CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Democrats have been rapidly losing ground in Wisconsin in the last two years, as a tea party Republican captured a Senate seat in 2010, the state’s Assembly and Senate turned from blue to red and a Republican, Scott Walker, captured the governor’s mansion.
Then Mitt Romney picked Wisconsin Rep. Paul D. Ryan as his vice presidential running mate.
That might be why Tammy Baldwin, a Wisconsin congresswoman, was given a coveted speaking spot at the Democratic National Convention on Thursday, the same night President Obama will speak.
Baldwin is running against Tommy Thompson for a Senate seat. A loss by Baldwin in November could be devastating for both the Democratic Party in Wisconsin and for Democrats in Washington, who are trying to retain control of the Senate.
Polls show that Baldwin has consistently trailed Thompson by as many as 11 points. Many voters in the state say that although they plan to support Obama in the fall, they find Baldwin a little too liberal for their taste and plan to vote for Thompson.
Maybe that’s why her address from the convention stage was as much a campaign speech as it was an endorsement of Obama. Baldwin also attacked the trifecta of Republican Wisconsinites: Ryan, Walker and Thompson, who was a popular and moderate governor of the state.
Alluding to Thompson’s service as secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, she called Thompson “our former governor who went to Washington, cashed in on his special interest connections and never really came back.”
“I’m here to tell you that they don’t speak for all of Wisconsin,” she said.
“Mitt Romney wants to pass even more tax cuts,” Baldwin said. “The Wisconsin I know knows that their plan will only bust our budget.
“The Wisconsin I know believes that with each passing year and each generation, our country must become more equal, not less,” she said, as members of the Wisconsin delegation, wearing Tammy Baldwin shirts, cheered.
Baldwin outlined some of her positions, including her support of the “Buffett rule,” which would establish a tax rate of 30% for those making more than $1 million a year. She said she “fought to make Wall Street play by the same rules as Main Street” and tried to crack down on countries such as China that cheat on trade.
Some Democrats seeking reelection have been reluctant to tie themselves to Obama, but not Baldwin. The president “is standing with me,” she said.
Baldwin, now 50, was one of the first openly gay politicians in the country when she served in the Wisconsin Assembly beginning in 1993. She was elected to Congress in 1998, and was one of 133 members of the House of Representatives to vote against the Iraq war in 2003. She’d be the first openly gay member of the Senate if elected.
“Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, Scott Walker and Tommy Thompson, they think they’re the only ones who speak for Wisconsin,” she said. “Come November, the Wisconsin I know will speak out loud and clear and keep us moving forward.”