Editor's Note: This article was updated at 4:50 p.m. Monday to include comments from Tommy Thompson after they were received.
The most expensive U.S. Senate campaign in Wisconsin history, and one of the most watched in the nation, is down to its last day — and by most accounting is down to the wire, with no significant advantage to either candidate.
Polls on the race between Gov. Tommy Thompson and U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin swung wildly since Thompson emerged as victor in the Republican primary. Thompson initially built a double-digit lead, only to see that reversed in Baldwin's favor.
But within the past month of the campaign, those numbers have drawn back to a near dead heat, with perhaps a slight edge toward Baldwin but falling within the statistical margin of error. In a Marquette University Law School poll released last week, the final one before the election, Baldwin had a 4-point edge on the former governor.
There are no more polls now though, except, as candidates are fond of saying – and as Baldwin did say in an interview Friday with Patch – "The only one that matters is the one on Nov. 6."
The Final Stretch
Baldwin said that going into the final days of the campaign, “I feel like we are in strong shape, and part of that is because I am traveling the state and meeting with the thousands of volunteers who have committed time to get out the votes of supporters, and as I see how hard they’re working, how committed they are, how driven they are, and how much they care about our state and our country, I get this incredible boost from them.
"As I look carefully at what I think was achieved through the early vote effort, I think that also puts my campaign and the president’s campaign on a strong footing," she added. "Most of the information I’ve been getting is that the goals, in terms of the percentage of voters that have cast their vote early, have been met."
U.S. Senate Election Preview:
In the waning moments before Tuesday's election, Thompson made the rounds through the state Sunday stopping in Hudson, Milwaukee, and Green Bay. He tailgated outside Lambeau Field before the Packers and Cardinals game, and shared his optimism with supporters.
"I have just spent the past three days on a 10-city “Restore America” bus tour where I spoke to Wisconsin voters throughout the state abut my plan to help employers create jobs, bring bipartisanship back to Washington, D.C. and restore fiscal sanity to Congress," Thompson said. "That has been my focus throughout the campaign, and that will remain my focus as a United States Senator."
Both candidates exude confidence but are keenly aware of how close this race is – and how important.
"As we started out the election cycle, there were numerous races that were expected to be hotly contested," Baldwin said. "But as the campaign trail unwound, through various circumstances, some of those races are no longer very competitive. We have a handful that remain neck-and-neck, and certainly Wisconsin is one of those – which is why it’s so important that everybody participate and that everyone’s voices are heard on Tuesday.
In discussing the tightness of the race with FOX News, Thompson opted to highlight the differences that exist between himself and Baldwin.
"This is a classic race between somebody that works with both political parties and somebody like Tammy Baldwin who is so extreme that even her own political party doesn't pass her legislation," Thompson told FOX News.
A Muddy Campaign
Besides being close and expensive, this race has been rancorous, with barrages of ads, robocalls and statements. Of all the issues that concerned voters in 2012, September 11, 2001 was not one of the top five. However, the domestic tragedy found a prominent place on the airwaves in the final week of the election.
"We have run an issue-based campaign from the start. Unfortunately, my opponent has refused to discuss the issues," Thompson said. "As someone who has helped create over 740,000 jobs and balanced a budget throughout my 14 years as Governor of Wisconsin, I have been focused on getting our economy back on track and creating jobs."
Baldwin said Thompson stooped to a new low in the campaign, and was outraged that he attacked her patriotism.
“In terms of the way Tommy Thompson has conducted his campaign, the last couple of weeks have appeared to me to be sort of dishonest and desperate attempts when he felt a loss of momentum," Baldwin told Patch. "During the last debate, I expressed my outrage when he sank so low as to question my patriotism and love of country. It’s just beyond the pale."
The outrage Baldwin referred was more specifically about an issue Thompson raised and has continued to raise about a single vote Baldwin made in 2006 against a minor measure to honor victims of the 9/11 terrorist attack. Baldwin had cast nine votes in favor of similar resolutions but, she said, withheld support for this one because of what she called partisan language inserted by Republicans taking credit for their efforts.
