Nathan Sass

Examining Eric Hovde

In 2012 Elections, Eric Hovde, Mark Belling, Politics, Ron Johnson, Rush Limbaugh on March 20, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Eric Hovde has made the rounds on the Wisconsin talk radio circuit, most recently doing a lengthy Q&A with WISN’s Mark Belling, the undisputed king of Wisconsin conservative talkers.  (Belling is one of few guest hosts for the legendary Rush Limbaugh.)

Belling is known for a rather hard hitting and direct style, even when questioning other conservatives on the air.  Many times he asks the uncomfortable questions many other hosts will shy away from.  The Hovde interview was true to that form, and Belling questioned Hovde about some things that other may not dare to.

That willingness made Belling’s interview of Hovde the one I most anticipated, and I came away largely impressed with Hovde.

When asked tough questions, Hovde did not seem to flinch or retreat into “tested” talking point responses.  Hovde was conversational and discussed his answers at length.

Most of the public has grown very tired of politicians who never seem to actually answer a question, and when they do, they seem to repeat the same things over and over again.  Hovde did not appear to this listener to do that.

Belling asked a very direct question about why Hovde was running, and Hovde gave an answer that was honest and hit a very real chord for me.  Hovde said essentially that he realized that “shouting at the television” was not going to do anything, and that simply writing checks to other people and groups only did marginally more.

It was this realization, according to Hovde, that spurred him to do what most people in his position would be very reluctant to do.  I must be honest and say that I fully relate to this because I have had that very same feeling, but have not yet found the right time and place to do what Hovde is willing to do right now.

Hovde entered a race for US Senate with little name recognition, expecting to use much of his own money, against 3 very well known Wisconsin Republican politicians.

Hovde is facing a Wisconsin legend in former Governor and US Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, former Congressman and GOP candidate for Governor Mark Neumann, and the sitting Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.  These are 3 very big heavy weights in Wisconsin politics who have “played the game” for a long time and know the ropes.

More importantly, Hovde’s response brought to mind a statement that Ron Johnson made at the Milwaukee Co. Reagan Dinner.  Johnson said we need more candidates who run because “they want to do something, not just be something”.  In my opinion, if Hovde’s motivation was merely to be a Senator, he would not be running right now, given the competition he faces and his low profile entering the race.

I have a pronounced bias for candidates from the private sector, especially those who fit the Johnson description, who are on a mission to accomplish real change in D.C.

That said, I am not in any way saying that Eric Hovde is “the next Ron Johnson”.  Senator Johnson is a unique phenomenon in politics, and there may never be another on just like him.  Eric Hovde has to be Eric Hovde, and sell us that he is worthy of our vote.

On that account Hovde acquitted himself very well.  His issue of choice is the US deficit and debt, and his professional experience in the finance industry gives him ample foundation to take that issue on directly.  Hovde not only explained the current problem very well, but had some very well thought out solutions to that problem.

He was bold in calling for a return to 2006 budget levels, which would all but eliminate the Obama deficits.  This proposal is daring and gutsy, and he should be given credit for not just calling for the typical “reduction in growth” cuts most Republican politicians advocate.

Hovde went further however and answered Belling’s direct questions on Social Security and Medicare spending by calling for a tiered increase in the retirement age for Social Security to more closely match the original intent of the program when it was enacted.

On Medicare he fully endorsed the proposals of Congressman Paul Ryan, without much of the reservation typical of politicians who seem to feel the constant need to have their own plan to seem smarter and more important than anyone else.  It was refreshing to hear a candidate get behind a good plan someone else came up with rather than having to “impress” us with their supreme wisdom.

Hovde has been attacked in some conservative quarters as being a RINO.  Detractors point to a one time $500 donation to Democrat Jim Doyle as evidence that he not a true conservative.  Hovde has answered that charge in a few places, claiming to not recall making the donation specifically, and if he did it must have been at the request of a friend.

While this answer is not comforting in and of itself, I am not willing to dismiss a candidate for one donation either.  There was only ever the one donation to any Democrat, and then it was an amount far less than the maximum allowed.  Furthermore, every candidate in any race who comes from the private sector has likely done something similar over their life time.

In contrast to the single $500 donation, Hovde has been a regular contributor to the GOP and to conservatives in general.  He donated to the campaigns of all the recalled Republican state senators and was a major supporter of Scott Walker.  There is no pattern of RINO donations.  Therefore I consider the Doyle donation to be an outlier, not an indicator.

Further addressing the RINO allegations, Belling asked about the tendency for Madison Republicans to “go native” and forget their conservative beliefs.  Hovde addressed this directly by recounting his personal experience advocating conservative beliefs very publicly while a student at UW-Madison.  There is no real evidence that Hovde is a “Madison Republican”, and every reason to believe he has true conservative principles that he is proud to hold to and defend.

If I had Harry Potter’s magic wand, I would clone Ron Johnson 99 times.  Since I don’t have that ability, I must be wiling to look for others from a similar background and with a similar motivation.  Hovde may just be that man.

There certainly is a lot of time left for him to prove me wrong, but until he does I think I have found a candidate worthy of my support.

Anytime we have the chance to send someone to Washington that has built businesses, demonstrated success, conducted themselves with a high degree of ethics in their professional and personal lives, and are not part of the “political class”, I believe we need to give them a very serious long look.

Baring something very significant, those men and women should receive our support over those who have spent a lifetime in politics, and have spent a significant part of their adult lives chasing one office or another.  That type of candidate claims “experience” in government as their biggest asset.  The truth is that they have “experience” doing things the way we always have and led us to this point.

I would rather have someone with no “experience” in government doing things the “Washington Way”, and more experience in real life doing things they way the rest of the world does.

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