With a much-anticipated Wisconsin recall election set for Tuesday, Rep. Tammy Baldwin, who is considering a U.S. Senate run in 2012 and has posted impressive fund-raising numbers to back those likely aspirations, has been highly active in a final push for Democratic candidates.
Baldwin is not expected to announce whether she will seek retiring Wisconsin senator Herb Kohl's seat until after the recall election is completed -- providing a barometer for the political mood of the Midwestern swing state. Some observers, however, expect the seven-term congresswoman to run regardless of the outcome in the recall election, which involves six Republican and two Democratic state senators -- races that have drawn some $30 million so far from third-party groups, according to the Wisconsin State Journal. Democrats must pick up three seats in the Wisconsin state Senate in order to regain control of the chamber.
Baldwin's involvement Monday in the campaigns will be via phone. Her schedule includes calls with volunteers working for Democratic candidate Jennifer Shilling in the race against Republican incumbent senator Dan Kapanke of La Crosse. Baldwin will also join a call training volunteers for "Call Out the Vote" at the beginning of the evening shift, according to Baldwin's press secretary, Jerilyn Goodman.
Over the past month, the congresswoman's on-the-ground weekend and recess schedule has included activities in and beyond her second congressional district, from rallies in Madison to campaign kickoff events in Oshkosh and door-to-door canvassing in Green Bay and River Falls.
Doug Hill, a political consultant and former district director for Wisconsin congressman David Obey (who retired this year), predicts Baldwin's decision to run for the U.S. Senate is a go, regardless of whether Republicans are ousted from office for supporting Gov. Scott Walker's move to slash collective bargaining rights for public employee unions.
"She's always struck me as someone who's independent and has the foresight and political knowledge to make her own decisions," Hill said. "If she sees a path to victory, she's going to go for it."
In July, Baldwin reported raising $502,000 during the second quarter, and she has $1.1 million in cash on hand. She raised $435,000 in June alone, though the showdown over Kohl's seat could ultimately cost in the region of $10 million to $20 million. "She's in a great place right now for the market that she's in," said Denis Dison, vice president of communications for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. "That said, it's an open seat. The Republicans are going to be going after it with guns blazing. Baldwin is going to be looking under every cushion for spare change, and the LGBT community is going to be an important part of her fund-raising plan."
Who might also vie for the Democratic seat is unclear. Russ Feingold, who lost his reelection race for the Senate in 2010 and was appointed to a visiting professor post at Marquette University Law School in January, is not expected to declare whether he will run until after Labor Day. One political source said that Feingold "could raise $1 million in a day" with his fund-raising prowess among progressives.