POLITICS
09/07/2011 01:51 pm ET Updated Nov 07, 2011

Wisconsin Conservative Bloggers To Jim DeMint, Club For Growth: Don't Meddle In Our Senate Race

WASHINGTON -- A group of conservative bloggers in Wisconsin are calling out Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and the Club for Growth for making an early endorsement in the state's U.S. Senate race, saying they reject their attempt "to foist their choice upon Wisconsin."

Both the Club for Growth and DeMint have endorsed former Wisconsin GOP Rep. Mark Neumann for the seat being vacated by retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl. Neumann is the only Republican to declare his candidacy so far, although several others are rumored to be considering a run for the seat.

In a glowing Aug. 31 post on the website for his PAC, Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF), DeMint made clear that he is putting his support behind Neumann: "If Mark Neumann is elected, there is no question that he will fight to save freedom. I could go on and on about Mark Neumann's conservative credentials, but you get the picture. He's the real deal."

In the post, DeMint solicited his supporters' opinions about whether SCF should formally endorse Neumann.

The next day, Club for Growth President Chris Chocola announced that the group's political action committee was backing Neumann, saying that while in Congress, Neumann "fought members of his own party on spending, received straight As from the National Taxpayers Union, and was a leader in the fight for limited government and economic freedom."

In response to the endorsements, seven Wisconsin bloggers posted a letter on Tuesday, questioning whether Neumann should be the chosen candidate for the primary.

"We respectfully request the national conservative groups and individuals to take a second look at their endorsement of Neumann," reads the letter. "We ask that since many of them missed the opportunity to come to Wisconsin during the recent battles over collective bargaining for state employees and the recall elections, they come to Wisconsin now to talk to true Wisconsin conservatives to find out what they think of Neumann before attempting to foist their choice upon Wisconsin."

In an interview with The Huffington Post, co-signer Kevin Binversie, who writes the blog Lakeshore Laments, pointed to Neumann's "unsportsmanlike and ungentlemanly" conduct during his 2010 gubernatorial primary run against Scott Walker.

Binversie pointed to the fact that at the Wisconsin GOP convention in 2010, Neumann staged a protest, claiming he and his supporters had been locked out of the event -- a claim that conservative bloggers disputed. There were also reports that he was threatening to run as an independent if he did not get the GOP nomination.

"This is more about his actions in 2010 than anything in 2012," said Binversie, adding that Neumann "didn't just burn bridges, he napalmed a lot of bridges during that primary."

He compared the Neumann endorsements to a hypothetical scenario in which national progressive groups embraced Ralph Nader after he angered Democrats by running for president as a member of the Green Party in 2000.

Steve Eggleston, of the blog No Runny Eggs, pointed to Neumann's 2010 response to a question about the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision, when he said that he would like to "shut down every outside source of information in this campaign except the candidates themselves."

The conservative Wisconsin Policy Research Institute said at the time that Neumann was supporting "governmental censorship of political speech."

Club for Growth Spokesman Barney Keller defended the group's endorsement of Neumann in a statement to The Huffington Post, saying the race was essentially a contest between Neumann and Tommy Thompson, a former Health and Human Services secretary and four-term governor of Wisconsin.

"Wisconsin Republicans will likely have a choice between two candidates: Mark Neumann, who fought his own party on spending and opposed ObamaCare, or Tommy Thompson, who supported Obamacare and ballooned state spending as Governor. We are proud to stand with Mark Neumann," said Keller.

Yet Eggleston pointed to five Republicans who have expressed interest in running -- Thompson, former state Sen. Ted Kanavas, state Sen. Frank Lasee (R-De Pere) and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R-Horicon). "It simply is too early for a national group to endorse a candidate for an open seat," he told The Huffington Post.

Eggleston added that he believes "any of the potential GOP nominees" would be able to beat Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who announced her candidacy on Tuesday.

"Mark Neumann is the most conservative candidate in the race. That's why conservatives from across Wisconsin and the country are supporting him, including the Club for Growth," said Neumann campaign spokesman Chris Lato.

DeMint did not return a request for comment.

This story was updated with comment from Neumann's campaign.