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Attendees at the Democratic Party of Wisconsin 2010 State Convention on Friday in Middleton.

11:30 a.m. | GOP candidate Neumann crashes party

Republican candidate for governor Mark Neumann was swamped by Barrett supporters when he showed up at the Democratic convention to share his thoughts about what Barrett would be like as governor.

He was greeted by chants of "Barrett! Barrett!" but the crowd quieted so he could talk about the Milwaukee mayor.

"Respectfully, we cannot afford Tom Barrett to be our next governor," Neumann said.

When the State Journal asked him about what Barrett called a "substance gap" in the campaign, Neumann denied it.

"Clearly, we stand for smaller government, less government spending and people keeping more of their own money in the form of tax cuts," Neumann said. "And I think that's very substantive."

Neumann got into some specific opinions during his visit, such as stem cell research. He said he would have the "pro-life position" opposing embryonic stem cell research. But said he's a strong supporter of stem cell research not using embryos.

Mike Tate, chairman of the state Democrats, later joked that he knew Neumann couldn't get in with Republicans at the GOP convention, but didn't expect him to try to come to the Democrats' event, too.


10:30 a.m. | Barrett says there is "substance gap" in race

Candidate for governor Tom Barrett told convention goers that he's the one in the race with substance, accusing his opponents of "empty rhetoric" and having their heads in the clouds.

"We are not the party of no," he said. "We are the party that tries to get things done."

During his speech, he has promised to fight for job creation, better education, health care, agriculture, and environmental protection.


9:50 a.m. | Obey praises stimulus, slams Duffy and WMC

He was reportedly up until after 1 a.m. signing books and talking with attendees, but U.S. Rep. Dave Obey was back at early Saturday morning. He talked with the State Journal about a range of issues -- from economic recovery and Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce to state Sen. Julie Lassa, Republican challenger Sean Duffy, and campaign cash.

"The economy is like a patient that has just come out of intensive care," Obey said.

He said there's nothing "fresh" about GOP candidate Sean Duffy, calling his position on a minimum wage "primitive," but praised state Sen. Julie Lassa, who's running against Duffy to replace Obey.

"She's got more experience than I had when I ran," he said. "She's a very effective legislator."

As for the approximately $1.4 million Obey had gathered in campaign cash, he said he's not yet sure how it'll be spent.

"I don't have any idea how that works. I mean, we're getting a legal memo laying out what we have to do with it."

Obey said he assumes some of it will probably go to the state party and some will go to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.


7:30 a.m. Saturday | Barrett to take the stage this morning

Candidate for governor Tom Barrett will be addressing the crowd at the Democratic convention this morning. He made an unexpected appearance last night after his daughter's graduation, but only said a few words.

Barrett is scheduled to speak after U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl and before a line-up of candidates for state offices like attorney general and secretary of state.



10:20 p.m. Friday | Barrett, a great candidate for Virginia?

Tim Kaine, chairman of the Democratic National Committee and former Virginia governor, got so excited about candidate for governor Tom Barrett that he apparently forgot where he was late Friday night. 

That's right, he's not in Virginia anymore. But Kaine said Milwaukee Mayor Barrett would be a great governor for Virginia. 


9:55 p.m. | Feingold: Senate not a country club

U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold accused his opponent Ron Johnson of being silent on key issues on Friday night-- saying not even tea partiers know where he stands.

But Feingold also enjoyed telling stories about what Johnson has said during interviews, especially about how he reportedly decided to run for Feingold's seat. Johnson has told stories of watching Fox News and hearing how a rich guy in Wisconsin should challenge Feingold.

"It's almost as if a non-millionaire in the Senate offends Ron Johnson," Feingold said. "There's only like five of us left!"

He added that the Senate isn't supposed to be a country club, and proceeded to beat up his opponent on issues like global warming, oil companies, and health care.


9:23 p.m. |Obey - Or maybe he's the next Bob Dylan?

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey quieted the standing, cheering crowd at the end of his speech, then busted out his harmonica for a musical break.

Who knows, maybe he's leaving Congress to focus on his music career instead.


