Friday, October 12, 2018

Wisconsin U.S. Senate- Race of the Day

25 Days Until Election Day

Wisconsin U.S. Senate

Status: Democrat Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Likely Democrat

Wisconsin has been a profoundly complex state politically recently. In 2016, Donald Trump carried the state that nobody expected him too and freshman GOP Senator Ron Johnson won a reelection that nobody expected him to, in a rematch against the former Senator, that few had expected him to ever beat.

The other U.S. Senate seat though belongs to Tammy Baldwin, whom in a high-profile 2012 race defeated a legendary politician in the state, whom had been elected four times as Governor, but proved past his vote-getting prime, as she moved up from the House to Senate. This year, Baldwin is seeking reelection and while Republicans talked a good game about challenging her seriously, especially after what happened in 2016, she has been a favorite to win another term throughout.

All biographical looks at Senator Baldwin have to of course acknowledge her as a somewhat historical political figure. She is the first openly gay person ever elected to the Senate. Fourteen years earlier, she was the first openly gay person ever elected to the U.S. House as a non-incumbent, and the first openly gay woman in general. She has been around Capitol Hill long enough to have it not be as big of a deal anymore of course as laws and societal mores on the issue have also shifted. She has amassed a thoroughly liberal voting record, but unlike other female Senators from swing states, is not mentioned as a Presidential aspirant.

National political Republicans would have perhaps liked current GOP Governor Scott Walker to have challenged Baldwin in 2016, but he embarked on a perilous run for a third term instead. Congressman and MTV Real World alum Sean Duffy also declined to make this race, disappointing some, who are perhaps not as aware of his recent penchant for saying controversial things. There was also talk about David Clarke, the then Milwaukee County Sheriff, (who held the position as an elected Democrat), running as a Republican. However, the tough-talking publicity seeking African-American Trump surrogate, who was becoming a lightning rod for controversy resigned his office somewhat abruptly and that has seemed to end any talk of him as a statewide contender.

Out of the five candidates in the August primary, two Republicans competed most seriously for the nomination, and they came from different backgrounds and had different sorts of supporters. Many national conservative leaders were impressed with the candidacy of businessman Kevin Nicholson, who played up his service as a decorated Marine combat veteran. The 39 year old Nicholson ran as a staunch conservative and Trump backer, but he used to be a Democrat (not unlike Trump.) In fact, during the Presidential election year of 2000, he was the President of the College Democrats of America and gave a speech at the Los Angeles convention.

Nicholson has said that as the years went on, after 9/11, and upon becoming more committed to his faith, he moved to the right. All of that seems believable, but his parents apparently had a hard time with it. They made headlines by donating the maximum amount to Baldwin's reelection campaign. The GOP candidate has said that his parents remain activist Democrats and pretty much hinted at a pretty severe family strain over all sorts of matters.

At the same time, Nicholson had to face a primary opponent who was questioning his political history and commitment to the GOP. Sixty-year old Leah Vukmir is the daughter of Greek immigrants and a registered nurse, who has served in the Wisconsin Legislature since late 2002, when she was elected to succeed Scott Walker in her suburban Milwaukee district. Currently, she is the Assistant Senate Majority Leader in the capital of Madison.

While Nicholson had Tea Party figures and right-wing media celebrities touting his biography and chances against Baldwin, most of the Wisconsin political establishment was on board with Vukmir. This was not because she was seen as either considerably more or less conservative, but because she had risen through the ranks with them, unlike her opponent. Either formally or informally, she had the backing of Governor Walker, former RNC Chair and short-term Trump Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan. In May, the state party convention voted to endorse her with 73 percent.

While she stated her campaign pegged as the underdog, who would have a hard time keeping up financially with Nicholson, she used the highly respected Wisconsin GOP party organization apparatus to her advantage. Voters came to have doubts about Nicholson being overly ambitious and perhaps not quite sold on his party switch. (In some ways, Nicholson's profile mirrored that of Eric Greitens, a young former Democrat and military veteran who won as an outsider for Missouri Governor and then wound up being bounced, largely by his own party, due to scandal early in his term.) In any event, Vukmir won the primary 49-43. There will perhaps be other opportunities in the state for Nicholson to run for one day, but this seemed to be Vukmir's one chance at a statewide run.

Vukmir has run a hard charging campaign against Baldwin on ideological grounds. This race is not really getting all that much national attention though. In "America's Dairyland, the Brewers may also be surpassing politics in the headlines. The incumbent has led in all polls, and most of them at a margin slightly passed 50 percent and with a lead in the low double digits. If the polls are wrong (as they were to some extent for Trump and Ron Johnson both two years ago) maybe this race is closer than anyone is anticipating, but all signs seem to point for a second  Senate term for Baldwin.

U.S. Senate races predicted thus far: 
24 D (12 Safe, 6 Likely, 3 Leans, 3 Tossup)
10 R (3 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans, 5 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:
47 D (23 holdovers, 12 Safe, 6 Likely, 3 Leans, 3 Tossup)
52 R (42 holdovers, 3 Safe, 1 Likely, 1 Leans, 5 Tossup)


At 6:52 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Might be seeing voters splitting their statewide ballots: Baldwin (D) for United States Senator & Walker (R) for Governor.


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