WAUSAU (AP) -- He's a former TV weatherman whose forecasts earned him a nickname of "Wrong Sean." His brother is in the rock band REO Speedwagon. He once did a news conference at a funeral parlor. And he feels flattered that his "portly little belly" and balding head give him a striking resemblance to NBC-TV weatherman Willard Scott.
Meet Sean Cronin, the 41-year-old Republican and first-time candidate trying to oust U.S. Rep. Dave Obey, a Democrat who has represented the sprawling 7th District since 1969, making him the dean of the state's congressional delegation.
For 11 years, Cronin gave weather forecasts on Wausau's WAOW-TV, giving him an obvious political asset: voters already know him.
"People have told me that they feel like I am a member of their family. They tell me they feel like I am a very close friend because I am on TV," Cronin said.
"A lady came up to me and said, 'Sean, I have to tell you: All the years you have been on TV, I woke up with you in my bedroom every single morning and I went to bed with you at night.' I just thought that was so funny."
But Cronin acknowledges some viewers might remember him for mistaken forecasts -- "Hey, I am not God" -- that earned him his rather dubious nickname.
"'Wrong Sean' was something that stuck years ago," he said, laughing. "I don't worry about those things. I have heard it all."
Cronin isn't the first Wisconsin candidate hoping to parlay his TV celebrity into a career in Congress.
In the 1990s, Republican Scott Klug, a former TV news anchorman in Madison, represented the 2nd District for four terms before stepping down, and Democrat Jay Johnson of Green Bay, another former TV newsman, served a term as 8th District congressman before being defeated in 1998.
Obey, 62, has had past challengers with some TV fame. He defeated former Iranian hostage Kevin Hermening in 1986 and 1988. Hermening was one of 52 Americans taken hostage in 1979 when fundamentalist Muslims overran the U.S. embassy in Tehran. The youngest hostage, he was a Marine guard.
Back in 1969, Obey defeated Wausau TV news anchor Walter John Chilsen, a candidate he called "the Walter Cronkite of central Wisconsin."
"I knew Walter John Chilsen. Walter John Chilsen was a friend of mine. Sean Cronin is no Walter John Chilsen," Obey quipped last week.
"Lots of people have name identification," Obey said. "I am not going to make any judgment about him. … He is far from the best-known person I have ever won against."
Ed Miller, chairman of the political science department at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, said Cronin is certainly known to people because of his TV work, but his chance of winning is remote -- unless longtime Obey supporters decide it's time for a change.
"I think people believe Dave Obey is competent on the issues and that he will work for the working person," Miller said.
Wausau resident Jim Young, 67, erected a Cronin for Congress sign in his yard.
He remembers Cronin as the weatherman who goofed up forecasts. But he doesn't hold that against him, especially now that he's challenging Obey, someone Young has never voted for.
"He seemed to have a good sense of humor, a good approach to it," Young said. "I have no reason to dislike him, and I think we need a change. I don't know what Obey has done for us really."
Cronin, who left WAOW in June 1999, recalled the day the Republican bigwigs, including the state party chairman, gathered in his home to talk to him about running against Obey. "It was like the movie, 'The Candidate.' It was funny. The room was loaded with all these people."
He decided to run, he said, because he was furious at what he called the "nonsense" going on in Washington.
"If you and I did half the things the people in Washington did, somebody would put us away and throw away the key," he said.
His political agenda includes his promise to use the projected federal budget surplus to pay down the federal debt, shore up the "Social Security mess," create a prescription drug benefit in the Medicare program and give taxpayers an across-the-board ta
As a weatherman going to Congress, he would bring some expertise as a scientist, Cronin said. "It could help on the issue of global warming."
He said one young person in Stevens Point told him "you got my vote" simply because his brother, Kevin Cronin, is a rock 'n roller, singing and playing guitar for the group REO Speedwagon.
But the brothers' politics are decidedly different.
"My brother is a big Democrat," Cronin said. "He actually played at Clinton's inaugural. I have told a lot of people that too."
Cronin acknowledges that few give him a chance of winning.
But he sees an upset as possible with his $220,000 campaign war chest, considering that his TV exposure likely makes him the best-known opponent ever to take on Obey.
"One thing is, nobody has ever had the name recognition that I have. That helps so much. The name ID I have is probably worth $2 million."