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Here and Now

With just over a week until the August 14th primary, Marquette University Professor Charles Franklin checks in on the U.S. Senate race to replace outgoing Herb Kohl.

The Republican candidates for Wisconsin's open U.S. Senate seat all say they support Israel, but they've offered varying levels of specifics about how to handle security threats from Iran and Syria.

Among the Republicans running for Senate, Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald leaves perhaps the most room for interpretation when it comes to how he would handle tensions in the Middle East, "I would stand behind the Israeli, they have been our allies for a long time. And I think it's a very dangerous part that we should do whatever we can to maintain that safety in the Middle East."
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson says the U.S. has to stand by Israel and says Iran is dangerous, "If they get a nuclear bomb, they will close down the Gulf of Hormuz. Gulf of Hormuz is where all the oil comes from. It will strangle the world."

Thompson says sanctions should have been placed on Iran much earlier...

Gov. Scott Walker says the Republicans running for U.S. Senate should focus on the differences between themselves and Democratic Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. But Walker is staying out of the contentious race.

Walker said shortly after he won his recall election that he would act as a referee in the Republican U.S. Senate primary. The governor was asked Tuesday whether he'd seen anything out of bounds, "I haven't dropped a flag yet, but it's getting pretty close."

Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, former Congressman Mark Neumann and former Gov. Tommy Thompson have all run TV ads attacking at least one of their opponents and the three men sparred during a candidate debate this week. Thompson has attacked Hovde for living in Washington, D.C. for 24 years. Hovde has questioned Thompson's conservative credentials.

But even as the race grows increasingly negative, Walker declined to call out any of the candidate, "To me, the biggest thing that would be out...

As the Republican race for U.S. Senate grows more contentious, GOP Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald has decided to stay above the fray.

Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, former Congressman Mark Neumann and former Gov. Tommy Thompson all mixed it up during a Republican U.S. Senate candidate debate Monday. Hovde and Neumann were especially aggressive, at one point forcing the moderator to cut them off.

Notably absent from the sparring was Jeff Fitzgerald. While the other candidates used nearly all of their allotted rebuttals to hit and hit back, Fitzgerald took a pass.

Fitzgerald said he always thought the race would develop this way. He calls himself the Walker conservative in the race, having carried Gov. Scott Walker's agenda in the legislature, "You know, it's a good, positive message. And the more these guys try to beat up on each other, I think a lot of people take a second look at me and say this is...

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson and former Congressman Mark Neumann formed an unlikely alliance Monday, as both men attacked hedge fund manager Eric Hovde at a Republican U.S. Senate candidate debate.

This race has featured negative TV ads for several weeks now. Monday, the candidates attacked in person, though Thompson and Neumann largely left each other alone to go after Hovde. Thompson highlighted Hovde's long residence in Washington, D.C., "Eric Hovde hasn't lived here for 24 years and hasn't voted here in 24 years and now wants to be the United States Senator."

And Neumann attacked Hovde on Thompson's behalf for saying recently that Thompson would have a hard time understanding the economy and financial markets, "Eric, if you'd been in Wisconsin for the last 24 years, you would have learned to respect our governor, Tommy Thompson. And I understand that campaigns are very difficult things, but last week when you questioned his intelligence I think it was over...

The state Senator who earlier this week left the Democratic caucus has returned, calling his dispute with the Senate Democratic Majority Leader "a little squabble."
Janesville Senate Democrat Tim Cullen held a joint press conference with Senate Democratic Majority Leader Mark Miller to announce Cullen's return. He left in the first place because of a dispute over committee assignments. Cullen didn't like the committee chairmanships given to him by Miller and pushed for something different. Miller pushed back and gave him no committees. Cullen said he felt disrespected.
Friday, Miller and Cullen announced that Cullen would chair two new committees--one on mining and one on venture capital. Cullen said it was good to feel appreciated, "This happened and this little squabble got public. That's because I guess we're Democrats. But we Democrats solved it and we solved it relatively quickly. And I couldn't be happier with the outcome, I couldn't be happier to be back in the caucus...

