Tammy Baldwin's Senate Run

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 6 2011 12:42 PM

Tammy Baldwin's Senate Run

Chris Geidner reports that Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., will run for U.S. Senate -- a long-expected move, finally official after Russ Feingold declared he was out of electoral politics in 2012. Her announcement video threads the needle between Democratic blandness (fight for the Middle Class!) and Madison progressivism, with a mention of her anti-Iraq War vote, and her vote to save Glass-Steagall. "I'm proud to have stood with Russ Feingold and a handful of senators and congressman to say, no," to repeal, she says.

Policy, yes, sure, fine. Any discussion of this race will eventually get to the fact that Baldwin, if she wins, would be the first openly gay person elected to the U.S. Senate. And the evidence suggests that a lesbian is in a better position to achieve that than a gay man would be. Multiple studies have shown that people are marginally less biased against lesbians than they are against gay men. A slightly outdates Pew poll found that 50 percent of people had unfavorable opinions of gay men; only 48 percent had unfavorable opinions of lesian. Gregory Herek's 2002 paper on this subject also found that straight people were marginally more biased against people of the opposite sex. In a partisan election, women are more likely to support a Democrat anyway, so we have another advantage for Baldwin.

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Baldwin's benefitting, for now, from a contested Republican primary that the Club for Growth, a bit short on targets in 2012, is trying to wrest from Tommy Thompson over to arch-conservative former congressman Mark Neumann. The latest polling puts Baldwin in striking distance of Neumann, 40-44, which isn't much of a surprise, either -- we've just seen multiple heated union-vs.-Tea Party battles that ended in narrow Republican wins.

David Weigel, a former Slate politics reporter, is a reporter for Bloomberg Politics

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