In Wisconsin, the Green Lake Reporter, one of America’s tens of thousands of weekly newspapers holds the key to the 2010 governor’s race. Above the fold, photo and stories aren’t focused on the healthcare reform debate or even on the effect (or lack thereof) from the federal stimulus plan. Today’s lead stories are local and highlight the stress of an economy gone south: “Sunken boat recovered from Green Lake” and “County prepares for potential layoffs.” Green Lake voters know what Tip O’Neill knew to be true, all politics is local.Governor Jim Doyle would do well to remember the Green Lake Reporter when planning his reelections’ next media blitz. Buried inside this week’s issue is a key journalistic clue, an opinion column entitled “Wisconsin’s citizens deserve better” written by Scott Walker, candidate for governor. Walker, Milwaukee County’s Executive, is one of four Republicans vying to unseat Doyle in 2010. A survey research firm, Public Policy Polling (PPP), found that Doyle has just over a 34 percent approval rating and trails two 2010 opponents in hypothetical contests: Scott Walker (48-40) and former Congressman Mark Neumann (42-41). Compared with President Obama’s overall 63 percent approval rating in Wisconsin this June, U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold’s 56 percent approval and the relatively low polling strength of Republican challengers, PPP concludes the results of the gubernatorial contest sampling “has a lot more to do with Doyle than it does with either of them.” The Green Lake Reporter may not contribute significantly to raising Walker’s profile and name identification outside of the locals and visitors to the first class Heidel House Resort this election cycle, but it does point to a phenomenon common in usurping power from incumbents—empowering the voice of the commoners. By placing op-eds, columns and local interest articles in weeklies and monthlies during the course of a long campaign, many an insurgent and challenger has leveraged the tried and true grassroots method of reaching voters directly—thus skipping the cost and the overhead of an air campaign. By routinely placing his message in locally produced and regionally read newspapers, candidates like Scott Walker are able to promote his message of “putting citizens first” especially with Wisconsin families and employers struggling to pay the bills and keep the lights on. While Governor Doyle seeks federal stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top program, Walker and his brethren are able to hammer home the jobs and no new taxes messages where voters are paying attention: at the local level.If 2008 taught us nothing else, looking at all the options in a campaign ought to be one key lesson. Number crunching analysts talk about hanging chads and absentee ballots but real voters understand real life concerns: job layoffs, cut backs in emergency services and public education. In a state ranked 43rd in the nation to do business (4), it’s no wonder news coverage focuses on what happens to Green Lake neighbors laid off from their county jobs. By publishing Scott Walker’s column, the Green Lake Reporter, amplifies Walkers’ message of local concerns and ties it to the immediate impact of cutbacks which effect even what happens after boating tragedies requiring County Sheriff’s Office resources to assist in rescue and recovery efforts. Meanwhile, Governor Doyle and state lawmakers are dialing back on promises made to local districts more than a decade ago. Parent and teachers in Wisconsin’s schools—most of them rural—are bracing for as much as 15 percent reductions in state aid and should be willing to consider alternatives in next year’s election.Jim Doyle had amassed a $2 million war chest prior to 2009 but raised an anemic $903,000 while local public official Scott Walker was able to raise $1.1 million between January 1 and June 30 this year, of which more than a quarter million dollars came from online contributions. With 15 months to go before the next gubernatorial election in Wisconsin, Doyle remains silent on his intentions to run for a third term. Doyle has no primary opponent, and his top political adviser, Mike Edmondson, admits they have “no sense of urgency.” All the better for challengers and the weekly papers who write about and support local news.