New York Times reporter Monica Davey was in Wisconsin on Thursday, playing up the Democratic candidate's Rep. Tammy Baldwin chances in her race for an open Senate seat against former Wisconsin governor, Republican Tommy Thompson. The headline was a puzzler: "A Republican Haven Is Finding Itself Split."
Though Gov. Scott Warner pushed through his public sector union reforms and survived a recall vote, Wisconsin hasn't been a "Republican Haven" for decades. The state has voted Democratic in the last six presidential elections, last voting for Republican Ronald Reagan in 1984 along with all but one other state. Between 1993 and 2011 Wisconsin was represented in the U.S. Senate by two Democrats, Herb Kohl and Russ Feingold (Feingold lost to Republican Ron Johnson in the November 2010 election, and Kohl is retiring, leaving the open seat Baldwin and Thompson are fighting over).
The Times is hypersensitive to the existence of "deeply conservative" states outside the East Coast, but suggesting Wisconsin isa traditional GOP safe haven is a real stretch.
Davis emphasized the very recent past to make the case:
In the battle for control of the Senate, this state would seem to have everything Republicans could dream of: a shift to red up and down the ballot in 2010, a Republican governor who decisively survived a recall effort a few months ago, and a local son turned vice-presidential nominee.
Yet with Election Day fast approaching, Representative Tammy Baldwin, a Democrat who has been rated among the most liberal members of Congress, finds herself about even in the polls with the Republican candidate, former Gov. Tommy G. Thompson, who once ran for president, and who not long ago was widely presumed to walk away with the open Senate seat here.
Even Ms. Baldwin acknowledged the other day that she had been taken by surprise -- “I pinched myself and said, ‘What?’ ” -- when polls began tipping her way. But the election here is a reminder that advertising matters (no matter how much voters complain about it), that people make choices on individual candidates (not only party ideology), and perhaps most of all, that Wisconsin, like some of the other Midwestern states that moved toward the Republicans in 2010, may remain relatively evenly split along partisan lines.
Davey eventually contradicted her story headline, rebranding Wisconsin as "volatile" and a place where "voters have always been split."
Beneath all of this is the question of where Wisconsin, arguably the most politically volatile state in recent years, stands now....But others say that Wisconsin voters have always been split and always will be, and that a vote in June to turn back a recall effort against Gov. Scott Walker was less a sign of Republicans’ dominance in the state than of “disquiet,” in the words of Dick Pas, the Democratic chairman in Waukesha County, with the broad notion of recall.
Davey concluded with this cutesy anecdote for the Democrat:
Still, Ms. Baldwin recalled a formative moment of her own, watching a tiny television from an efficiency apartment in 1984 as Geraldine A. Ferraro received the vice-presidential nomination, the first woman to do so for a major party. “The firsts also send a strong message,” she said, “to those who may think, ‘Can I do anything I want?’ ”