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Opinion
Jonathan Bernstein

Republicans Have a Recruiting Problem

Trump’s influence elevates weak candidates while deterring other conservatives from seeking office.

GOP candidates like Wisconsin’s Rebecca Kleefisch could struggle without Trump’s endorsement.

GOP candidates like Wisconsin’s Rebecca Kleefisch could struggle without Trump’s endorsement.

Photographer: Scott Olson/Getty Images

This Tuesday, Wisconsin Republicans will select their nominee to take on incumbent Democratic Governor Tony Evers. Evers should be vulnerable; Wisconsin is about as much of a toss-up state as there is, and with a Democratic incumbent president whose approval rating is below 40%, 2022 should be an excellent year for Republicans.

They have even recruited a seemingly solid candidate, former lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch. Yet polls suggest that Kleefisch will lose the primary to a first-time candidate who is running ads attacking her for failing to support former President Donald Trump early enough in 2016. Businessman Tim Michels has Trump’s backing, while Kleefisch has endorsements from an array of Republican politicians, including former Vice President Mike Pence.