Campaigns

On paper, Mark Green and Mark Kennedy have some striking similarities.

Both are Republican congressmen who have been in office roughly the same amount of time (Green began in 1999, Kennedy in 2001).

Both come from Midwest states with similar political sensibilities (Green is from Wisconsin, Kennedy is from Minnesota).

Both get high conservative rankings from the American Conservative Union (88 for Green, 90 for Kennedy).

Both have been staunch defenders of invading Iraq.

Both recently backed the president’s decision to veto a bill that would have sustained and enhanced embryonic stem cell research in the US.

Both have voted with the Bush White House over 90% of the time.

Both are currently running competitive statewide campaigns (Green for governor, Kennedy for US Senate).

But, so far, the two seem to be taking different approaches when it comes to associating their campaigns with the president.

Kennedy has gone to great lengths to disassociate his Senate campaign from Bush. Last month Minnesota bloggers were all over Kennedy when he largely removed any mention of Bush from his campaign website, including any pictures of the president.

Kennedy also hasn’t had any major fundraisers with the president this year, although he has had one with Karl Rove and one with Laura Bush in the past couple of months (and he did have one with Bush himself last December).

And now there’s this campaign ad from Kennedy, which attempts to identify his position as that of an “independent.” At one point, Kennedy’s daughter appears and has this to say: “Dad’s not much of a Party guy…he doesn’t do whatever the Party says to.”

Green, on the other hand, has been more conspicuous about his connections to the White House.

Earlier this month Green held a $1000 per plate dinner with the president in Milwaukee that captured front-page headlines. In the president’s speech at the fundraiser – which also drew significant attention, including an airing on WTMJ radio in Milwaukee – Bush went to great lengths to highlight his connections with Green.

The Green Team hasn’t started airing campaign ads of its own, and it will be interesting to see if Green continues to embrace his associations with the White House and the Republican Party as a whole in them. After all, recent polls have shown that Bush is even less popular in Wisconsin than he is in Minnesota.

While a Minneapolis Star Tribune poll in July showed that 42 percent of Minnesotans approve of the job Bush is doing as president, a Wisconsin Policy Research Institute poll earlier this month showed that only 37 percent of Wisconsinites feel the same.

Ditching the president at this point could be tough for Green – his campaign is said to have netted over half a million dollars from the fundraiser earlier this month and the words spoken by the president that night leave little doubt about the closeness of the two.

Then again, sticking with Bush isn’t exactly a walk in the park for any Republican this year.

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