With less than a week to go before Wisconsin voters decide where to send their state‚??s ten electoral votes, there is a growing sense in the Badger State that its choice for president may well depend on who its voters support in the heated race for the U.S. Senate.
Even with favorite son Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential nominee, news in the closing days of the election year in Wisconsin, in fact, seems focused less on the presidential race and more on the Senate contest between liberal Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin and former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson.
A recently released Rasmussen Poll showed Thompson taking the lead over Baldwin for the first time in weeks, with the GOP nominee leading the Democrat among likely voters 48 to 46 percent statewide. The same survey showed Mitt Romney in a dead heat with Barack Obama, each with 49 percent of the vote.
“We have here in Wisconsin one of those rare situations in which a second-tier race can actually help the top of ticket,” Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus, himself a native Wisconsinite, told Human Events Tuesday night. Priebus, who spoke to us shortly before appearing at a rally in Hudson, Wisc. with Thompson and Ryan, added that “here, Tommy Thompson is like Miller Lite and Harley Davidson.”
‚??If Tommy wins, you can go to the bank on Mitt Romney carrying Wisconsin,‚?Ě Wisconsin‚??s veteran Republican consultant Scott Becher told Human Events. ‚??But if he loses, let‚??s just say it will be a long night for Romney and Ryan.‚?Ě
Becher called the Baldwin-Thompson race a ‚??bellwether race‚?Ě for Wisconsin in 2012. The Senate contest is the second race on the statewide ballot after that for president. Moreover, with all 10 U.S. House races pretty much decided for the party that now holds the congressional seat, the Baldwin-Thompson bout is ‚??where all the action is.‚?Ě
Since he narrowly overcame three opponents in the primary earlier this year — including the runner-up, who spent more than $5 million of his own money — an exhausted Thompson trailed Baldwin in most polls. Baldwin (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 4 percent), who was unopposed in her primary, drew big dollars from left-of-center sources nationwide and seemed better-than-even money to retain the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl.
But in the last few weeks, Thompson seems to have caught fire and campaigned with a vigor of a man much younger than his 70 years. He has put a six-figure amount of his own money in the race and hit hard at Baldwin‚??s support of the Obama agenda and especially Obamacare.
‚??And in the last debate, held in Milwaukee (Oct. 26), Tommy shined about as well as Romney did in his first debate,‚?Ě said Becher. ‚??He showed a clear difference between himself and Baldwin on issues from Iran to deficits and reminded us why we elected him four times as governor: because he‚??s a plain-spoken and feisty guy who can articulate a conservative message.‚?Ě
Perhaps taking a cue from his mentor Thompson, Paul Ryan came back to his homestate earlier this week to stump in Hudson and Eau Claire. Ann Romney appeared at a rally in Green Bay. While Mitt Romney, who postponed a weekend rally in Milwaukee because of Hurricane Sandy, has just announced it is rescheduled for this coming Friday. It seems a good bet that he will be joined on stage by Tommy Thompson.
RNC Chairman Priebus recalled to us how Republicans swept the governorship, a U.S. Senate seat and won control of both houses of the legislature when he was state party leader in 2010 and how Gov. Scott Walker handily won a nationally-watched recall election earlier this year. As he put it, “how many times do Republicans have to win in Wisconsin before people realize we can do it?”
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