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Tammy Baldwin's Running Against A Couple Of Jerk Republicans
Dems hope to avoid a replay of the Feingold/Johnson 2016 clustermess
Here's the kind of weird election year 2018 is: Democrat Tammy Baldwin, among the most progressive of the ten Democratic US senators from states won by Donald Trump, introduced a "Made in America Act" bill earlier this month. It would require federal infrastructure projects to use US-made steel, iron and other products, and Donald Trump is an enthusiastic supporter. Even says he'll sign it. But both of the Republican Senate candidates from Wisconsin -- who otherwise insist they love, love, love Trump the most -- have staked out positions against the bill, because, um, well, a Democrat introduced it, so populist made-in-America legislation is probably secret socialism. America Not First if it's a demmycrat idea!
It's also likely to stay a weird election going forward, what with loathsome but effective political machine builder Scott Walker up for reelection, which is expected to boost Republican turnout in midterms. The sorta-good news for Baldwin, if not for Wisconsin, is that polling suggests vote splitting could reelect both Walker and Baldwin, although it sure would be nice to kick that smarmy weasel Walker out of Madison, wouldn't it?
While Baldwin is happy to tout her bipartisanship and to target messaging at independents, she's not doing that by aiming for the middle, which distinguishes her from a lot of red- or purple-state Democrats. Baldwin, the first openly gay member of the Senate,* is quite happily progressive, endorsing single-payer healthcare and voting against Trump's positions on almost everything except some procedural votes and some of his less awful cabinet appointments (Yes on Nikki Haley, no on Betsy DeVos, Jeff Sessions, Mike Pompeo, and Steven Mnuchin).
The one thing Baldwin absolutely wants to avoid this year is any illusion that her seat is safe. Polling for most of 2016 suggested Russ Feingold would win his Senate seat back from the awful Ron Johnson -- at times Feingold was up by double digits -- but an obscene amount of outside money in the final weeks helped Johnson win reelection by four percentage points, a slim win, but a better margin than the measly one percent victory Trump eked out in Wisconsin (thanks a fucking lot, Jill Stein).
So Baldwin wasn't the least bit reassured when top Republican and Democratic leaders said she's the favorite to win this fall. Thanks but no thanks, especially since Wisconsin's US Senate race has become a pet project for rightwing Illinois billionaire Richard Uihlein, who's been pouring huge amounts of money into supporting Republican Kevin Nicholson. If the other serious R, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, gets the nomination, Uihlein's money will follow her. Both candidates have pledged to support the winner of the primary, and so will their biggest donors. (Vukmir has her own billionaire, Diane Hendricks, a "roofing magnate.") Regardless of the national parties' spending plans, the billionaire contingent is plenty to to worry about, as Baldwin told Politico earlier this month:
My first reaction when somebody said Mitch McConnell said something about Wisconsin not being on the [list], I said tell that to the Koch brothers network. Please tell that to Richard Uihlein.
Both of the Republicans are, of course, not just a little vile. Nicholson generated national headlines and even condemnations from other Republicans in May when he explained military service is an inherently "conservative value," so it simply doesn't make any sense for military veterans to be Democrats. As everyone knows, Democrats are literal enemies of America, and so vets who vote for Dems might be mentally deranged:
[The] Democrat Party has wholesale rejected the Constitution and the values that it was founded upon.
So I'll tell you what: Those veterans that are out there in the Democrat party, I question their, their cognitive thought process. Because the bottom line is, they're signing up to defend the Constitution that their party is continually dragging through the mud.
Happily, Nicholson merely implied Democrats should be shot as traitors without actually saying it, so that's nice. He also rejected calls to apologize, including those coming from Vukmir and other Republicans, because of course he says he's completely right.
Nicholson may also find one of his own talking points flipped against him: He used to be a member of the Democrat Party himself, and even served as the national president of the College Democrats. He spoke at the 2000 Democrat convention, even! But you see, after he joined the Marines and learned what America is really all about, he started loving America and became a Republican, a conversion so complete that he has literally forgotten how to even pronounce the name of the party he once belonged to (the conversion ceremony involves having the last syllable of "Democratic" surgically removed).
