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Just in case you thought Tammy Baldwin was invincible

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There is a lot to say about a Tammy Baldwin senate candidacy. For instance, Paul Fanlund's suggestion that Baldwin's aggressive progressive record may be a more effective approach to the Republican opposition, is likely true. The last thing the Democrats need is more John Kerrys. However, what has irked me recently is the oft-repeated meme that Baldwin's 7 straight victories in the 2nd Congressional district are evidence of her ability to win statewide. That's not even close to being true.

Ever since the 2nd was redrawn in 2001, it has been a solidly Democratic district, made up mostly of Dane County and parts of surrounding counties, most significantly the heavily Democratic Rock County to the South. Although the Cook Political report only rates the district D+15, I don't think any Democrats running for federal office have gotten less than 60 percent of the vote in recent years. Obama got 69% in 2008 and Kerry got 62% in 2004. Baldwin matched Obama's result in '08 and performed one point better than Kerry in '04, which means she is not going above and beyond expectations.

To get a glimpse of Tammy's ability to compete in a statewide contest, you have to consider her first two races, in 1998 and 2000, when the 2nd CD was still a relatively moderate district. In her first run, Baldwin beat Josephine Musser 53-47 and in 2000 she edged out UW Prof. John Sharpless 51-49. However, even those races give us a very limited view, since even then the 2nd CD was still more liberal than the rest of the state, and Baldwin's opponents were a very different breed of Republican than the right-wing nutjobs she will likely encounter in next year's general election (Tommy Thompson will either become one or lose).

Indeed, Tammy Baldwin is entering entirely new terrain.

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