Former Gov. Tommy Thompson and Rep. Tammy Baldwin wrangled over Medicare, the economy and Iran as a poll showed them virtually tied in the race for Wisconsin’s open Senate seat.
Thompson, the Republican, had 46 percent support in the Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday, compared to 45 percent for Democrat Baldwin. The two are vying to succeed retiring four-term Sen. Herb Kohl, a Democrat.
The race has been nominated by a series of attack ads. Baldwin supporters accuse Thompson of being in thrall to special interest groups. Thompson’s side claims Baldwin, who would be the first openly gay member of the Senate, is too liberal.
|Tommy Thompson (AP Photo)
Both candidates turned testy at times during a debate Thursday night at the University of Wisconsin–Marathon County in Wausau. At one point Thompson said to Baldwin: "If you want to interrupt me, Joe Biden, just give me a chance."
“Why don’t you tell me the truth?” Thompson asked the congresswoman as they debated health care. “I am telling the truth,” she shot back.
Thompson, who served as Health and Human Services secretary under President George W. Bush, said he wanted to take steps to ensure Medicare stays solvent without ending the entitlement program.
“I want to save it, “ Thompson said. “I want to make sure the seniors in America and in Wisconsin, in particular, are protected.”
Baldwin was asked about previous comments she made about “supporting a government takeover of medicine.”
“There is a role for the federal government,” she said during the debate. She said she wanted to keep Medicare intact.
|Tammy Baldwin (AP Photo)
“The program isn’t just a program,” she said, according to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “It’s a promise and one I vow to keep – not voucherize or do away with it.”
Hours before the debate, the Huffington Post reported that Thompson had investments in companies that did business with Iran. Baldwin pounced on that during their exchange. Thompson said he had not known about the Iran link until that day and had subsequently sold the stock.
Baldwin has raised $7.1 million compared to $2.4 million for Thompson, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. But outside groups have poured $23.2 million in the contest, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Conservative PACs such as Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity want Republicans to pick up the Senate seat. Liberal groups such as MoveOn.org and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund are backing Baldwin.
Baldwin also faces opposition from some conservative groups because of her sexual orientation. Washington Times columnist Jeffrey Kuhner referred to her Wednesday as a “radical lesbian” and “Barney Frank in a dress.”
Wisconsin’s 10 electoral votes went to Barack Obama in 2008, but this time the Badger State could vote either way. The Marquette poll showed Obama with 49 percent support in Wisconsin compared to 48 percent for Mitt Romney. Two weeks earlier, the same poll gave Obama an 11-point lead.
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