What if Tommy Thompson Threw a 25th Anniversary Gala and Nobody Came?
By Graeme Zielinski
That's what happened this weekend in a humid embarrassment for Tommy Thompson and the Republican Senate nomination.
For weeks, Thompson's bumbling campaign had been advertising Saturday's $50-per-head fiesta at the Concourse Hotel as a chance for everyone to get together to throw back highballs and kneel at the Altar of Tommy, harkening back to a time when welfare moms were on the run, Scott Walker was getting kicked out of Marquette student elections and high-speed rail was just a twinkle in Tommy's eye.
Back in those days, a Tommy event would have packed the Concourse to the gills with hard-partying lobbyists and supporters.
And that's what Saturday's organizers must have expected to mark the 25th anniversary of his ascendance to governor, setting up a second-floor ballroom for a banging party-complete with cash bar, a buffet and a D.J., who just might have had some Phil Collins and Bananarama up his sleeve.
In a hallway outside the ballroom was set up a sort of reliquary to the Time of Tommy, complete with yellowing newspaper articles, tattered old campaign brochures, some Tommy hats, pens, awards and other knickknacks. There were pictures from the 1980s of him jogging. An engraved cigar box. And more pens (man, he likes pens).
At the scheduled hour of the event, there were fewer than a dozen supporters in a room outfitted for an entire Tommy battalion.
The troops never came. People mingled uncomfortably, the bartender looked distractedly into space, the music played too loudly for the empty room.
Then at some point, accompanied by a half dozen staffers that added significantly to the crowd being swallowed by the vastness of the room....Tommy!
To his credit, he was able to shake everyone's hand.