“FactCheck.org described it as “dishonest and vicious,” and that’s an outside group looking at it,” Baldwin said.
Commitment to Israel Questioned
Thompson also went after Baldwin late in the campaign for several votes against sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program, at an Oct. 14 press conference in Wauwatosa.
"Tammy Baldwin, her whole record is anti-Israel," Thompson said. "She voted for the first time for the sanctions three months ago because she knew she was running for the U.S. Senate. That is the lamest excuse I've ever heard.
"She's anti-Israel, she's anti-Jewish and she's trying to now somehow obfuscate her views and her intentions," the former governor added.
Baldwin countered that she did vote "yes" on initial military and economic sanctions against Iran but against later, tougher measures that she believed would only increase the suffering of innocent Iranian citizens. Thompson views sanctions as the best hop for global security.
"Diplomatic isolation and consistent application of severe, crippling economic sanctions on Iran are the best hope for slowing or stopping Iran’s progress toward nuclear weapons and avoiding the choice between a nuclear Iran and military action to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons," Thompson said.
Made in the USA
On the principal domestic issues of the economy and jobs, the deficit and debt, both candidates have made their positions known and are mainly in line with the Romney and Obama campaigns.
"Given that the U.S. Senate will not only pass a budget and pass legislation to deal with invigorating our economy and confronting the debt, we also know that this next U.S. Senate is likely to vote on Supreme Court nominees," Baldwin said. "And given some of the important decisions we have seen made in recent years – and the first one I would point to is Citizens United – it’s essential that we have a Senate that will look for fairness as they scrutinize potential justices.
“There are very clear differences between myself and Tommy Thompson in terms of how we would vote on the most important issues confronting our nation," Baldwin said, "to bolster the development and creation of private-sector jobs, to get our economy at full throttle, to get control of our deficit and debt, those being the very prominent issues that face our country.”
Although they don’t agree often, Thompson did agree with Baldwin that there are sharp differences in their visions to attack the deficit and restore the economy.
With over 23 million Americans either unemployed or underemployed and a $16 trillion debt, it’s clear that the policies of Baldwin and President Obama are not working fast enough.
"I have a proven record as a job creator. As Governor, I worked hand-in-hand with the private sector to create over 740,000 jobs, cut taxes and reform welfare," Thompson said."My number one priority is the economy. That is why I have a detailed plan to restore America, which emphasizes the importance of manufacturing in Wisconsin to our nation’s economy. My plan would create a more competitive corporate tax rate, repatriate foreign profits for investment at home and expand America’s domestic energy production."
"To make matters worse, in order to pay for Obamacare and other wasteful spending, she voted to cut Medicare for Wisconsin seniors and to raise taxes on middle class families," he added. "With a failed economic record like hers, it is clear that she does not have Wisconsin families' best interests at heart."
Baldwin, for her part, said that her personal crusade as a senator would be to level the playing field for American – and Wisconsin – manufacturing.
"I’d like to join forces with the other industrial states’ senators on a bipartisan basis and put together an agenda that we can all commit to. I would hope we wouldn’t run into partisan pitfalls, I’m sure there would be bumps along the road, but I hope this is something that people can agree on, that we need to be able to have manufacturing as a vibrant part of our economy. It’s something that I believe strongly in.”
Thompson’s path to reducing the deficit and creating a strong economy starts with passing U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity Plan” and repealing and replacing Obamacare. He would also reform the budget process to ensure a budget is enacted each cycle, deny debt limit increases, and make federal worker pay consistent with the private sector.
"Owing a significant amount of debt, coupled with the unfair trading practices of countries like China, has put our nation at a disadvantage. We must get our debt and deficit under control, rebuild our nation’s manufacturing sector and get our economy back on track," Thompson said.