Political handicapper Stu Rothenberg has an excellent update on the U.S. Senate race in next-door Wisconsin (as if there hasn’t been enough political drama over there recently).
The seat is open because incumbent Dem Herb Kohl is retiring. All of the analysts who rate Senate races have it as a toss-up. That’s partly because the Repubs don’t have a candidate yet, with four candidates competing for the nomination in an Aug. 14 primary. The Dem nominee with be U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is not only the first openly gay woman to serve in the U.S. House (and would become the first openly gay Senator of either gender, if she wins this race, but is also openly liberal with a record that will thrill those who are tired of liberals who are always running to the middle.
First the Repub primary. Tommy Thompson, former governor, former secretary of health and human services, is the big name. But he’s 70 years old and his history as a moderate is attracting plenty of fire from the Repub right. Thompson did horribly in seeking the Repub endorsement, being forced out of the race on the second ballot because he failed to reach the 20 percent threshold. But Thompson may have caught a break because the convention failed to endorse anyone. Most recent polls of the likely primary electorate show Thompson leading, but one this week showed millionaire Eric Hovde ahead. Wrote Rothenberg:
“Hovde, 48, has become the greatest threat to Thompson, according to his own polling. Hovde, who started a financial advisory firm and bought a number of banks, grew up in Wisconsin and attended the University of Wisconsin before relocating to the Washington, D.C., area. His opponents are reminding voters that Hovde, who has never before sought elected office, returned to the Badger State only recently.
Telegenic and with deep pockets, Hovde used a big statewide TV buy to introduce himself to GOP voters. He has hired the same consulting firm, OnMessage Inc., that helped elect Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) in 2010.”
Most polls also show Thompson as the strongest Repub nominee against Baldwin, and if I had to guess, I would still favor him to win the primary and the general election. But he is clearly not the unstoppable force he was when he dominated Wisconsin politics in the late 1980s and all through the 90s.
Baldwin, has the advantage of no intra-party competition. In this day and age, especially in a purple state like Wisconsin, you generally find Dem candidates who take the liberal vote for granted and then position themselves closer to the middle. But Baldwin has been in Congress for 14 years (and in the Wisconsin Legislature before that) and has a record, which includes (from the Rothenberg piece):
“She voted against authorizing the invasion of Iraq, for the stimulus and cap-and-trade bills and for the Democratic health care bill — even though she preferred a bill that included a “public option.” And she has indicated her support for a single-payer (government) health care plan. She favors the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act and opposed the extension of the Bush tax cuts.”
The most recent National Journal rankings rated her the 21 most liberal member of the House.