Skip to comments.Wisconsin Senate Race Will Be Test of Political Mood
Posted on 07/11/2012 6:50:25 PM PDT by randita
Wisconsin Senate Race Will Be Test of Political Mood
Stuart Rothenberg July 11, 2012 · 10:17 AM EDT
Wisconsin has drawn plenty of attention recently, first because of the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker (R) and then because it is one of a handful of swing states in the 2012 presidential election.
But it is the Senate race for retiring Democrat Herb Kohls seat that could end up being the states most significant contest, if it determines control of the Senate.
The Democratic standard-bearer will be Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a graduate of Smith College and the University of Wisconsin Law School. She served on the Dane County Board of Supervisors before winning election to the state Assembly in 1992 and to Congress six years later.
Republicans tend to see Baldwin, the first openly gay woman to be elected to Congress, as a flawed candidate, noting her voting record and her identification with liberal Madison.
But even if Baldwin is too liberal for her state, thats hardly reason for Republican euphoria. The Senate is full of Members who were too liberal and too conservative for their states, and Baldwin is a serious, well-funded and articulate candidate from a state that has in the past elected liberal Democrats such as Bill Proxmire, Gaylord Nelson, Russ Feingold and Kohl to the Senate.
That said, Baldwin could have difficulty appealing to moderate voters if Republicans can make the race a referendum on her voting record. The Madison Democrat ranked as the 21st most liberal House Member, according to National Journals 2011 ratings.
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.
But while Baldwin does not run from the progressive label, she isnt going to allow Republicans to push her too far left. Her first TV spot, Paper, focuses on jobs and accuses China of cheating and costing the state jobs. But the spot also portrays the Congresswoman as someone who has reached across the aisle. I brought Democrats and Republicans together to put sanctions on China now, she says in the 30-second commercial.
The Baldwin team includes Diane Feldman for polling and Saul Shorr and Mandy Grunwald for media.
On the GOP side, the early frontrunner for the Aug. 14 primary was former Gov. Tommy Thompson, 70.
A former three-term governor who left the states top office after the 2004 elections, Thompson served as secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. He still has strong name recognition and a positive image in the state, which accounts for his early strength in the race, both in the primary and general election matchups against Baldwin. He has been endorsed by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R).
But Thompson has plenty of baggage as well, including favorable comments about President Barack Obamas health care law. And he is a high-priority target of the Club for Growth, the anti-tax libertarian group that went after Sen. Dick Lugar in Indianas GOP primary.
Though he is running as an anti-Obama, limited government conservative, Thompson is being attacked from the right by two main opponents. A third conservative candidate, state Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, is widely regarded as lacking the funds to compete seriously for the Republican nomination.
Former Rep. Mark Neumann has been endorsed by the Club for Growth (one of Neumanns former employees and staffers now occupies a senior position with the group), Republican Sens. Mike Lee (Utah), Rand Paul (Ky.), Tom Coburn (Okla.) and Pat Toomey (Pa.), and RedStates Erick Erickson.
A serious, sincere and ardent advocate of lower taxes and less spending, Neumann has run unsuccessfully for a number of offices and lacks the natural charisma that some candidates possess.
Eric 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.
Like the rest of the Republican field, Hovde is running to the right (Democrats certainly could argue that each of the Republicans is too conservative for the state), but his lack of a legislative record, his personal wealth, conservative rhetoric and personal style make him a very formidable contender for his partys nomination.
The multicandidate race certainly benefits Thompson, who started with high recognition and a good image but always was vulnerable to attacks from the right and from an outsider candidate. In a one-on-one contest, Thompson is in serious trouble.
For the moment, the GOP race has become a Hovde-Thompson battle. A new survey of 564 Republican primary voters conducted July 5-8 by Public Policy Polling, a Democratic firm, shows Hovde leading Thompson 31 percent to 29 percent, with Neumann at 15 percent and Fitzgerald at 9 percent. But the Club for Growth could change the current dynamic of the race by jumping in for Neumann.
While the groups spokesman, Barney Keller, said the Club for Growth strongly supports Mark Neumann because hes the only reliable fiscal conservative in the race, it hasnt yet made a big financial bet on the former Congressman.
