We conclude our coverage of the statewide races for national office - i.e. the presidential and senatorial - with our cover story this week on the iconic Tammy vs. Tommy race: two Badger State originals battling it out for the junior Senate seat from Wisconsin. The author is Ruth Conniff, political editor of The Progressive magazine, who might be suspected of a liberal bias. You can judge for yourself the even-handedness of her assessment. What you can't fault is her reporting.
Tammy Baldwin is no stranger to folks around here. The question for her candidacy has always been: Can she be competitive outside of Dane County? Tommy Thompson sure isn't a stranger either; while governor for 14 years, he was ubiquitous around the state. During his tenure at the state Capitol, he once even crossed the street and barged into an Isthmus edit meeting to see how we were doing.
At one time a Tommy vs. Tammy confrontation would have been considered an unfair fight, with Thompson the unquestioned favorite. But he put some distance between himself and the state when he ascended to the national stage, and the conditions on the ground changed. Even the state Republican Party no longer genuflects to Thompson. It's the other way around post-tea party.
So at present, according to the polls, the candidates are in a virtual dead heat. Their fates may rest upon the fortunes of their parties' flag bearers. Then again, maybe Thompson can summon up the old magic. Or perhaps Baldwin has impressed enough people in the rest of the state with her yeoman service on behalf of the 2nd Congressional District.
Interestingly, should Baldwin win, Wisconsin could claim the bookends of the U.S. Senate, represented by arguably the most conservative (Ron Johnson - remember him?) and the most liberal members of that body. If Thompson were to win, I'm not sure where he would fall in the political spectrum, and neither is anyone else.