Thursday, September 29th, 2016

Sabato moves Wisconsin senate race to toss up, Belling asks what if?

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Tonight at 8:00 PM is the first debate between former Governor Tommy Thompson and Congressman Tammy Baldwin. The close race is not what Tommy! partisans should have expected, but it’s reality.

On Thursday, University of Virginia Larry Sabato’s Crystal Ball report moved the race from “leans Republican” to “toss up.”

Potential Obama wins in Nevada and Wisconsin could also hurt Sen. Dean Heller (R) and ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson (R). Our Nevada sources believe Heller retains a slight edge over the challenger, Rep. Shelley Berkley, but Berkley may be the Western Warren — a not-so-strong candidate that Obama and his Democratic turnout operation might carry over the finish line. Thompson, meanwhile, is getting crushed on the airwaves by Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D), who has surprisingly taken the lead in their race. Nevada and Wisconsin are now Senate toss-ups. Either or both could be roller coaster races, with the lead trading hands in the stretch run.

The Crystal Ball’s bottom line:

After these 11 rating changes, and assuming that the 67 senators not up for reelection this year return for the next Congress, we’re left with a 49-45 Democratic lead in the Senate, with six toss-ups: Connecticut, Indiana, Massachusetts, Nevada, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Republicans need to sweep all six to win the Senate outright. As of today, we would project that Democrats would win two of the six toss-ups, good enough for a 51-49 edge that would keep Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) majority leader despite a net loss of two seats.

If Sabato is correct, Republicans will be asking a lot of “what ifs” in the political off-season, especially concerning Missouri. However, WISN’s Mark Belling raised an interesting point about the Wisconsin senate race in his Waukesha Freeman column on Wednesday.

Had Eric Hovde beaten Thompson, he would have immediately come out of the box with ads accurately describing Baldwin’s radicalism. Hovde was self-funding his campaign and wouldn’t have been tapped out after the primary. Instead we’re left with Tommy making behind-the-scenes phone calls desperately trying to get back in the game.

All is not lost. Thompson is still running five points better than Mitt Romney in Wisconsin polls. When Romney’s poll numbers improve here (as is very likely), Thompson will also move up. But tammy Baldwin is an incredibly weak candidate with a Washington record of being a non-influential leftist crank. She’s there to be beaten. If she wins, it will be because Republican voters made a severe miscalculation when they chose Thompson in the primary.

By the way, Erick Erickson of RedState.org, one of former Congressman Mark Neumann’s out-of-state conservative cheerleaders, is visiting Wisconsin tomorrow for “Wisconsin Rising.” (Charlie Sykes and Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch will also be there. How fun is that?) Erickson would probably blast “establishment Republicans” for picking Thompson, completely ignoring his own role in dividing conservatives in the primary by backing Neumann despite the warnings from Wisconsin conservatives. Perhaps someone should ask Erickson if he plans on contributing to relieving Neumann’s campaign debt.

Thompson is finally hitting back at Baldwin. Here is the Thompson ad, “Too Liberal.”

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