My first thoughts on Mitt Romney’s pick of Ryan as a running mate: bold, but a bad choice. The Ryan budget, which Romney will now have to somehow distance himself from, is frightening to seniors who rely on and like Medicare. In fact, Ryan is the poster child of anti-Medicare. Those states that have high senior voting will now lean more Democratic — states such as Virginia, Florida, Iowa and Pennsylvania. And note: They were all swing states that Romney had to win. But it does give him one possible state victory that could hurt the LGBT community: the race for one of Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate seats, in which Baldwin is angling to be the first out U.S. senator.
Last Tuesday was the Wisconsin state primary. Baldwin was unopposed in the Democratic primary but there were four Republicans vying to oppose her in the November general election. In the last poll before the primary, Baldwin was in a dead heat against any of those challengers — but that was before the announcement of Wisconsin’s own favorite son Ryan as the vice-presidential candidate.
Here’s a bit of Wisconsin political history. In presidential years, it has gone Democratic since 1988, with Obama winning by a whopping 13 points in 2008. But since then, it has been a hard road for Democrats and has leaned Republican in the last couple of years. In 2010, Republican Scott Walker won the governor’s seat and and brought enough Republicans with him to control both the state House and Senate. And he beat a nasty recall election earlier this year (and Democrats took back the Senate), funded by the right who saw this as a fight against unions. The current two senators from Wisconsin are Republican Ron Johnson and retiring Democrat Herb Kohl, whom Baldwin is hoping to replace. The Republicans, buoyed by Walker’s defeat of the recall and a Republican-controlled state House, believe this is now a red state. To add to that the chairman of the National Republican Committee is Wisconsinite Reince Priebus. So this is personal for him. And if they win, all political bodies in Wisconsin will be controlled by Republicans. The Republicans will pour buckets of cash into this race.
But there is good news. Now, almost a week into the Ryan announcement, New York Times political site FiveThirtyEight and Real Clear Politics both are still predicting Wisconsin will go for Obama, and Wisconsin voters, almost more than any other state, split their election ticket. If you average all the Wisconsin polls, Obama leads Romney by an average of 4 points, and traditionally a V.P. announcement bump is only 2 percent.
Baldwin’s opponent, Tommy Thompson, the former governor and Bush appointee, will now need to refresh his campaign coffers since he had a four-way primary challenge. He has a mixed record on LGBT issues, so that will not be a defining issue in the campaign. Republicans believe they have reason to unite Walker, Ryan, Priebus and Thompson and the possibility of making Wisconsin a red state. All they need to do is beat Tammy Baldwin. And they will have barrels of right-wing dollars flying to Wisconsin. But to her defense, Baldwin anticipated a tough campaign and has continued her fundraising. Open Secrets reports that Baldwin has over $3 million remaining in her war chest. And she knows that the people of Wisconsin are proud of the first out lesbian in U.S. Congress.
Baldwin’s race is now a tough one, but it’s winnable.
Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at email@example.com.