Soon after I introduced the Rock The First message campaign to defeat Paul Ryan, a few readers pinged my mailbox with some welcome curiosity and criticism.
But before I begin, I have to acknowledge Jeff Simpson from Cog Dissidence with a hat tip for being the first (to my knowledge) to suggest that all voters in the 1st CD should strongly consider voting for republican Paul Nehlen in the August 9th primary.
It was Simpson's post that gave me pause for thought to string together a tagline with some graphics and narrow the focus as non-partisan as possible.
These were some of the email questions (some editing):
Q. If I vote for Paul Nehlen, can I vote for the Democratic candidates in other races?
A. No. If you vote for Nehlen, a Republican, you CANNOT vote for Democrats or registered third party candidates appearing on your August 9th primary ballot. Some voters think that they can vote for any candidate in a primary election like they can in a general, but this has not been the case since 1905, when Wisconsin went to a system of partisan primaries.
Don't worry though because SOMEBODY will win each party's nomination in the other races. Each party with at least one candidate in the primary will have one candidate representing them in the general.
Q. What happens if Republicans run fake candidates on the democratic side for all offices in the 1st CD to prevent the crossover vote and the "somebody" that wins is a Republican stooge?
A. It's a small concern, but not likely. We're living in very troubled times politically in Wisconsin. The GOP in Wisconsin has a history of running fake candidates even without opposition strategy like Rock The First, so no doubt they thought about it. But they probably won't.
Fake candidates don't have to win to succeed, but they do require the public perception that they can win. The fake's purpose is to attract enough republican voters to pose a threat to prevent democratic voters from crossing over. But, fakes need the perception that Republican voters will abandon their party ticket (and instead vote for the fake Dem) for the threat to exist. It's largely psychological. But for that to happen in this instance, Democrats would have to believe 1st CD republican voters would abandon voting for their prize on August 9th.
PAUL RYAN IS THE UNIVERSE to the GOP.
So, for fake candidates to succeed, democrats would have to believe republican voters are willing to abandon voting for Paul Ryan. Obviously, we know establishment republicans are not going to abandon Ryan for down ticket offices with Nehlen breathing down his neck. So that's NOT gonna' happen.
Advantage: Rock The First
But Paul Nehlen needs to get stronger on his own merit. He needs to turn the August 9th primary into a general for Paul Ryan. Keep in mind, Rock The First is not a cheat or promoting fake candidates. It is a non-partisan messaging campaign to let voters know that a workable voting strategy exists to wipe the slate clean in our House and August 9th presents a rare opportunity to make it happen.
Q. I'd be worried about Russ Feingold if I had to abandon him to cast a vote for Nehlen. What about that?
A. On a state-wide ballot? In a primary? Don't be worried. For Feingold to lose to a fake Dem or challenger supported by Republicans, GOP voters would have to abandon their entire state-wide partisan ballot and waste it on a fake candidate. Wisconsin Republicans are indeed crazy, but not that crazy.
If Rock The First picks up speed however and becomes a movement, Feingold will lose some votes, but only from 1st CD voters because Dem voters for Nehlen have to remain on the republican side of the ballot. AND, it's a primary. This may seem obvious, but Ryan and Nehlen appear only on 1st CD ballots while Feingold has the advantage of all eight districts. Conversely, if you vote for a democrat, fake or not, you cannot crossover and vote for a Republican in a primary. Rock The First will have ZERO effect on the November General Election when Feingold eventually faces Johnson.
Q. Do I have this right? You're asking me to ignore the Democratic side of the August 9th primary ballot?
A. Absolutely yes. yes. yes. Because if Paul Ryan is the winner of the GOP primary, any Democrat facing him in the general election will lose with the same 30% - 35%. Like they always have.
Q. Paul Ryan is very popular with the establishment and has over $7 million in his campaign chest. It'll probably reach $10+ million by the next quarter. Do you really believe Nehlen or your sideshow has any chance at success?
