MILWAUKEE -- The campaign for U.S. Senate came to Milwaukee Monday as Former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson appeared in the first of a series of forums hosting candidates vying to replace retiring U.S. Senator Herb Kohl.
Monday's appearance was a reintroduction of sorts for Thompson. He left office after serving as Wisconsin's governor to serve as President George W. Bush's secretary of health and human services more than a decade ago. However, Thompson has retained a certain aura in Wisconsin, something he says he's well aware of.
Tommy Thompson knows where he stands. He is crafting a candidacy for U.S. Senate based on the idea that because of who he was - a popular four-term governor - he can't be beaten. "I'm by far the strongest candidate," Thompson said.
Thompson is ostensibly running against Former Congressman Mark Neumann and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, but he is also attempting to run past them, never mentioning them by name, and instead, focusing on the likely Democratic nominee, Tammy Baldwin. "Tammy Baldwin is a nice lady, but she's very, very liberal," Thompson said.
In an appearance at the Milwaukee Press Club Monday, Thompson was asked by a panel of reporters about a wide range of issues, including his personal finances. Thompson serves on at least 15 public and private boards, and says he will resign the positions if elected.
Thompson's reputation is as an affable moderate, a get-things-done Republican, someone who doesn't quite match the new brand of hard-line conservatives symbolized by Governor Scott Walker and Senator Ron Johnson. "I do not believe you're going to accomplish what needs to be accomplished in America by electing people who are such strong ideologues, both on the left and the right, that you're never going to get anything done," Thompson said.
Months before Thompson entered the race, he was being attacked from the right for not being conservative enough.
The race for U.S. Senate is taking a backseat to the recall of Governor Walker, a spectacle that threatens to drown out almost all other news in the state. Even though Thompson spoke emphatically in support of Walker, appearing at a pro-Walker rally in Wauwatosa as a speaker this weekend, there are rumblings of division between the two men, based on policy. "I think I would have approached (collective bargaining) differently, but that doesn't mean what he did is wrong. I support him, and what he did. Recalls tear at the fabric of the Republic, and says we don't trust the electorate," Thompson said.