At a GOP party in rural Wisconsin, there was a mixed reaction to McCarthy’s ouster

Adams, Wis. – Hours after a small group of conservative House members ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a Wisconsin lawmaker from a rural district in the heart of the battleground state addressed his fellow Republicans. Lincoln Day Dinner – Immediately interrupted by someone dressed as Abraham Lincoln.

The presidential impersonator, wearing a stovepipe hat and long black coat, accused him of not being conservative enough.

Scott Crook, a seven-term state lawmaker who always votes with his party but has argued for compromise with the state’s Democratic governor on election policies, shook his head.

Both serve on the Adams County Board, and Crook blasted differences in the county budget. He used the moment to remind attendees that Republicans have continued to lose in Wisconsin since 2018, and told them they will win because they tolerate differences among party members and keep their conflicts behind closed doors.

“We didn’t put it on public display like Congress did today,” he said, standing in a dining room decorated with mounted deer heads and campaign placards.

“Perception is reality in politics,” he continued. “Perception of Republicans in National Politics is at Bottom Right Now.”

On Oct. 3, the Republican-led House, led by a minority of his own caucus, ousted Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as speaker. (Video: Michael Catenhead/The Washington Post)

On Tuesday night, internal tensions within the Republican Party increasingly spilled over into the public, blocking their ability to pass legislation and win elections, paralyzing the House, at least for now.

A Lincoln impersonator, Josh Postolsky, said he spoke during Krug’s speech because he wanted his colleague to “vote like a Republican.” When asked about McCarthy, Postolski said he wants to focus on local government.

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Most speakers stuck to their usual talking points, describing their party as focused on common-sense issues like lowering taxes, lowering energy prices and ensuring voters have to show ID to vote. They blamed President Biden and Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers (D) for causing inflation to skyrocket, and warned that a neoliberal majority on the state Supreme Court could redraw the political lines that gave Republicans a large majority in the state legislature. They thanked them for their past work and urged them to volunteer for purple, where races are often won by one percent or two percent.

The way to win is not infighting, Crook said in an interview after his speech. He described the effort by Rep. Matt Gates (R-Fla.) and seven Republicans to join Democrats to remove McCarthy as ridiculous. “It’s a grade-school game,” he said.

Pete Church, chairman of the Adams County Republican Party, downplayed the disruption of Krug’s speech, but said he sees an increase in infighting among Republicans after the 2020 election. Fears division That would make it harder to keep first-term Rep. Derrick Van Orton (R-Wis.) in office.

“What they’re doing is making it very difficult for us to retain our Congress,” he said, referring to Gates and other Republicans on the far right. “Government shutdown is not the solution. And vacating the Speaker is not the answer because I don’t see any plan for them.

Van Orton voted against McCarthy’s removal, as did every Republican in Wisconsin’s congressional delegation. Elected last year with 52 percent of the vote, Van Orton is a top House target for Democrats next year in Wisconsin. In recent weeks, Van Orten has expressed frustration with GOP divisions over the speakership and government funding. In a recent radio interview, he accused his colleagues on the right of “jeopardizing our ability to live as a free society for their own reasons.”

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But at a dinner party Tuesday at Connell’s Cedar Shack, some Republicans said they They were happy with the decision to fire McCarthy. Neil Wiczynski, treasurer of a chapter of the College Republican Party, said he was skeptical of McCarthy from the beginning because he saw him as a “wannabe.”

“When you’re speaker, you have to stand up for the party’s values,” Wiczynski, 26, said. “Kevin McCarthy, unfortunately, has not followed through on the Ukraine funding several times. When he didn’t, his party turned on him.

Ken Gulbranson, a retired utility worker wearing a camouflage cap in blaze orange with former President Donald Trump’s name on it, said he only considered McCarthy a Rino or a Republican. Gulbranson, 60, sees his exit as an opportunity to put in a more conservative speaker.

“All the Republicans seem to be bowing to the Democrats and wanting to — except Trump, and that’s why people are like Trump,” he said.

Other participants were troubled by the move against McCarthy. Steve Nelson, 69, said he doesn’t like that Getz and his allies are relying mostly on Democratic votes to oust McCarthy.

“I don’t think they understand that it’s like an ocean liner,” he said. “You can’t make a right turn. You have to veer right and get back in time. I thought McCarthy kept us going in the right direction.

From the podium, Brian Schimming, chairman of the state Republican Party, said he couldn’t do much about the battle for speakership, but suggested the controversy offered a warning about the dangers infighting can bring. Republicans in the state lost recent races for governor, attorney general and state Supreme Court because they couldn’t unify after hurting the primaries, he said.

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“I’m not against primaries,” Shiming said. “But I’m against primaries where Republicans fight Republicans harder than they fight Democrats.”

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