PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the presumptive Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate, came to Netroots Nation on Thursday with a “heavy heart” after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker survived a historic recall election. “I come here to remind all of us that our fight for the middle class in America didn’t end with the recall election in Wisconsin,” Baldwin told the cheering crowd.
But let’s face it: Walker’s win delivered a harsh blow to Democrats. “There is a huge spirit of disappointment in Wisconsin right now,” Baldwin acknowledged in an interview with TPM after her speech. “A recall’s a rare and unique thing. I know that a lot of people are looking at the results, and saying this is a referendum on whether we like recalls or not, not on the candidates before the voters.”
Baldwin called the recall a “grassroots movement that wasn’t going to be stopped” — and a movement that wasn’t exclusively aligned with the Democratic party. That being said, did national Democrats do enough? Baldwin said Obama’s campaign in Wisconsin was highly engaged in the recall, and the state benefited from visits by former President Bill Clinton and DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
“Do we wish more could have been done? Obviously,” Baldwin said. “It was two days ago. I just think we’re still taking a deep breath.”
Baldwin is the energetic new face of state Democrats, and she’s running unchallenged in the Wisconsin Senate race to replace outgoing Sen. Herb Kohl. The Republicans seeking the nomination — including former Gov. Tommy Thompson, former Rep. Mark Neumann, and current state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald — face a bruising primary. A recent Marquette Law School poll of Wisconsin, though, showed that a near 46 percent majority of registered voters hadn’t heard of the congresswoman. Baldwin said she has a plan to get in front of more voters.
“We had leaders in each county collecting signatures, and probably had more geographic diversity in the signatures that I collected than other folks who are getting their names on the ballots,” she said. “I’m doing extensive travel. People will ultimately be introduced to me on television.”
Baldwin posted solid fundraising numbers for the final quarter of 2011, bringing in $1.1 million. The TPM Poll Average of the Wisconsin Senate race shows Thompson leading Baldwin 48.3 percent to 40.1 percent. Baldwin promises, though, that before the August primary, there will be a “stark contrast” between the eventual GOP opponent and her.
David Taintor is TPM’s News Editor. He contributes to TPM’s Livewire coverage, among other areas. David is from Chanhassen, Minnesota, where, yes, it gets very cold. Reach him at taintor [at] talkingpointsmemo.com