When a prominent politician scoffs and laughs off a question, but never really answers it — well, that’s enough to fuel wild speculation in political circles.
Such is the case with former Congressman Dave Obey, the 7th District Democratic icon who retired after over four decades in Congress. He’s staying politically involved, and recently joined former Democratic majority leader Dick Gephardt’s liberal think tank.
But when it comes to speculation of whether Obey may run for office yet again, he hasn’t made his future entirely clear.
Recently he has been mentioned as a possible candidate against Gov. Scott Walker, should opponents be able to force a Walker recall election next year.
Now, this was partly fueled by a column by liberal Madison columnist Dave Zwiefel, who wrote more than a month ago how a long-time Democratic activist and advisor Bill Dixon openly called for Obey to run. Dixon said it would be tough to convince Obey to do it, but thought he would respond to a call from the people for him to run.
Asked about the column in a recent phone interview with the Herald, Obey joked “I wonder what bar they were in when they thought that one up.“
And at the FightingBob Fest North in Chippewa Falls last month, Obey railed about Republican policies and abuses of power, and commented that it made even someone like him mad enough to consider running.
That brought a wild ovation from the crowd, but afterwards Obey said he was only joking.
Obey has denied having an interest in running for office again, but was indirect when asked if he ruled it out.
He joked again that if people wanted a “grumpy old gus” that wouldn’t care whether he got re-elected, then maybe it would make sense.
But a more serious comment took a wait-and-see stance.
“What we have to do first is see what happens with these recalls,” he said, referring to upcoming recall elections against six Republican and three Democratic state senators.
Indeed, whether there is a Walker recall election may depend on how those elections go.
So may a definitive decision from Dave Obey.