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Senator-Elect Tammy Baldwin Makes The New York Times

November 11, 2012

After having been gone for a couple of days I am getting caught up on the newspapers while drinking coffee (chocolate raspberry) and came across this in Saturday’s New York Times.

Madison is elated with Tammy Baldwin’s victory, and I am most confident Wisconsin will come to appreciate her.  I must say, and will stop doing this very soon on my blog, that I had tons of doubt about her electability this cycle.  I always wanted her to win for a whole set of reasons, but just never felt in my gut she could.  So I am really thrilled with her victory.  Baldwin is the face of the city I live in, and the future of Democratic politics in Wisconsin.

Ms. Baldwin’s hard-fought victory, in a bruising, $65 million race against a popular Republican opponent, was a testament to the unorthodox politics of a state whose ideological swings can, to outside observers, evoke whiplash.       

But it was also a striking affirmation of Ms. Baldwin, 50, a soft-spoken but unflinching seven-term congresswoman who won over voters in her native state without moderating the starkly progressive views — including lonely votes against the invasion of Iraq and the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act, a law that curbed commercial banks — that routinely rank her among the most liberal lawmakers in the country.       

She has played down the historic nature of her win, befitting a race where Ms. Baldwin’s sexual orientation played little role. At her victory speech here on Tuesday, Ms. Baldwin did not get around to talking about it until halfway through, saying she was “well aware” that her victory was a milestone for gay rights.       

After the enormous applause — the loudest of the night — died down, she added: “But I didn’t run to make history. I ran to make a difference.”       

The flush of victory still seemed fresh for Ms. Baldwin during an interview on Thursday at her Madison office. Walking into a conference room, her eyebrows shot up at the sight of an elaborate spray of flowers, a congratulatory gift from a supporter. “I hadn’t seen that yet,” she said, a bit surprised. Her new title, senator-elect, remains foreign to her. “It still perks my ears up whenever I hear somebody say that,” she said.         

It was this self-effacing demeanor that helped Ms. Baldwin win over voters outside Dane County, the liberal enclave where she grew up and built her political career. Elected to the county Board of Supervisors at 24, she made her way to the State Assembly, and later to Congress, being elected Wisconsin’s first female representative in 1998.       

In Washington, Ms. Baldwin proved iconoclastic, once co-sponsoring a bill to impeach Vice President Dick Cheney, and influential: she championed the provision of President Obama’s health care law that allows young adults to remain on their parents’ insurance plans until age 26.       

But she began her Senate bid as the underdog, facing a centrist former governor, Tommy G. Thompson, who was on a first-name basis with many voters. (The race was soon dubbed “Tommy vs. Tammy.”) Ms. Baldwin built support farm by farm, trudging through potato fields, armed with a maternal smile and a touch of down-home lilt.       

It was the type of outreach she has pursued since her days on the student council at Van Hise Middle School in Madison. As an eighth grader, Ms. Baldwin mediated a dispute between a neighbor of the school and students who were trampling her flower bed. The bipartisan solution: a fence.       

“It was the first time I had this spark that one person could make a difference,” Ms. Baldwin recalled on Thursday, as the sun glinted off a blue sliver of Lake Monona in the background.

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