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As conservative operatives and activists gather this week for the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, a handful of notable GOP senators are absent from the speaking lineup.
Several vulnerable Senate Republicans seeking re-election in 2016 will skip the confab, which serves as a national stage for politicians and conservative media stars. Three of them addressed the conference in past years.
Democrat Tammy Baldwin made history tonight, winning in Wisconsin to become the first openly gay candidate elected to the Senate.
In one of the most expensive and bruising races in the country, Baldwin defeated former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), the establishment favorite who narrowly won a four-way August primary.
Baldwin was able to ride the coattails of President Barack Obama, who won the Badger State, after mounting an extraordinarily effective media strategy that turned the tables on Thompson early in the general election. Her team was able to take Thompson’s high statewide name recognition and popularity and flip it on its head. She spent millions of dollars to paint the former Health and Human Services secretary as an out-of-touch Washington lobbyist who was “no longer for” Wisconsin.
Both Thompson and Baldwin were more unpopular with Wisconsin voters than they were popular in the closing days of the race, but clearly Badger State voters decided the Republican’s branding of Baldwin as “too extreme” was less damaging than the Democrat’s attack of Thompson.
“We nominated more women candidates than ever. We placed confidence every day and we never let up and now Joe Donnelly and Tammy Baldwin and Tim Kaine … they’re all coming to join us in the Senate,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairwoman Patty Murray (Wash.) told a ballroom of supporters, well before the Wisconsin race was even called.
On Friday, we noted the 10 toughest ads of the cycle. For our last Daily Ad Track here on Election Day, we take a look at the best ads of the cycle. Some are negative, some are positive, some are defensive. But all cut through the clutter this year:
10. New Hampshire 1
Group sponsoring the ad: Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee
Women’s testimonials have cluttered television screens, but there was something about a montage of tough guys with facial hair talking about “women’s medical issues” that made us stop.
AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka said today he will head to Ohio for the final four days before the elections as part of the labor group’s get-out-the-vote strategy on behalf of President Barack Obama and downballot Democrats nationwide.
“We’re facing a dramatic choice of visions and paths forward,” Trumka said today during a conference call with reporters.
He said working-class Americans are rejecting the agenda of the Republican ticket, led by Mitt Romney and Rep. Paul Ryan (Wis.).
The AFL-CIO has mobilized 128,000 volunteers who plan to knock on 5.5 million voters’ doors in battleground states such as Ohio, he said.
“We’ll make 5.2 million phone calls,” Trumka added. “We’ll be talking to voters at their homes, on their phones, at their worksites.”
He said union volunteers and organizers are also making a difference for Democratic Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Rep. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) and Sen. Sherrod Brown (Ohio), among others.
“We also continue to monitor reports of voter suppression,” Trumka said. “We’re going to have over 2,000 people available as poll monitors that will be connected to a number of lawyers around the country. We’ll be able to have a rapid response team that will respond immediately to that.”
Trumka said he visited an early voting site in Las Vegas last week where Republican volunteers were also on the ground. He said Ohio would be a major focus of such poll watching and predicted that Obama would ultimately win the state by 3 points or 4 points.
Michael Podhorzer, the AFL-CIO’s political director, said working families, particularly those in unions, have “decisively chosen Barack Obama’s path.”
Trumka said a Romney campaign ad claiming that Jeep has planned layoffs — a claim that parent Chrysler Corp. has called erroneous — “is backfiring on him” particularly in Ohio. “It shows how desperate he is,” Trumka said.
Trumka said the labor movement has much at stake on Nov. 6. If Romney wins, he said, “I think it would be devastating for America, including the trade union movement.” He added that a Romney administration would be “geared toward corporate America and away from workers.”
No matter what happens this cycle, the union leaders said they would maintain a full-time staff in Ohio and other states so they can grow the program into future elections.
Here is what cut through the clutter today:
This is, perhaps, the best ad of the entire cycle from former state Senate Minority Leader Richard Tisei (R). He is giving Rep. John Tierney (D) a very serious challenge, but we cannot imagine a better way to close out a campaign in the overloaded Boston TV market, even if it is a small cable buy:
The Republican-affiliated sister groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS will begin a massive $10.5 million Senate ad blitz today and Wednesday, blanketing competitive Senate races, including those in Maine, Montana and New Mexico, with hard-hitting attack ads.
With control of the Senate in the balance, the deep-pocketed groups are making a concerted final push to help put GOP candidates over the line.
The ads that begin today are in the following Senate races:
Welcome to the kitchen sink, Wisconsin.
“Nuclear Iran.” … “Uranium.” … “Big oil.” … “Body armor.”
Feeling scared? Because it seems the Senate campaigns of former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) hope so, at least if you’re a Wisconsin voter.
With about a week left before Election Day, Baldwin and Thompson are continuing to pursue an advertising strategy, implemented last week, that seeks to spook Wisconsonites with negative spots that deal with 9/11 and the Iranian nuclear threat and bolster the existing themes of the election. Baldwin’s campaign has been running on “Tommy: He’s just not for you anymore,” and Thompson’s campaign has been running on Baldwin being “too extreme for Wisconsin.”
Today, Thompson’s camp unveiled another brutal ad, this one called “Body Armor,” which accused Baldwin of fighting to “block funding that provides body armor for our troops just to make a political point.”
By the end of the night in Wisconsin, the exchanges between former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson and Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin seemed less like a debate than a fight between two candidates desperate to beat one another and exhausted from the battle.
The blows have become personal in the Badger State, where the Senate race has devolved from big issues such as the economy and health care to the candidate’s responses to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
That Senate candidates in Wisconsin are re-litigating a dark period from more than a decade ago, through both television ads and verbal sparring sessions, reveals a stark reality: The effort by each campaign to make the other candidate seem less appealing in the election’s closing days knows few bounds and is deemed essential to capture the open seat.