The Club for Growths entry would improve Neumanns prospects, but it would also improve the odds that Thompson, the groups prime adversary, could win.
While the Republican race unfolds, Baldwin is free to conserve her resources and to try to define the general election in populist terms, as a choice between middle- and working-class voters on one hand and the super-rich on the other. Her website has portrayed Thompson and Hovde as the Washington Twins, a sure sign that she expects one of those two to be her opponent.
PPPs general election survey of 1,057 Wisconsin general election voters shows Baldwin drawing from 44 percent to 46 percent against each of the potential Republicans, with her running even against Thompson (both with 45 percent) and trailing Hovde by a single point (45 percent to 44 percent).
I really don’t think we need anymore homosexuals in the Senate.
I would disregard PPP polling outright. Saying that, however, I preferred Fitzgerald in the race. Thompson needs to be retiring, not embarking on a Senate career (and he should’ve run back in the ‘90s and refused to). Neumann seems too desperate to get back into office (he was barely able to hold his old House seat that Paul Ryan easily has in succeeding him) and he couldn’t take down the unpopular Feingold. Hovde might be an intriguing choice, and perhaps worth taking a chance on if he can defeat Thompson (hopefully he will be similar in style to Sen. Ron Johnson, another non-pol).
How many more tests must we endure?
A good Wisconsin Governor would FREE Wisconsin of the disease of the UNIONS...
Scott Walker is not doing that... he is afraid..
If Walker was courageous he try to institute legislation making Wisconsin a “RIGHT TO WORK STATE”..
He would become famous and set the stage for other States around the Great LAkes to do the same..
Until that happens nothing really HAS happened.. in Wisconsin..
Thompson isn’t serious about running. He just wants this seat for his legacy.
But he may win because of name recognition.
Hovde, the new kid on the block, stumbled out of the gate by giving a terrible speech at the state convention and addressing a group of well informed Republicans as though they needed a lesson in GOP 101.
He is handsome and engaging..and he is getting better at public speaking, though a little long in the tooth. Less is more, Eric.
He is spending a ton of his own money on ads and is everywhere!..definitely working harder than any of the others, especially Thompson.
Tommy is calling in favors from cronies but he hasn’t raised as much as Hovde is spending.
Fitzgerald, probably the best candidate, has no money.
Neumann, a fiscal conservative, isn’t going to win cuz conservatives have a long memory and he dissed Scott Walker badly when he ran against him for Governor.
I’m leaning Hovde but there is still something about him that bothers me. What is his previous record of working for GOP and conservative causes/candidates? Apparently NADA. But I’d rather see him take on Tammy Baldwin than the Rino former Gov. who should be retiring.
That’s what I thought.
Uh, unless I am remembering it wrong, the recall election of the Wisconsin Governor was a ‘test of the political mood’,
Not really because the Democrats (relatively normal ones) were against this and voted for Walker to stay in office. I am unsure if they would vote for a Republican Senator. The reason they voted for Walker is because they felt it was complete BS which of course they were right.
I live in Wisconsin and we love Scott Walker here and stand with him.
You obviously know nothing about him so why don’t you shut the hole up.
He balanced an out of control budget, took on the unions FEARLESSLY and has been a role model for other governors.
He has garnered the respect of the people of our state and the entire country.
You wish you had the moxy and integrity of Scott Walker.
Keep sippin’ that vodka atta your hose, pipe.
I had been an early supporter of Neumann based upon some of his early endorsements. However, it does not seem like he’s faring well at all as the race unfolds. So I’m moving my support to Hovde as he now seems like the best candidate to both defeat Thompson in the primary and Baldwin in the general election. My financial contributions will not be large and are largely symbolic, but it’s all I can do as an out-of-stater (People’s Democratic Republic of Maryland).
“....nothing really HAS happened.. in Wisconsin..”
Do you not keep up on current events? Or are you living in some sort of alternate universe?
Lots of great things have been happening in Wisconsin since Governor Walker was elected. The folks in Wisconsin have a lot to be proud of—both in Governor Walker and in themselves for starting the process of overthrowing their oppressors.
obviously you hope that thompson loses, but this is muddy enough that you have to let the people of wisconsin decide the primary. too bad.
The Unions Own Wisconsin..... Still...
