CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin -- a candidate for the U.S. Senate -- made a grand entrance onto the national stage Thursday evening, with a speech to the Democratic National Convention.
It was on the same night that President Barack Obama accepted his party's nomination, and although it wasn't televised live nationally, it's still the biggest national platform Baldwin has ever had. She walked on the stage to chants of "Tammy, Tammy" from the section of Wisconsin delegates. Baldwin was originally expected to go on between 8 and 8:30 p.m. Eastern -- but she ended up going on before prime-time, in the 6 o'clock hour.
Her supporters are hoping the speech will give her an edge in her race for U.S. Senate against former governor Tommy Thompson.
Baldwin's speech was short and to the point, advocating a progressive populist message. She attempted to contrast the Wisconsin of Congressman Paul Ryan, the Republican vice-presidential nominee, and Gov. Scott Walker.
"They don't speak for all of Wisconsin," Baldwin told the crowd. "The Wisconsin I know, knows that having two sets of rules makes no kind of sense. We believe in hard work. For decades, we've worked to make things: paper, engines, tools, ships -- and yes, cheese, brats and beer. Give our workers a fair shot and we'll compete against anyone."
The "cheese, brats and beer" line got some of the loudest cheers and applause for her.
Her speech didn't knock the socks off of the convention, but Wisconsin delegates nevertheless gushed afterwards. And it underscores a point about Tammy. She's never been a dynamic speaker -- no Barack Obama or Mario Cuomo, capable of firing up an entire auditorium. But a lot people in Wisconsin really, really love her. Whether it's enough to send her to the Senate remains to be seen.
"It was fantastic," Diana Miller, chair of the Menominee County Democratic Party who lives on the Menominee Indian Reservation, said of the speech. "Tammy Baldwin has been a supporter for rights of us women, she supports the native rights, she's beautiful, she's intelligent, and she's a hard worker. And she works for Wisconsin's people, she doesn't work for the rich."
Asked if it would be a close race, Miller said, "Not in Menominee County. We love her."
"I've always said, if you get a chance to meet Tammy Baldwin, you're going to vote for Tammy Baldwin," said Mark Pocan, who is running to replace Tammy in the U.S. House. "She's such an amazingly sincere, genuine person, very committed... Now you had a big audience get a chance to meet Tammy Baldwin. We're hoping it will have that same positive impact as it would if she'd met them personally."
"She really showed Wisconsin what our real values are," Pocan added. "And Scott Walker and Paul Ryan and Reince Priebus don't represent our state. She laid out a really good contrast between her and Tommy Thompson. And she really did Wisconsin proud."
Kevin Kopplin, who lives in Watertown, but lived in Madison for 10 years prior to that, echoed those sentiments. "I used to work in a convenience store up near the Capitol. She had offices in the neighborhood. She'd come in and just check in for 10-15 minutes at a time. Not only did I find her warm and friendly, that's a level of accessibility you don't often see from your politicians."
Still, Kopplin admits victory won't be easy for Baldwin. "I think it's going to be a barn burner. I wouldn't bet my life either way, but I could see this race tightening a month down the road with the debates."
Joe Tarr is in Charlotte with reporters from WORT 89.9 FM covering the Democratic National Convention, following their reporting on the Republican National Convention in Tampa.