Baldwin: Labeled with the other ‘L-word’

Tammy Baldwin

U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin has had to address the “L word” in recent interviews, now that she’s running for the U.S. Senate. Not just because she’s a lesbian, but because she’s a liberal.

Former Republican Governor Tommy Thompson, who has not yet announced a bid for that same Senate seat, and former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, who has, both criticized Baldwin in recent days for being a liberal. The National Journal says Baldwin’s liberal profile is her “biggest general election question mark.”, which delves into various political statements to determine whether they are based in fact, says Baldwin has a perfect record of zero with the American Conservative Union and a perfect record of 100 with Americans for Democratic Action., which looked at House members’ votes, found her to be the 19th most liberal member of the House for the 2009-2010 session and the 12th most liberal during the past year.

Wisconsin Eye interviewer Steve Walters, in a September 16 interview, joked, “Are you a liberal? And is that a bad thing?”

“What I am is a fighter,” said Baldwin. She said she was also compared to Wisconsin’s former U.S. Senator William Proxmire and said she would not run from that comparison.

But it’s not been all fighting since Baldwin announced her bid to replace retiring Senator Herb Kohl.

An editorial in the Madison, Wisconsin, newspaper Capital Times says Baldwin earned early backing from the state’s farm community. The support comes in the form of an award from a national group—the National Farmer’s Union—but it recognized Baldwin’s work on behalf of Wisconsin family farmers and rural communities. That recognition is seen as a good sign that Baldwin has a chance to win over the more blue collar regions of the state.

Baldwin also got news last week that one of her likely Democratic primary rivals will not run against her for the seat. U.S. Rep. Ron Kind (D-Wisc.) said September 16 said he did not want to be part of a divisive race for the nomination.

In early polling this summer, Kind was Baldwin’s closest rival for the nomination—and he was 20 points behind her. Baldwin’s next closest rival is former U.S. Rep. Steve Kagen, and he was 25 points behind her in July. But a very large fraction of voters—about a third of them—were undecided.

The July survey, conducted by the independent firm of Magellan Data and Mapping Strategies, polled 627 likely Wisconsin Democratic primary voters. The survey showed Baldwin has strong name recognition (82 percent) among Democrats, and 45 percent already have a favorable opinion of her. Only 10 percent had an “unfavorable” opinion, and 27 percent had no opinion.

Early polling also suggested that Republicans are likely to name a fairly conservative nominee, and not the more moderate and popular former governor Thompson. Many had thought U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan might be a Republican choice, but Ryan said “no” last month to a bid. The only announced candidate on the Republican side currently is former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann, a Tea Party favorite.

A poll by Public Policy Polling in August found Neumann could beat Baldwin, 44 percent to 40 percent.

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