T.Wall’s Tales from the Trail, Part 4: Why Did I Exit?

Many have commended me for an honorable exit, and I appreciate their kind words. But not being in the political arena, they still can’t understand why I exited. (I prefer to refer to this as a strategic retreat, to regroup and consider my alternatives.)

There are a number of reasons, but first and foremost is that in order to beat a fellow Republican opponent who brings in paid professionals from Washington, I would have to engage in the same kind of negative, dirty campaign. I would also have to replace some of my team, bringing in the “right” consultants and a few hatchet men of my own. I would have to become the very political being that I despise, and frankly, I don’t want to become that person. It’s not worth selling my soul in a devil’s pact. Call me naive, but I still believe that sooner or later the people of Wisconsin will recognize an honest candidate; it may take another economic downturn for that to happen, and more jobs to be lost, but some day I believe it will happen.

Second, once Johnson became the endorsed and “official” Republican candidate (regardless of how that happened), he would receive the resources of the party, including Victory Center support and the telephone banks, while I would not. Sure, the party says that all candidates are treated equally, but that’s not true. I’ve seen how candidates who are not the anointed ones are treated — very differently. I’d be locked out from a practical perspective. The whisper campaign against me would start in earnest.

You’re not convinced? Just look at how the conservative talk radio hosts in the Milwaukee area locked me out from speaking on their programs, while giving my opponent air time. Yes, Charley Sykes was very honorable in apologizing for how he treated me originally, and he said he’d put me on the show (which would have been after the convention), but the damage was done. The only talk radio host who treated the candidates and me with fairness and respect was Vicky McKenna.

Third, with two strong candidates in the race, fund-raising would drop from our estimated $3 million over the summer to maybe $300,000 if I’m lucky. Most donors (but not all) will use two candidates as an excuse not to donate. For Johnson or me to beat the other, we’d have to spend about $7 million because we’d both keep ratcheting up the spending for TV and radio commercials. Then, once one of us wins the primary, he would have to spend another $7.5 million to beat Feingold.

So now instead of a $7.5 million race, the cost to beat both Johnson and Feingold rose to $14 million, and 99% of it would have had to come from my own pocket. Well, call me a non-politician, but that’s insane. I realize that Johnson says he’d spend every penny of his fortune to win, but what that really means is the voters have a candidate who wants it too bad. That’s someone who wants desperately to be Senator rather than doing it for the right reasons. Is this the kind of Senator we want?

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