Wisconsin Progressive Tammy Baldwin Is Ahead And Could Tip U.S. Senate Balance
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The Baldwin campaign has been pushing a similar message that "Tommy" has changed since he was Wisconsin's governor, running a series of ads that end with the message "Tommy Thompson. He's not for you anymore."
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee has also spent $7.1 million in Wisconsin, most recently running ads using footage of Thompson at a Tea Party meeting saying, "Who better than me ... to do away with Medicaid and Medicare."
9/11 a Major Campaign Issue -- in Wisconsin, 2012?
Despite huge differences between the candidates on healthcare, entitlement programs, and tax and trade policy, in recent weeks the issue that has dominated the race has been the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
The Thompson campaign rolled out a scathing ad on October 23, "Dangerous Path," that over images of charred buildings and fliers of missing persons from 9/11 accused Baldwin of disrespecting victims of the attack by voting against a symbolic resolution in 2006. Baldwin replied that she voted for nine similar resolutions honoring 9/11 victims, but opposed this one in protest of language praising the USA PATRIOT Act, which incidentally puts her in good company -- Wisconsin's former U.S. Senator Russ Feingold was the lone vote in the Senate against the PATRIOT Act.
Baldwin responded with her own ad two days later, referencing her efforts to honor 9/11 victims and attacking Thompson for profiting off of the 2001 tragedy when he was paid $3 million from a company that won a contract to handle health care for first responders, but was slow to provide care.
On October 28, Thompson responded with another TV spot critiquing Baldwin's ad and making the preposterous claim she "fought to block funding that provides body armor for our troops just to make a political point." Baldwin had supported a bill that would have allowed conscientious objectors to direct their income taxes towards non-military needs, rather than war, but "the notion that, if this bill would pass, it means that Tammy Baldwin would be denying body armor to troops, is ludicrous," said Kenneth Mayer, professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The Thompson campaign sourced the inaccurate claim to Media Trackers, a right-wing "media watchdog" group funded by American Majority that recently made headlines for hyping a brutal lie about the partner of the Democratic candidate seeking to replace Baldwin in the U.S. House, suggesting he threatened and assaulted a Republican volunteer.
The candidates have also traded barbs over Iran. Thompson criticized Baldwin for accepting campaign contributions from the Council for a Livable World, an anti-nuclear group that opposed sanctions against Iran (which the Thompson campaign portrayed as a "pro-Iran" group), and Baldwin knocked Thompson for owning shares in a company that traded with Iran.
In Wisconsin -- a state that has been slow to recover from the economic crisis, whose economy depends on agriculture and manufacturing, and whose residents are struggling with healthcare costs and coverage -- the 9/11 tragedy may not be a top issue in voter's minds. But the fact that the campaigns are digging this deep to find new angles is indicative of just how strong Baldwin's appeal is and how close this race has become.
Thompson Support from Koch Brothers, ALEC Member ACC
In addition to attacking Baldwin with far-fetched 9/11 allegations, Thompson has run a series of ads calling his challenger "too extreme" for Wisconsin, citing her past support for single-payer health care and for supporting a budget plan from the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The "too extreme" message has also been pushed by outside groups spending millions on ads. Karl Rove is dropping $2.3 million on just one week of ads to try and reverse Baldwin's fortunes, for a total of nearly $6 million from his dark money group Crossroads GPS and his related Super PAC American Crossroads. Baldwin has also been attacked by at least $2 million in ads from David Koch's Americans for Prosperity, including one from earlier this year that framed the results of Governor Scott Walker's recall election as a statewide consensus on wasteful spending and describing Baldwin as "part of the problem." The Emergency Committee for Israel has also spent $500,000 on inflammatory anti-Baldwin ads.