Not that anyone would want to with her but why would a working man vote for a woman who wouldn’t have sex with him?
[ He balanced an out of control budget, took on the unions FEARLESSLY and has been a role model for other governors. ]
True.... he did that and others things as well... BUT...
He overlooked the literally only thing that will fix Wisconsin.. ONLY thing..
He must FREE Wisconsin of the threat of the UNIONS..
Where the Unions are Boss FREEDOM is not available..
The Unions stand in direct opposition to the taxpayers..
They are the enemy of a free State parasites on the taxpayer..
Walker is tinkering with the edges overlooking the “problem”..
The Unions are Wisconsin’s ONLY PROBLEM...
Liberals never rest. They never work, but they never rest.
But after seeing what happened in Ohio (which is even less unionized than us), most of us have to agree that Pennsylvania just wasn't ready for a Scott Walker. Corbett did get some of our worst public employee unions to make significant concessions based on what was actually accomplished in Wisconsin.
The unions actually chose to avoid confrontation here. Maybe we could have gotten a better deal by provoking a confrontation. But maybe we could have lost as happened in Ohio.
Scott Walker didn't set out to provoke a confrontation. He merely asked for reasonable concessions and the unions chose confrontation.
I don’t live in WI, but it sounds like Hovde is da man!
Until that happens nothing really HAS happened.. in Wisconsin..
You are so full of crap!!!
Gov. Walker of WI took on the unions virtually single handed. He got harassed. Threatened. His private home picketed. Recall election. Yet, he survived the onslaught of national unions. His name is an obscenity in union halls throughout America.
I'd say he's done a damned fine job! Perhaps when legislature reconvenes, he'll move to make WI a RTW State. I can only wish Republicans in Jeff City were as aggressive as Gov. Walker and his supporters in WI. Alaska as well...
Tell me where you got that idea. I don't live in WI, but one senator can impact everyone in the country - take the example of Ben Nelson (NE) and Obamacare. So I'm highly interested in this race.
If ol' Ben had just said no, Obamacare would not now be the law of the land and ol' Ben may be sitting pretty for re-election.
I hope the good people of WI vote for the candidate that has the best chance of burying Baldwin. Thompson is a known, but Hovde is a new kid on the block. What we don't need is another Angle or O'Donnell. But I think the GOP voters in WI are smart enough not to go that route.
“If Walker was courageous he try to institute legislation making Wisconsin a RIGHT TO WORK STATE..
He would become famous and set the stage for other States around the Great LAkes to do the same..”...........
“Timing” is the answer. Let the dust settle before making the next move. I have great confidence in Gov. Walker and have encouraged him to introduce such legislation. Time will tell.
“Not that anyone would want to with her but why would a working man vote for a woman who wouldnt have sex with him?”
Amen to that!
i gotta laugh. from your comment, i guess you wouldn’t know that i spent hundreds of dollars in time and money (volunteering and calls) to help o’donnell and angle because i judged them to be true conservatives. it’s precisely because i don’t see an o’donnell, angle or a walker in this senate race that i’m staying out of it with my resources and letting the “smart” people on the ground in wisconsin sort it out.
Angle and O’Donnell might have been true conservatives, but they were neophyte politicians and got torn to shreds because of it.
I’m still of the old school thinking that “you should support the most conservative candidate WHO CAN WIN.”
The venerable FR contributor, Common Tator (may he RIP) convinced me of that. Wish he were still around.
[ You are so full of crap!!! ]
You are full of good wishes... I want to see RTW....
I don't think any real conservative in Delaware would have much chance. And Angle (and her campaign) made some serious blunders in NV. RNC offered little help.
Go with your gut, Mary. Hovde is the man, despite the nast Club for Growth ads. As much as I like Fitzgerald, he has no money, and his campaign is going nowhere. Baldwin has raised a ton of money. It will take deep pockets to oppose her in Nov.
Unfortunately, many Republicans are tapped out after the recall debacle. We need Hovde and his money to win this seat.
Union membership is down by 50% in Wisconsin since Walker’s election. I think a bigger problem in Wisconsin is same day registration at the polls. It invites voter fraud. Hopefully the next legislature will address that problem.
FReep Mail me if you want on, or off, this Wisconsin interest ping list.
Okay. I’m almost there, B.