Conservative rock icon Ted Nugent stumped for former Gov. Tommy Thompson's U.S. Senate campaign Thursday, calling Thompson his "hero" and calling President Obama "a Chicago gangster."
Speaking to a few hundred people at a Sturtevant banquet hall, Nugent said he couldn't be prouder than to stand with Thompson, "He's not a politician. He's not going to be just an elected official. He's a warrior. He will take on these politically correct, brain dead, soulless liberal Democrats and he will cause them much pain and suffering."
Nugent, an outspoken hunter and gun enthusiast, said Thompson understood the 2nd Amendment, "He knows that the right to keep and bear arms can only mean one thing. Keep means it's mine and you can't have it. Bear can only mean one thing--I've got a couple on me right now and they're loaded."
Nugent was recently interviewed by the Secret Service after saying that he would either be dead or in jail...

Here and Now

Reporter Zac Schultz talks with U.S. Senate candidate Eric Hovde, one of four Republican primary candidates vying to take over outgoing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's seat.

Here and Now

Reporter Zac Schultz talks with U.S. Senate candidate Mark Neumann, one of four Republican primary candidates vying to take over outgoing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's seat.

Here and Now

Reporter Zac Schultz talks with U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson, one of four Republican primary candidates vying to take over outgoing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's seat.

Candidates and interest groups spent nearly $81 million, combined, in the failed effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker, according to a new report by the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
The $80.9 million spent on the recall was just for the governor's race. Wisconsin Democracy Campaign Director Mike McCabe says that if you add in what was spent on state Senate recalls this summer and last, the total jumps to nearly $138 million. “We saw spending and fundraising records galore fall in these state Senate recall elections in 2011, and of course fundraising and spending records again set in the governor's race, too. So money screamed in these elections.”
The leading spender was Walker himself, who poured roughly $36 million dollars into his recall victory. The next biggest spender on the Republican side was the Republican Governor's Association, which spent $9.5 million.
On the Democratic side, the Greater Wisconsin Political Fund led the way, spending $5.3 million attacking Walker....

Gov. Scott Walker used a national TV appearance Wednesday to critique Mitt Romney's presidential campaign, saying Romney was being too cautious.
Speaking on MSNBC's Morning Joe, Walker said he hoped to see a big splash from Romney after the Republican National Convention. Walker praised Romney's record of handling Boston's “Big Dig” construction project as governor of Massachusetts, as well as managing the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. But Walker said voters weren't hearing about that from Romney: “I think there's a lot of caution. I think the mistake that they've made is this feeling that it can just be a referendum on the president.”
Walker said the election would focus on President Obama and the economy. But the governor said people don't just want to vote somebody out: They want to vote somebody in. He said the Romney campaign needed to make the case that he could be that candidate. “When he was with Paul Ryan and...

The Democratic primary for Wisconsin's 2nd congressional seat turned contentious Tuesday as State Rep. Kelda Roys unveiled a TV ad sharply critical of votes taken by fellow lawmaker Mark Pocan. Some Democrats thought it was a step too far.
Roys' ad zeroes in on votes Pocan made in favor of two bills backed by Gov. Scott Walker, shortly before the governor unveiled his collective bargaining bill. “At the beginning when it counted, he could have stood up to Walker. But instead, Mark Pocan caved in.”
One of the bills expanded a pool of money the state can use to lure companies to Wisconsin. The other gave a tax break to corporations in other states that relocate here. Roys stood by the ad when asked about it Tuesday at a Wispolitics forum: “These bills are corporate tax giveaways. They are going to increase Wisconsin's structural deficit. And they are not going to foster job creation.”
Pocan called the...

Janesville state Sen. Tim Cullen says he's leaving the Senate Democratic Caucus and may become an Independent after party leadership denied him a chairmanship for any committees.
When Democrats returned to the Senate majority last week, Cullen was the only Democratic Senator not to be assigned a committee chairmanship by Senate Democratic Majority Leader Mark Miller. Cullen says Miller initially wanted to give him a chairmanship for a committee on Small Business and Tourism. Cullen wanted neither, saying that historically, those committees are insignificant in the Senate. To hear Cullen tell it, he pushed back and Miller told him that he would either take those committees or take no committees... which is what happened.
Cullen said he was baffled by Miller's decision, given the slim majority Democrats control in the Senate and the need to keep everyone happy. “It's so blatantly aimed at me. It's so blatantly intended to send me a message that I'm not welcome and...

