Can the GOP Gain Seats in States Trump Won? Prelimary Analysis of Tammy Baldwin By Garrett Russitano
This series examines 10 Democratic Senators who are up for election in states Donald Trump won. Thus far, we’ve analyzed Senators Bill Nelson (FL) Claire McCaskill (MO), Heidi Heitkamp (ND), Joe Manchin (WV), Bob Casey (PA), and Sherrod Brown (OH). This piece examines Tammy Baldwin, the incumbent Senator from Wisconsin, a state that Donald Trump won by 1 percent.
Tammy Baldwin began her political career in 1986 and served in local government before being elected the Wisconsin State Assembly in 1992. In 1998, Baldwin became the first women to represent Wisconsin in Congress, representing the 78th District. Baldwin was elected as the first openly gay United States Senator in 2012, when she narrowly defeated former Governor Tommy Thompson with 51 percent of the popular vote.
Senator Baldwin made healthcare a cornerstone of her legislative agenda in the Senate. Baldwin, a survivor of a rare meningitis-like infection as a child, has consistently supported the Affordable Care Act.
Baldwin has voted in-line with the Trump administration a just 20 percent of the time. Her support has mostly related to appointments, including Christopher Wray for FBI Director and former Generals Mattis and Kelly for Defense and Homeland Security. Baldwin voted against Justice Neil Gorsuch and many members of the Cabinet.
Senator Baldwin will be challenged in rural counties, which Trump won comfortably, even though the overall state total was close. Baldwin has recently proposed measures to address the economic woes of those Trump supporters, particularly dairy farmers.
Baldwin now faces two potential challenges, State Senator Leah Vukmir, a registered nurse who has served in the state legislature for 15 years, and Kevin Nicholson, a former Marine Corps officer who used to work for the Democratic National Committee before switching parties.
Senator Baldwin was polling at 40 percent favorability this spring, five points higher than her unfavorable rating. Meanwhile, President Trump’s unfavorability rating of 52 percent in Wisconsin is nine points higher than his favorable rating.
The Cook Political Report and Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball identify Wisconsin as “leaning Democrat.” Urban turnout coupled with modestly improving Democratic rural support will be key to Senator Baldwin’s pursuit of reelection.
Garrett Russitano is a research assistant for The Utica College Center of Public Affairs and Election Research.