A. Yes I think there's a chance providing Nehlen gets stronger. We'll know more about his electability strength by mid-July. I'm not naive either. I understand the odds are heavily against it. Because the 1st CD borders some of the best performing GOPe machinery in the country, this isn't exactly Cantor country. But non-GOP district voters have to put Nehlen's candidacy into an opportunity perspective and act on it. This could be a "now or never" moment. You're either willing to make a special accommodation for it, or you aren't.
For myself, the challenge of it all is the most exciting part, that along with sharing the experience. That's why I blog.
Q. Paul Nehlen endorsed Trump soon after Cruz dropped out. But Trump did poorly in the Wisconsin presidential primary and the 1st CD. Aren't you hitching your ride to a weak candidate to begin with?
A. I don't want to delve too deeply into commenting on Nehlen's campaign. But, I thought it was a mistake endorsing Trump. Generally, I think it's a mistake when any candidate endorses another candidate or organization. Candidates should be seeking endorsements - not handing them out. That could have been played better. Ryan however is the GOP's top office holder, so his position on the party's presidential candidate is expected.
But now, Ryan just endorsed Trump so Nehlen and a third party candidate lost the Trump card. They're all for Trump now. Ryan unified them. Yet, district republicans rejected Trump, but now find themselves stuck with primary candidates that support him. Whether Nehlen can successfully portray Ryan's endorsement as just another betrayal of politically motivated waffling indecisions might be something to look at.
Considering the current political climate among GOP voters, I still think Nehlen is a strong primary challenger. Looking at the big picture, I would say Rock The First district voters should avoid the nabobs of negativism including the national Trump campaign. Just stay focused on the mission to remove Paul Ryan.
Q. Many voters despise Sarah Palin and don't want to associate with her or help her succeed at anything. She endorsed Nehlen so how do you overcome that negativity?
A. Same thing. It's the nabobs of negativism chiming in. Conversely, I can't blame the candidate (Dem or GOP) for the endorsements they pick up. Besides, Rock The First is simply a message, not an endorsement, with a strategy reminding district voters that August 9th presents a rare option and a unique opportunity IF they're serious about wiping the slate clean. That you will have to vote for Paul Nehlen in the primary to get it done is secondary. Focus.
Q. What happens if Paul Ryan defeats Nehlen in a landslide?
A. Then the status quo wins again. Ho hum.
Q. I don't understand that. Won't Democrats, Progressives and Liberals jump at the chance to defeat Paul Ryan?
A. Most would think they would jump at the chance to defeat Ryan, but the quick answer is - no.
Those who follow the 1st CD and Ryan as closely as I have know Democratic candidates challenging Ryan in the past never received proper support from the Democratic Party, the DCCC or from establishment Dem voters. Ryan waltzed through nine election campaigns largely from their neglect. So a lot of people feel betrayed by Democratic party messaging and support well before Nehlen appeared on the scene.
In many ways, Paul Ryan has become the defacto leader of the corporatized "Uniparty" floundering on the establishment wings of the Republican and Democratic parties. So you're best looking at this through a lens of establishment vs. not-establishment (not anti-establishment). Although Trump and Sanders won Rock County and Janesville (Trump won Janesville by slightly more than a hundred votes), Wisconsin and the 1st CD typically lean to establishment candidates.
Q. So what's the political cost to an effort like this? There's got be a catch.
A. Honestly, I don't think there is a political cost. First, all primary candidates without challengers in the primary are in the General Election - Republican or Democrat - and I sincerely doubt Republicans would abandon their Ryan vote to "punish" the other side. IF Rock The First goes viral however, the 1st Congressional District would likely see the largest GOP voter turnout ever for a primary - because the GOP's universe would be under serious threat for survival. There is no catch. What's needed is a tremendous amount of will power from democratic voters to collectively act on it.
There's a lot that can still happen. We'll have to see if Nehlen begins to jell with district constituents and how the GOP's strategy evolves against Nehlen's campaign. We'll know more by mid-July on his chances. In the meantime, help spread the word about Rock The First, open dialogue about the idea during political discussions and keep in touch for developments.
Imagine ...we CAN make it happen on August 9, 2016.