Rhetoric vs. record: Senate nominees debate in New Hampshire
Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) is attempting to have her party’s Senate nominees debate the differences between them instead of debating their record. As it happens, this has become a very effective way to get a candidate rejected.
This is a debate strategy that’s worked remarkably well in the Wisconsin governor’s race—an outlier state and an early vote state—after years of Republican governor Scott Walker being blocked by voters from running for re-election. Walker got a major boost in the February primaries by running to a record-low favorability in his own party. Democrats also found themselves in a similar position: A week before the election, they decided to not hold a primary in the state at all after Walker’s win over the Democratic challenger Mary Burke.
In the governor’s race, the results were so close, and the outcome so surprising, that Republicans could have been forgiven for believing that Walker was so unpopular that it would take a miracle for anyone to beat him. The two remaining Republican candidates in the race, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and Ron Johnson, faced a similar situation. Although he got less than 55 percent of the vote in the primary, Barrett had spent years trying to win over Republican voters to be able to win the general election. Barrett even held a town hall meeting featuring conservative activist Laura Ingraham only six minutes after the polls closed, in addition to having a huge presence in media coverage of the campaign.
Johnson, the only other Republican running in the primary, was running a campaign that was more moderate than Barrett’s. He got the support of the right-leaning Club for Growth and the Tea Party group FreedomWorks, and he also got endorsements from the state legislature and the National Association of Women Business Owners. But the problem for Johnson was that he was running against a strong Democratic incumbent, Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Baldwin was one of the first, if not the first, openly gay woman elected to federal office. She was also one of the most popular Democratic senators, who had built a record on environmental issues, consumer protection, and ethics reform. She started the successful effort to pass the Voting Rights Act, she was one of the few Democratic senators to vote against the Patriot Act, and she was one of the first in the Senate to publicly support same-sex marriage.
Baldwin was also running against another controversial nominee: Gov