“I believe you should never politicize 9/11,” Baldwin said during a charged moment in the debate.
In a Senate race that has been defined by negative ads, where both candidates are more disliked by voters than they are liked, Wisconsin might be on the verge of discovering whether there is such a thing as too negative.
And in 2012, a cycle in which nastiness and pettiness has reigned supreme nationwide, that’s saying something.
The mudslinging in the Badger State reached a new level this week with the roll-out of dueling 9/11 ads, featuring former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) accusing Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) of being unpatriotic and Baldwin, in turn, accusing Thompson of profiting off of 9/11 victims. And while it remains to be seen whether Wisconsin voters will find the ads distasteful, it is clear they find their options on the ballot so. In the most recent Marquette University Law School poll, 50 percent of voters held an unfavorable view of Thompson and 47 percent of voters had an unfavorable view of Baldwin.
Thompson has told voters that Baldwin is “too extreme” for Wisconsin and Baldwin has said that “Tommy isn’t for us anymore.” The 9/11 ads, replete with images of charred buildings, American flags and ominous voice overs, are just an extension of what’s already out there, albeit one that some sources speculate could backfire on Thompson, who started the fight.
Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) today responded to a searing ad released Tuesday by former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) that attempted to paint his opponent for Wisconsin’s open Senate seat as unpatriotic because of her 2006 vote against a resolution involving the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Hoping to mitigate any potential damage caused by Thompson’s spot, which showed images of a charred building and fliers of missing persons from 9/11, Baldwin’s team released a retaliatory ad claiming that Thompson profited off of 9/11 victims, citing an $11 million contract won by Logistics Health, Inc. while Thompson was board chairman.
“Tommy Thompson should be ashamed,” the ad concludes, showing the former Health and Human Services secretary’s image and a variation of a tagline the campaign has been using in most of its negative spots: “Tommy, he’s not for you anymore.”
In a rarely used debate format, Wisconsin Senate candidates Tommy Thompson (R), a former governor, and Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D) were permitted to directly spar with each other in unmoderated six-minute chunks on topics picked by voters.
The hourlong debate in Wausau played very much like an extended, spliced-together greatest hits video of Thompson and Baldwin campaign ads, an at times heated back-and-forth defined more by established talking points than off-the-cuff remarks. Given that predictability, and in a race that’s too close to call 19 days before Election Day, it’s unclear whether either candidate was able to sway the few remaining undecided voters in ways their media operations can’t.
The debaters addressed the 2010 health care law, with Baldwin in favor and Thompson opposed; the deficit crisis, with Baldwin calling for higher-earning Americans to pay more and Thompson accusing the Democrat of being a tax-and-spender; and even Wisconsin’s own vice presidential candidate, with Baldwin calling Rep. Paul Ryan’s budget extreme and Thompson trying to distance himself after telling reporters in August that “most people know that Paul and I are close friends and that we teamed up on many issues, especially on Medicare.”
An NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released earlier this evening had Baldwin leading Thompson 49 percent to 45 percent. A Marquette University poll released Wednesday had Thompson leading Baldwin 46 percent to 45 percent. Sources on both sides of the aisle, in Wisconsin and in Washington, D.C., say that Wisconsin’s Senate contest is among the most competitive in the country and could be decisive in determining the chamber’s majority. Roll Call rates the race as a Tossup.
Former Gov. Tommy Thompson (R) has contributed $832,000 in personal funds to his Senate campaign, according to an interview with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Thompson, who served as Health and Human Services secretary under President George W. Bush, has been relatively cash-strapped since surviving a bruising four-way August primary, during which he contributed more than $700,000 of his own money to his campaign via a combination of donations and loans in the closing days of that race.
Earlier in August, Thompson had told the Journal Sentinel that he didn’t think it was “right” for candidates to self-finance their campaigns, saying, “I don’t think that people should buy an election with their own wealth.” But in his meeting with the paper posted today, Thompson said his Democratic opponent, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, has benefited significantly from raising money out of state and that he had no “power base” from which to fundraise.
The news on the TV advertising front today has more to do with resource strategy rather than content. As time runs out to book TV reservations, what is most interesting today is where committees and super PACs are spending, rather than the actual ads.
Here is what cut through the clutter:
The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees and the Service Employees International Union have launched ad campaigns totaling almost $2 million in two tight statewide races in New Hampshire and Wisconsin.
The New Hampshire campaign features a $1.3 million joint ad by AFSCME and SEIU assailing GOP gubernatorial candidate Ovide Lamontagne as a “radical” who “wants to end Medicare as we know it.”
Polls show Lamontagne statistically tied with Democrat Maggie Hassan in the open-seat gubernatorial contest. The joint ad targeting Lamontagne will run in the Boston-Manchester market between now and Election Day. Full story
Amid polls showing that women may be drifting away from President Barack Obama, EMILY’s List President Stephanie Schriock told reporters that women will still help Democrats prevail on Election Day, particularly in key Senate races.
“Women voters are going to vote for Democrats because they know what’s at stake,” Schriock said in a conference call today. The Democratic women’s PAC has shattered its previous fundraising records and will spend more in this election cycle than at any point in its 27-year history, she said.
Schriock assailed GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney’s record on women’s issues, called on Vice President Joseph Biden to challenge House Budget chairman Paul Ryan (Wis.) on those issues in Thursday’s vice presidential debate and touted her PAC’s record 2012 spending on behalf of female Democrats.
Romney knows he needs women to win the election and has decided that “his best strategy for getting their votes is to lie to them,” Schriock said. She quoted Romney’s recent statement to the Des Moines Register that “there’s no legislation with regards to abortion that I’m familiar with that would become part of my agenda.” Full story