Rebecca Kleefisch lost the fight to land former President Donald Trump’s endorsement, but Wisconsin’s former two-term lieutenant governor remains adamant that she’ll win her state’s Aug. 9 Republican gubernatorial primary in the race to face off in November with Democratic Gov. Tony Evers.
“I’m going to win this primary and then I’m going to win the general and then we will make Wisconsin the place to admire for a conservative policy revolution,” Kleefisch predicted in a Fox News interview on Friday.
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The former conservative lieutenant governor spoke the day after Trump endorsed Tim Michels – her main rival for the GOP nomination in the key Midwestern battleground state.
Trump called Michels – a multimillionaire owner of a construction company who’s spent his own money to launch an ad blitz on Wisconsin airwaves in recent weeks – a “successful businessman.”
And the former president highlighted that “during my Administration, Tim served on my infrastructure task force, and helped us plan and start building the Keystone XL Pipeline before Joe Biden launched his assault on American Energy production.”
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Trump’s endorsement gave Michels – who was considered an outsider when he first launched his gubernatorial campaign – an instant shot of adrenaline.
“I appreciate President Trump’s endorsement and vote of confidence. This is a tremendous boost to our efforts,” Michels acknowledged in a statement.
And he touted that the endorsement was “a continuation of our astounding surge since I entered the race.”
Michels, Kleefisch and state Rep. Timothy Ramthun, another contender in the four-candidate GOP gubernatorial primary field, all trekked to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida in hopes of landing the former president’s support.
Trump’s backing of MIchels was viewed as a big setback for Kleefisch, who served eight years as lieutenant governor under former Gov. Scott Walker and who was seen as the Wisconsin GOP establishment favorite in the primary.
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But Kleefisch told Fox News, “Donald Trump says he likes winners and I’m the only person in this race who’s won statewide. In fact, I’ve won statewide four times.”
Touting her record in office, Kleefisch said she’ll continue to “make my case based on my established credentials of being a conservative reformer. I was lieutenant governor during the conservative policy revolution that had everyone looking at Wisconsin.”
Kleefisch emphasized that there are “big policy differences” between herself and Michels and stressed that she has “incredible respect for the grassroots of Wisconsin. Those are the people with whom I’ve built relationships for 12 years, since I’ve been a Tea Party mom fighting against big government overreach, overspending, waste, fraud and abuse.”
Sixteen months removed from the White House, Trump remains the most popular and influential politician in the GOP, as he continues to play a kingmaker’s role in the 2022 party primaries and repeatedly flirts with another White House run in 2024. But Trump’s clout among Republicans has suffered some high-profile setbacks in recent weeks, with the candidates he was backing in the gubernatorial primaries in Nebraska, Idaho and Georgia losing.
Kleefisch, in her Fox News interview, was careful not to criticize the former president and demurred when asked if Trump was given some bad political advice in making his Wisconsin endorsement.
But questioned about her chances of success without the former president’s backing, Kleefisch quickly answered, “You knock me down nine times, I’m going to get up 10.”