Jim Klauser worked for Tommy Thompson as his secretary of administration and as a key adviser. Although he had several official titles, many considered him to be a sort of deputy governor. Since the end of the Thompson Administration, Klauser has gone on to continue being quite a power broker in the Republican Party in Wisconsin. Klauser has had his fingers in a lot of different right wing pies but recent events make me wonder if his influence is fading amongst Wisconsin Republicans.
For me the questioning of his influence started shortly after he went on a media spree pushing former congressman Mark Neumann as the GOP candidate for governor in 2010. He sent out an open letter, appeared on Mike Gousha's Up Front program, and supported Neumann's candidacy in comments to several other media outlets. He did all of this while knowing that the perpetual failure of a gubernatorial candidate, Scott Walker, was preparing to launch his latest campaign.
In his April 20 open letter Klauser took what seemed like thinly veiled shots at Walker. He commented that Neumann comes from Waukesha County which is growing. I don't know exactly how he thinks that Neumann is responsible for this but he seems to clearly be saying it because Walker comes from Milwaukee County which has been losing population. He further stresses that Mark Neumann has private sector experience, when we all know that Walker has never held a private sector job of consequence. He also said that Neumann is best able to win and govern well, obviously suggesting that Walker would not.
On the April 26 edition of Up Front, airing only days before Scott Walker's official announcement, Jim Klauser was again promoting Mark Neumann over Walker. When asked about Walker being from Milwaukee County and possibly making inroads into the Democratic stronghold, Klauser responded with skepticism saying, "He can win in a nonpartisan race, that's very different than the electorate that turns out in a partisan race (in Milwaukee)." He also went back to emphasizing Neumann's private sector experience saying that we should just look at "the problems that the state has and in Milwaukee" in terms of employment. Klauser then repeats that Neumann is the only candidate that has hired people and created jobs.
Even after stepping on Walker's official announcement with a media blitz and probably even a little arm twisting behind the scenes, Jim Klauser has very little to show for his efforts. Scott Walker killed Mark Neumann in the Wispolitics staw poll at the GOP convention. I think most people expected Walker to win since he has been running a nonstop campaign for governor for years, but I don't think anyone predicted it by such an embarrassing margin. To add insult to injury, during the convention Walker announced the formal support of a majority of Republican legislators and party officials. Ouch! That had to sting for someone like Klauser that is so used to calling the shots and being taken seriously. Given the events of the last month, I have to wonder if that right-wing ship has finally sailed for Jim Klauser.
Mark Neumann could have helped Klauser's cause by maybe not waiting so long to launch his campaign. Why would he let a primary opponent get so far ahead of him? I know that he has a ton of money and at least one big wig behind him, but waiting so long just doesn't make a lot of sense. Judging by some of the comments on blogs/news sites and questions raised at Heartland Hollar, one has to wonder if the Neumann Homes problems are giving Mark second thoughts. It must already be embarrassing for Jim Klauser to have his advice totally ignored by his own party, but how badly would he look if he put all of his chips on a candidate that never ends up running? Maybe he can pull a rabbit out of his hat before this primary is over, but for now he looks like he has lost a few steps along with some influence.