Former Governor Tommy Thompson
I have always liked former Governor Tommy Thompson. Now, it appears he may enter the Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat that has been occupied by Democrat Russ Feingold since 1993. Thompson, who served 14 years as the state's leader before being named the U.S. Health & Human Services Department Secretary under President George Bush's administration, is thinking about getting back into politics. But, he says he may not decide until the July deadline for nomination papers to be submitted.
I remember when I was a young reporter for both radio and The Bottom Line, Governor Thompson would usually direct one of the first questions from the media towards me after completing a news conference. "Ok, Mr. Bottom Line, what is on your mind today?" was generally how he addressed me. I thought that was pretty cool. But, aside from that personal antecdote, Tommy Thompson always seemed like a real guy to me - not a typical politician.
The former Governor Thompson was the best cheerleader Wisconsin ever had in politics. And, he was a pretty funny guy. I remember when the North Crossing was being christened in 1994 and the Badger State and Minnesota were constantly in a battle to attract businesses to their respective states.
Thompson had a story that went something like this: "Ya know, Minnesota claims to be the "Land of 10,000 Lakes". Heck, in Wisconsin, we have 15,000 lakes. And we have fish in ours! ". Typical Tommy.
Of course, since he left the political scene, Thompson has served on the boards of directors for a number of prominent corporations. He claims that he is not making as much money as the media portrays, but either way, he is probably doing better financially than when he served as governor. In other words, he likely has enough reserves to mount a challenge to a three-term United States senator.
Tommy Thompson spent a few years in Washington,D.C., after he left his gubernatorial post. That will allow some to portray him as a "beltline insider", which could damage his credibility. But, who really thinks that a Washington,D.C. outsider is going to change the climate in the U.S. Senate? Maybe it is not such a bad idea to support a potential Tommy Thompson campaign. After all, Russ Feingold has been a professional politician and D.C. insider the past 18 years.
My only advice to Tommy Thompson is to make a decision soon - and once you announce whether you are running or not, stick with the program. Wisconsinites don't like our favorite people to change their mind.