Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin’s announced Republican challengers have, so far, run ridiculous campaigns that suggest they are more interested in currying favor with national political operatives than representing Wisconsinites.

State Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, and businessman Kevin Nicholson spent most of 2017 competing for the support of Steve Bannon, the hero of the alt-right who was positioning himself as the architect of a new extreme-right Republican Party until he got on the wrong side of President Trump.

Bannon gave his blessing to Nicholson. Last month, after Bannon’s star had faded, Vukmir called on her rival to disavow his most prominent supporter — only to have Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writer Dan Bice remind everyone: “Vukmir had an entirely different take on Bannon in the fall, back when he was still considered a Republican kingmaker. She really wanted the guy's endorsement."

Two sources close to Bannon told the Journal Sentinel that Vukmir was “the first of the two Wisconsin GOP candidates to reach out to Bannon” and that the two met last Sept. 19 to talk politics. Vukmir proved to be unimpressive and her primary opponent got the nod, but Wisconsinites should remember that both Republican contenders tried to align themselves with the adviser who ultimately proved to be too noxious even for Trump.

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This may explain why Madison businessman Eric Hovde is thinking of entering the Republican primary. It’s late, but not too late perhaps for a principled conservative with deep roots in the state and less interest in playing parlor games with political charlatans. 

John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. and @NicholsUprising. Nichols is the co-author, along with Dave Zweifel, of the new book "The Capital Times: A Proudly Radical Newspaper's Century Long Fight for Justice and Peace," published by the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. It's available on the Historical Society website, and at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

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