A PAC supporting Vukmir has therefore rolled out this ad suggesting Nicholson is no true conservative because after all, he once embraced those nasty evil Dems:
👀 @leahvukmir's billionaire megadonor-funded super PAC goes negative on @KevinMNicholson. #wisen #wiright https: //t.co/K59VNtlDc2
— WI-SEN Watch (@WI-SEN Watch) 1531227420.0
We think that's pretty unfair, though, since it seems perfectly clear Nicholson is every bit as unhinged as his adopted party's leadership.
Beyond the unapologetic assholery of his statement about veterans, Nicholson's actual job as a business consultant has a familiar Romneyesque feel: the Associated Press reported just yesterday that companies to which he's given strategic advice on "management assessment and organizational change initiatives" have actually laid off nearly 2000 workers since 2015. Nicholson's campaign issued a statement insisting he'd only consulted the companies on strategies for interviewing and hiring, and no, no, never ever ever advised them to lay off workers, so the report is clearly a damned dirty lie. Of course, because Nicholson also refuses to discuss his consulting work in any detail, there's no way to know -- and in media appearances, Nicholson has said he consulted on all aspects of corporate problem solving, including mergers and acquisitions, which any fool knows usually result in downsizing.
Nicholson has never held any office, so he has the utter ignorance of governing needed to make him attractive to Trump voters. He also has the support of the Club for Growth and Ted Cruz, so that's vomitty.
Vukmir, for her part, has lots of endorsements from big names like Paul Ryan, and won the endorsement of the state Republican convention, which is nonbinding as far as the ballot, but a show of support from The Establishment. Boo, establishment. Vukmir is also an opponent of marriage equality, and is doing her best to shore up her cred with the raving-loony right -- back in June, she accused Baldwin of hating America, and of forcing that hatred on innocent schoolchildren, saying,
It's clear Sen. Baldwin lacks pride in her country. She boldly opposed displaying the flag and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance or singing the National Anthem in our classrooms.
As Politifact explains, not quite -- when she was in the state legislature 22 years ago, Baldwin voted against making existing classroom flag displays mandatory (they'd been optional) and against expanding the mandatory recitation of the pledge from primary and middle schools to include high schoolers as well. She's never opposed displaying the flag or singing the anthem. So yeah, a total America-hater.
Looks like it's going to be another big dumb election with as many non-issues at stake as the Rs can come up with. As recently as June, while Vukmir had made up ground and narrowly led Nicholson in polling after initially trailing, a good third of Wisconsin voter's didn't know who they'd support. Whoever the winner is will be guaranteed terrible, but that also means they'll attract assloads of money from terrible people.
Baldwin isn't exactly embattled, but national Dems need to be ready to push back against an expected flood of dark money. Tammy Baldwin is pushing economic themes like healthcare, and calling for a share of corporate profits to go to workers,not just stockholders and executives. She isn't above just a teensy bit of pandering, either: in a move likely to be very popular with f'ball-obsessed Wisconsin voters, she's introduced a "Go Pack Go" bill to allow all voters in the state to watch Green Bay Packers games without fear of a broadcast blackout. Currently, viewers in some counties bordering other states can only view Minnesota Vikings or Detroit Lions games, a fate no cheesehead should have to face.
Hey, you know what you should do, regardless of your sportsball preference? Send Tammy Baldwin some money. She won't even mind if, now and again, you mentally mix her up with the other midwestern Tammy in the Senate, Tammy Duckworth from Illinois. They agree on most stuff, after all. And when Nicholson said vets cant' be Dems and love America, Other Tammy was pissed, y'all.
*Fine, fine, Harris Wofford served before she did, but didn't come out until years after his term ended in 1995.
[ FDL Reporter / Politico / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel / Roll Call / WISN / Associated Press / NBC News / WSAU / Task And Purpose / Tammy Baldwin for Senate / Image by Lacy Landre on Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0 ]