What is causing Badger State Republicans to brawl? With a Senate nomination on the line, GOP partisans in Wisconsin are engaged in open political warfare between the leading MAGA candidate and the MAGA establishment.
There is no reason at all you should know the name of a sheriff in another state, and yet David Clarke Jr.’s borderline insanity and far, far-right views have made him famous.
The former Milwaukee County sheriff has decided to use that marginal fame as the basis for a run for the Senate from Wisconsin.
That would pit him against the very popular and quite liberal Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI).
The hat-wearing former lawman would lose to Baldwin, and it wouldn’t be close in a 50-50 state. It would be a Herschel Walker redux.
And that reality has the Wisconsin establishment GOP in a bad mood, but it seems as though they’re giving Clarke Jr. the silent treatment early. From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s report:
“But asked by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Wednesday about Clarke’s recent comments and potential candidacy, NRSC Chairman Steve Daines, a senator from Montana, laughed and said only: ‘Well, we’re looking for candidates who can win primaries and general elections.'”
For his part, Clarke Jr. is being anything but silent. He tweeted:
“This is a huge problem. I will not allow the @NRSC and NRC to leave me high and dry after the primary. They want nothing to do with me. They can’t control me. They would sacrifice winning control of the Senate rather than get behind me. @NEWSMAX.”
If it feels like we’ve been down this road before, it is because we have.
There is the mainstream NRSC, which emphasizes recruiting candidates who can raise money for their races.
Politico reported in 2020 that then-NRSC Executive Director Kevin McLaughlin said his party could help fix the problem with small-dollar donors by “recruiting strong candidates who can both self-fund and win general elections.”
Wisconsin is the state that sends Ron Johnson to the Senate. There are plenty of voters capable of choosing David Clarke Jr. as their candidate, who will then get rolled by Tammy Baldwin.
The entire dynamic above has led to a clash within the GOP, even if the establishment is quiet — for now.
Their position in other races has made clear that they’re tired of these far-right “crazies” (and Clarke Jr. certainly fits that description),
Herschel Walker is Exhibit A. As close as that Georgia race was, it would appear that any normal Republican candidate could have won.
David Clarke Jr. may have more fame in the far-right, and he has traveled more nationally than Herschel Walker ever did.
We don’t know of any personal issues (but they could be out there). His fame, however, could hurt him as much as help because it’s “out there,” and I’m being generous.
One can glean a lot from Clarke Jr.’s statement regarding where things stand in the GOP. It would seem that he has things entirely backward. From Newsweek’s report:
“My initial reaction to that statement is that it is tone deaf. The Republican Party has an image problem. The Democrats have painted them as the Party of the rich and a good old boy club of white males. Say what you want but there is some truth to that visually.”
“The GOP needs a face lift and that won’t happen when GOP Party officials make statements to that effect that basically eliminates minority and women candidates.”
The Democrats see the Republicans as the party of a cult of personality led by Donald Trump alone.
Democrats see Republicans moving toward never trusting elections and thinking elections are irrelevant.
Democrats would love to see a GOP run by rich white guys like Mitt Romney, who believes in the Constitution.
Romney sees the direction of the party and is getting out.
The “facelift” is away from people like David Clarke Jr. and Marjorie Taylor Greene to a party more like John Cornyn or Liz Cheney (as conservative as they come).
People who know elections are not rigged and want a democratic republic.
Whether the NRSC believes the same is hard to tell.
They can see a person likely to lose a general election and will protest. But as to their general direction, it is hard to tell.
I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JasonMiciak.
Editor’s Note: This is an opinion piece reflecting the opinion of the author alone.
Jason Miciak is an associate editor and opinion writer for Occupy Democrats. He's a Canadian-American who grew up in the Pacific Northwest. He is a trained attorney, but for the last five years, he's devoted his time to writing political news and analysis. He enjoys life on the Gulf Coast as a single dad to a 15-year-old daughter. Hobbies include flower pots, cooking, and doing what his daughter tells him they're doing. Sign up to get all of my posts by email right here: