By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – You know how the Tammy Baldwin-Tommy Thompson Senate race has been kind of quiet lately?
Well, get ready for that to change.
“I don’t expect it to be quiet for long,” said Jennifer Duffy, who tracks U.S. Senate and House races for the well-respected Cook Political Report, which lists the Wisconsin seat as one of 10 toss-up races that may decide whether Republicans or Democrats control the U.S. Senate after the November elections.
Baldwin, the 2nd District Democratic congresswoman, and Thompson, a former GOP governor, are vying to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat.
For a top-tier race, though, it hasn’t yet generated a lot of chatter.
It has, however, generated money.
Wisconsin’s Senate race has garnered $8.3 million in outside money, more than all but two other races this year – the presidential race and the Texas Senate race, according to a Center for Responsive Government analysis.
“I think that’s right in line with (the fact that) it’s seen as one of the most half dozen or so most competitive races in the country,” University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist David Canon said.
Groups also can spend money “efficiently” in Wisconsin, Canon said, because it’s cheaper to buy ads here than, say, in New Jersey, where campaigns and interest groups have to buy ad time in the expensive New York City and Philadelphia media markets.
Wisconsin has become a “money magnet” said Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, which tracks campaign spending in the state.
Larger states with more top media markets simply aren’t swing states, McCabe said.
“This is a purple state. That’s a recipe for more money to flow in,” he said.
Still, it’s been relatively difficult thus far to get a sense of the race since Thompson won the GOP nomination Aug. 14.
The Center for Responsive Government analysis includes all the money that came in during the hotly contested, four-way Republican primary.
The latest Federal Election Commission data only includes campaign contributions through July 25. The third-quarter reports aren’t due until Oct. 15.
Real Clear Politics, which compiles polling data, shows Thompson leading by an average of 7.8 percent. But that polling data dates back to mid-August, just after Thompson’s primary win.
Marquette Law School releases its latest poll Wednesday, the first politically neutral poll to be released in the past few weeks.
Duffy isn’t surprised the race has been quiet, saying there’s typically a noticeable lull after a primary election.
She noted that the Democratic Party gave Baldwin time to give a national-convention speech earlier this month.
Thompson, she said, has needed time to regroup, raise money and pivot away from the primary and toward the general election.
So Duffy expects to see a noticeable shift in the amount of attention the race is getting, right about now, with the release of the Marquette data.
“Really, in Wisconsin, people have to be kind of tired of politics,” she said.
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