Romney in Walkerland

Mitt Romney, Fitchburg, Wisconsin. Photo by Callen Harty.

Mitt Romney and the other Republican candidates have been campaigning heavily in Wisconsin this weekend.  Romney wants to deliver a knockout punch to Rick Santorum by taking Wisconsin, Maryland, and Washington, DC on Tuesday so he has pretty much been living here the last few days.  He has moved ahead in the polls here recently despite Santorum leading by double digits just a couple months ago.  An NBC poll yesterday showed him ahead of Santorum by seven percentage points.  He wants to maintain that momentum and take the primary on Tuesday, so he will be spending the day in Wisconsin tomorrow, too.

But on Saturday he chose to campaign at a location that was sort of mind-boggling–unless what he believes he is doing is reaching out to take away some of Santorum’s Tea Party support.  The place where he chose to campaign was a call center that is decorated with “I Stand With Scott Walker” signs and where volunteers spend hours on the phone calling Wisconsinites to make sure they vote to keep Governor Scott Walker in office when the recall election is held in just a couple months.  He gave no speech outside the office or addressed the crowd in any way.  His words were reserved for Walker’s volunteers.

Anyone who has followed politics in the last year must certainly know that Scott Walker is probably the most divisive governor in the United States (narrowly beating out Ohio’s John Kasich and Florida’s Rick Scott).  Walker’s policies have been so extreme that more than 900,000 people signed petitions to recall him from office, even after having to wait a year before they could begin to collect signatures.  So why would a candidate trying to win a primary election throw himself into the middle of such a fray, especially when that embattled governor has not endorsed him?  The only thing that makes sense is that he believes that Walker’s supporters are also Santorum’s supporters and that he could possibly steal some votes by showing up and acting like he cares about Walker’s neck.  But Walker and Santorum are both Tea Party candidates.  Romney is not.  Nor is he the true conservative in the race.

Those who truly support Scott Walker are mostly Tea Party conservatives.  The Wisconsin governor has lost moderate Republicans and independents.  Those who are truly Walker supporters know that Romney is not one of them.  Granted, the former Massachusetts governor has pushed himself further to the right in this election to gain credibility with those who are now considered the Republican base (but who in reality are simply the loudest and most demanding extremists in the party), but Santorum is the true conservative.  Maybe Romney was pushing himself further right today, or perhaps at least giving the appearance of it.  If not, his visit is inexplicable.  Perhaps he doesn’t realize how polarizing Walker has been.  Perhaps he doesn’t know how many Republicans here have defected because of Walker.  If that is the case, then his advance people failed him.  To make an understatement aligning himself with Walker does not seem to be the most politically savvy move Romney could make in the dairy state.

Outside of the call center there were a handful of supporters and dozens of protesters.  When Romney arrived he got out of the car and waved to the crowd as if they were all gathered there to cheer him on when in actuality they were there to jeer him.  He didn’t seem to notice.  He went inside, spent about 20 minutes or so, and headed back out to his car.  On his way out he waved again, seemingly oblivious to the chants against him.  By then virtually all of his supporters had gone home.  It seems  possible that others who may have supported him prior to this visit may just stay at home on Tuesday.

About Callen Harty

Originally from Shullsburg, Wisconsin Callen Harty is the author of four books and numerous published essays, poems, and articles. His most recent book is The Stronger Pull, a memoir about coming out in a small town in Wisconsin. His first book was My Queer Life, a compilation of over 30 years worth of writing on living life as a queer man. It includes essays, poems, speeches, monologues, and more. Empty Playground: A Survivor's Story, is a memoir about surviving childhood sex abuse. His play, Invisible Boy, is a narrative with poetic elements and is also an autobiographical look as surviving child sex abuse. All are available on (and three of them on Kindle) or can be ordered through local bookstores, He has written almost two dozen plays and 50 monologues that have been produced. Most of them have been produced at Broom Street Theater in Madison, Wisconsin where he started as an actor, writer, and director in 1983. He served as the Artistic Director of the theater from 2005-2010. Monologues he wrote for the Wisconsin Veterans’ Museum won him awards from the Wisconsin Historical Society and the American Association of State and Local History. He has also had essays, poems, and articles published in newspapers and magazines around the country and has taken the top prize in several photo contests. His writing has appeared in Out!, James White Review, Scott Stamp Monthly, Wisconsin State Journal, and elsewhere. He has had several essays published online for Forward Seeking, Life After Hate, and The Progressive. Callen has also been a community activist for many years. He was the co-founder of Young People Caring, UW-Madison’s 10% Society, and Proud Theater. He served as the first President of Young People Caring and as the Artistic Director for Proud Theater for its first five years. He is still an adult mentor for the group. In 2003 he won OutReach’s Man of the Year award for his queer community activism. OutReach is Madison, Wisconsin’s lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender community center. He also won a Community Shares of Wisconsin Backyard Hero award for his sex abuse survivor activism work. He has been invited to speak before many community groups, at a roundtable on queer community theater in New York City, and has emceed several events. In 2016, Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault named him their annual Courage Award winner for his activism, writing, and speaking on sexual assault.
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