9:10 p.m. |Obey - The next Brett Favre?

U.S. Rep. Dave Obey said he read so many nice comments from his long-time political opponents when he announced his decision to retire that he couldn't help thinking of another Wisconsin legend.

Obey said he thought of "hiring Brett Favre as a consultant to reconsider."

He added he wouldn't be following in the footsteps of #4, and that this would be his last address at the state's Democratic convention. But he couldn't resist taking jabs at Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce and Republicans on his way out the door.

"They have had a lot of practice at being on the wrong side of history," he said of the GOP.


8:45 p.m. | Farm girl on a mission

State Sen. Julie Lassa said she knows how to fight — and win.

Lassa spoke of growing up on a farm and the do-it-yourself mentality she learned from her parents.

"When something needs doing, you roll up your sleeves and you get it done," she said.

Citing her efforts to ban on the chemical named Bisphenol A in sippy cups and baby bottles to pushing for greater transparency in state contracting, Lassa said she's proven that she's up for a fight in the race to win U.S. Rep Dave Obey's seat.


8:25 p.m. | Baldwin: Read your newspapers

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin warned the crowd against getting their news from spin-masters alone. She said too many people are getting their news from "24/7 campaign stations for the GOP."

Baldwin also urged against over-confidence going into the fall elections.

"History shows midterms aren't kind to the President's party," she said.


7:59 p.m. | Ghosts of Wall Street haunting convention?

Mona Sutphen, a White House deputy chief of staff, was in the middle of talking about the importance of keeping an eye on Wall Street when her microphone went silent.

But the Milwaukee native didn't let that deter her. She kept talking, even before getting a new mic.


7:35 p.m. | Lawton: Special interests hold government hostage

Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton remembered how, eight years ago, she promised to get big money out of politics.

And, yeah, she admitted that's still a work in progress.

Telling the crowd that government is "still held hostage by special interests," Lawton urged them to insist the candidates they meet on the campaign trail will promise to push for campaign finance reform.


7:10 p.m. | Sheridan: "We didn't make this mess"

Assembly Speaker Mike Sheridan gave quite a few shout-outs to the Republicans -- whom he called the power-hungry "party of no" -- during his speech Friday night.

"We didn't make this mess," he said. "We inherited it."

He asked for the crowd's help to keep Democrats in control of the House and Senate, saying he dreaded what the state would be like if the other party was still in power.

"This year the stakes have never been higher," Sheridan said.


6:40 p.m. | Mike Tate: "You ain't seen nothin' yet"

Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, told the crowd that he knows some people think he's a bit aggressive. And he promised his style won't be changing anytime soon.

"You ain't seen nothing yet," he said.

Tate said "we will continue to call out the hypocrisy" and target Republicans until election day and beyond. He admitted U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan won't be going anywhere in the near future, but made it clear Wisconsin Democrats hope to send him packing.

"Before we are done, we are going to get Paul Ryan," Tate said.


6:00 p.m. | Tossing cookies

As attendees filed into the Democratic convention, cheery young women standing just outside greeted them with big smiles and offers of fortune cookies. 

The fortunes inside? Not so sweet and cheerful. They were all messages from the Republican Party of Wisconsin, taking jabs at Democratic politicians like Gov. Jim Doyle, candidate for governor Tom Barrett and others.

U.S. Rep Ron Kind rolled his eyes when he heard about his own cookie -- which reads, "Dear AIG: Thanks for the European Vacation - Ron Kind." He said Republicans were misrepresenting a trip he took years ago with a bipartisan delegation organized by the Congressional Economic Leadership Institute. Kind compared the Repubs to arsonists who set a fire then stand around complaining about how long the responding firefighters take to extinguish it.

* * *

Follow State Journal political reporter Mary Spicuzza as she brings you dispatches from inside the 2010 state Democratic convention beginning Friday at the Marriott West Hotel in Middleton. Hundreds are expected to attend this year's convention, which will be packed with candidates for state and federal offices and other party faithful. Democrats aren't making any endorsements this weekend, but party favorites like Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and state Sen. Julie Lassa will be featured prominently in the program.

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