Election 2020

Super PACs Spend Millions Hoping to Unseat Wisconsin Dem Sen. Baldwin

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) speaks with reporters in the Capitol on Jan. 22, 2018. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call via AP Images)

Martha Laning, the chairwoman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, told the radio talk show “Devil’s Advocates” she expects more money to be spent in the race for the Senate seat held by fellow Democrat Tammy Baldwin than in any other 2018 Senate race where a Democrat is running for re-election.

Daily Kos Labor Editor Laura Clawson said that it’s perfectly understandable why GOP-inspired super PACs have painted a target on Baldwin.

“She’s no wobbly, weak Democrat – she’s strong on a wide range of issues. Of course, Republicans want to take her down, and think they have a shot at it,” Clawson wrote.

Clawson also pointed out that Donald Trump won Wisconsin in 2016 – in fact, it is one of the states given credit for his victory – and incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson (R) defeated former Sen. Russ Feingold (D) that year.

On top of that, Gov. Scott Walker is running for re-election, bringing an incredibly strong campaign organization into the 2018 fray.

“Wisconsin has always been a battleground state,” Baldwin said on MSNBC. “But I think the spending goes beyond that. In some ways it is personal because I have been unafraid to stand up to these powerful interests that fund these super PACs.”

Laning said $5 million had been spent against Baldwin as of Jan. 5, “and it is five times more money than all of the other 2018 U.S. Senate candidates combined.”

“They are coming after Tammy Baldwin like no other,” Laning claimed. “These big right-wing organizations are coming in here because she is a barrier to their greedy, horrible agenda.”

A Center for Responsive Politics breakdown of the conservative spending against Baldwin shows not $5 million, but $3.07 million. It also showed spending of only $599,688 against all other incumbent Senate Democrats running for re-election in 2018.

And to give Laning her due, spending against Baldwin, even at $3 million, was five times greater than what was paid for advertising against all other Senate Democrats up for re-election in November.

Politifact reported that to get to the $5 million toted by Laning, it is necessary to add in what has been spent in support of Kevin Nicholson, one of two candidates in the Wisconsin GOP Senate primary.

That brings the total spent against Baldwin up to $5.43 million, seven times more than all other Senate Democrat incumbents combined.

Laning also said most of the money spent against Baldwin is coming from special interest groups and super PACs based outside of Wisconsin.

If 2018 works out to be anything like 2016, the money spent against Baldwin will be coming from billionaires pushing their political agendas and not paying too much attention to the national Republican Party.

Patrick Guarasci, a Democratic political consultant in Wisconsin, told the Huffington Post that outside money came pouring into the state to back incumbent Johnson in his 2016 election campaign after the RNC and the National Republican Senate Committee began pulling funding for the senator.

“These billionaires got together over the summer in 2016 and dumped millions of dollars into the election,” said Guarasci. “No matter what, they were not going to leave Ron Johnson.”

He is not predicting a repeat of 2016 yet, but Guarasci said he was amazed at the level of outside, super PAC and private contributor money already in the Wisconsin U.S. Senate race.

“It’s so bizarre,” Guarasci said. “It’s shocking to me that in 2017, more than a year before the election, they were already on television going after Tammy here. So that cannot be discounted, the amount of early money that is being spent to try to define Tammy in these contentious times.”

“That is something that is almost unprecedented, in my view – and potentially could be the new normal in some of these hot states like Wisconsin,” he added.

Baldwin told MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” Wisconsin is “a lot more polarized” than she can remember in recent years. So she believes the 2018 vote will come down to who turns out to vote as much as it depends on the politicians on the ballot.

Baldwin also said she expects swing voters and progressives mobilized and still angered by the Trump administration will be a factor in November.

On the other hand, an unnamed GOP campaign aide told the Huffington Post that Gov. Scott Walker’s re-election campaign could trump the swing vote and progressive resistance, and prove to be Baldwin’s undoing.

“Scott Walker’s got a great operation,” the aide said, “a fully formed, aggressive, well-funded effort already underway in every major voting population center in the state, and the nominee (to oppose Baldwin) will benefit from it.”

Laning said the Wisconsin Democratic Party would attempt to counter the difference in campaign spending by creating a “much stronger infrastructure” that included ten Democratic Party representatives whose sole task would be spreading the pro-Baldwin message to voters.

Laning also said state Democrats would work to increase the number of small contributions from voters, just as Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) campaign did in 2016.

“We all saw that Bernie Sanders with little tiny dollars raised a lot of money,” Laning said, “and we can do it too.”