UW Election Eye is in the middle of Wisconsin after reaching every corner of the state over the past two weeks. What we saw today south of Wausau is a governor spinning tumbling poll numbers and drinking beer for a photo op on the eve of only the third gubernatorial recall election in U.S. history.
STEVENS POINT, Wisc. — It is the ultimate political paradox.
The people ultimately responsible for protecting Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker are not anywhere near his strongest constituency.
In fact, a few police officers from this charming Midwestern town joined with state patrol in joking with protesters angrily opposed to Walker and passionately in favor of Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett in Tuesday’s statewide recall election.
One officer initially told protesters he always separates his personal opinions from work duties, but then laughed: “Get back to me Wednesday and we’ll maybe have something to celebrate.”
Dave Kratzke remained silent a few feet away, at one point staring at the ground prior to Walker’s arrival. “I’ve heard he’s a really nice guy, and some friends of mine who’ve met him say the same thing,” Kratzke told me later after a hundred protesters dispersed. “Whenever [Walker] is around people, he seems to be super friendly so I’m not sure what the deal is.”
Kratzke has served Stevens Point for 29 years, yet was the only officer or patrolman who would offer an opinion about Walker on the record.
He was also the only one to say something positive — even off the record — about the Tea Party hero who has governed Wisconsin for barely 16 months.
State Highway Patrol is responsible for the safety and security of every state’s incumbent governor, making it virtually impossible for a trooper to criticize his or her boss.
“Dupe detail,” as one cop explained under condition of anonymity, is when you line up a row of officers in one location surrounding an idling vehicle while the person you’re protecting exits a venue elsewhere.
Indeed Walker’s own campaign staff made no secret of the strategy, stationing working media at an inside door through which the governor would enter the brewery.
The same reporters were later whisked away to a separate exit with minimal courtesy. Dupe patrol is a calculating, well-oiled machine that creates an array of photo opportunities; then darts for the exits under a shroud of secrecy.
This is the same sort of secrecy Barrett supporter Tim Osborn despises. “This governor [Walker] has no conscience,” Osborn said, hoisting his anti-Walker sign out on the front sidewalk. “I’m not a vengeful person, but he has no soul.”
Opinions run hot in Stevens Point, whether you’re protecting or protesting Gov. Walker.