Getting federal disaster help from last month’s flooding in the Duluth-Superior region has taken on political tones in that area’s congressional race.
Last week, FEMA and Wisconsin Emergency Management officials toured damaged areas in Ashland, Bayfield and Douglas Counties. It’s not clear if the damage will reach the $7.7 million relief threshold for uninsured repairs needed to public facilities. Another quirk in the process is that those counties can’t join harder-hit Minnesota in tallying total damage. Same storm, but different state.
Former Democratic state Sen. Pat Kreitlow says that doesn’t make sense. “It shouldn’t happen in any case where a segment of a state is punished because the bulk of the damage was done across a state line. We are one country, where federal disaster assistance should help an entire area, and it would be a real failing on the part of Congressman Duffy if he were not able to help make sure that part of his district...

Newly filed reports with the IRS show huge donations were flowing to groups active in the recall in the run-up to the June 5th election.
Just as Texas homebuilder Bob Perry gave $500,000 directly to Gov. Scott Walker's campaign, he also gave another $500,000 to the Republican Governors Association. The RGA was one of the big players in the recall, running TV ads attacking Democrat Tom Barrett. It's active in other states, too, but overall the group raised $16 million between the beginning of April and the end of June.
George Rapier of the Texas-based Wellmed Medical Management also gave a $500,000 to the group. Koch Industries gave $50,000 on top of the $1 million David Koch gave the RGA earlier this year. And Exxon-Mobil gave $400,000.
The Republican Governors Association got its share of Wisconsin donations, too. The Metropolitan Milwaukee Association of Commerce gave the group nearly $440,000. Pewaukee-based American Transmission Company gave $100,000. And the...

Only one of the four Republicans running for U.S. Senate plans to release his income tax forms before the August 14th primary.
As national Democrats continue to press Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney to release his tax forms, Wisconsin Democrats, including state Party Chair Mike Tate, are making a similar push in the U.S. Senate race: “We have candidates here who are very wealthy, and there's nothing wrong with that. But I think they should be transparent about where they got their money and where their money is invested and if they're going to potentially benefit from the policies that they're advocating.”
While candidates are not required to release their tax returns, they are required to file financial disclosure statements. Those showed that three of the Republicans running for Senate are millionaires—hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, former Congressman Mark Neumann and former Gov. Tommy Thompson.
Hovde, whose personal wealth is at least $50 million, said Wednesday that...

Here and Now

Reporter Zac Schultz talks with U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Fitzgerald in the first of four interviews with the Republican primary candidates vying to take over outgoing U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl's seat.

Republican Senate candidate Eric Hovde is questioning the ability of fellow contender Tommy Thompson to understand some complex financial problems facing the U.S.
All four Republican Senate candidates spoke to a conservative group in Milwaukee, but the news media were not allowed to electronically record the remarks. So, the Senate hopefuls also met briefly with reporters. Polls show Madison business executive Eric Hovde and former Gov. Tommy Thompson leading the GOP primary. Hovde says he has a better grasp of complex financial markets than does Thompson.
State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald continues to tout his experience working on balancing the state budget, but says he also has a private sector financial background.
Millionaire homebuilder Mark Neumann says from his time as a Congressman in the 1990s, he saw up close that the federal government wastes money, and Neumann says he'll continue to highlight that waste.
Neumann says Thompson is not the right person to turn the...

Democrats officially took control of the state Senate Tuesday, returning Wisconsin to divided government after a year-and-a-half of Republican control.
Senators returned to Madison to swear in Democrat John Lehman of Racine and Republican Jerry Petrowski of Marathon. Both won their summer recall elections, with Lehman defeating Republican incumbent Van Waangaard to give Democrats a 17-16 majority.
New Democratic Senate Majority Leader Mark Miller used his speech on the Senate floor to call for new jobs bills. Among them, a grant program for worker training and a new focus on accelerating public works projects like road and bridge repair. Miller said the full legislature should come back now and not wait until January, “We are the eighth worst in the country in terms of job creation. People who are out of work can't wait another six months for us to do our jobs. So I really hope that both the governor and Assembly Republicans will recognize that there's...