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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

 8:13 AM 

Leinenkugel: Johnson the stronger candidate against Feingold

Dick Leinenkugel said he ultimately dropped out of the Senate race because he didn't want an expensive and bloody GOP primary that would make it harder to beat Dem Russ Feingold.

Leinenkugel told WisPolitics Monday he met with Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson about two weeks before announcing his own Senate campaign and thought the two had a lot in common. He said he still decided to get in because it wasn't clear at the time what Johnson's plans were or if Tommy Thompson was going to make a run for the seat.

But Leinenkugel said he came to the conclusion last week that he should bow out.

"We’re not all that different," said Leinenkugel, most recently Gov. Jim Doyle's Commerce secretary. "We believe in the same things. But who’s going to be the strongest to beat Russ Feingold? I think it's Ron Johnson."

Leinenkugel said prior to deciding to pull the plug, he was preparing to put his own money into the race and was in the process of building his campaign operation.

One campaign source said Leinenkugel was ready to put in $2 million and was talking to an operative who worked on the U.S. House special election in New York last fall.

Leinenkugel said he also decided he didn't want it badly enough.

"You had to ask yourself, am I totally committed? Am I totally committed to do that? Not only that, am I 150 percent into this thing? Am I going to get up each and every day with that fire in my belly?" Leinenkugel said. "Sometimes it’s a hard thing to admit, especially for me as a former Marine, a guy that’s dedicated my life to serving our state and the family business. Sometimes it’s a hard thing to admit that, you know what, maybe I don’t want it all that badly."

Leinenkugel said the Republicans who gave him a rough reception were a minority within the party and that conservatives he talked to around the state understood why he went to work for the Doyle administration. Even so, he was taken aback by how some in the GOP "absolutely hate the governor, and that's surprising to me because it is so vicious."

"Anger is OK, but we need to be a party of ideas," Leinenkugel said. "We just can't be the party of no, no, no."


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