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GOP strategist previews this weekend's Republican Wis. governor primary debate on TMJ4

Republican Gubernatorial Primary Debate.png
Posted at 4:24 PM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 19:20:29-04

MILWAUKEE — Three of the Republican candidates for Governor will take the stage at Marquette University's Varsity Theater at 6 p.m. on Sunday. A GOP political strategist says "anything could happen."

Candidates Rebecca Kleefisch, Tim Michels and Timothy Ramthun are all ready to convince voters that they are the Republican who can beat Tony Evers in November.

The most recent Marquette Law School Poll shows Michels just barely in the lead. 27% of Republicans surveyed favored him, compared to 26% for Kleefisch and just 3% for Ramthun.

GOP strategist Bill McCoshen says all eyes will be on the front-runners.

"You have to assume that Michels, him being in the lead based on the latest Marquette Law School Poll, that he'll try to get out of there without making any mistakes," said McCoshen. "On Kleefisch's side, she's going to have to change the trajectory of the race. So, she's going to have to be pretty aggressive with Michels."

McCoshen also thinks Ramthun will need to spice things up.

"He's only got a single issue and that's election integrity. I don't think that will be enough to stand out on Sunday night. He's going to have to distinguish himself on other issues," he said.

Regardless of polls, McCoshen said a lot can change between now and the Aug. 9 primary election.

"Yes, Michels has the lead, he's got the momentum at this point and time, but there's 17 days left and anything can happen," said McCoshen.

For voters, McCoshen believes there's one big issue that everyone wants to hear about.

"I think voters, almost exclusively, are paying attention to the economy. Inflation, gas prices. That's the number one issue. Not only now, but it will be in November and I think whoever has the boldest plan on Sunday night, that's going to serve them very well," he said.

The major difference between this debate and last week's Senate primary debate? Candidates might spend more time going after each other.

"None of them went after the front-runner, Mandela Barnes, but I don't think that will be the case this Sunday," said McCoshen.

It's a race that any of the candidates could still win and a debate that could shake up the trajectory of this upcoming election.

How can I watch the debates?

There are many ways to watch both debates live.

1. Watch live on TMJ4 News

2. Watch at

3. Watch on the TMJ4 News mobile app.

4. Watch on your Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire stick, or other smart streaming device.

5. Watch on TMJ4’s Facebook page

6. Watch on WGBA in Green Bay, WEAU in Eau Claire, WMTV in Madison, WZAW in Wausau, and My9 in Duluth/Superior.

How can I get involved in the debates?

You can submit questions or topics for the debate candidates here.

Attendance for both debates is free and open to the public. However, you must register in advance here.

Who is moderating the debates?

Both debates will be co-moderated by TMJ4 anchors Charles Benson and Shannon Sims.

In addition to TMJ4 and Marquette University,, 620 WTMJ, and the Milwaukee Business Journal are sponsoring the debates

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