State Political and Government News: President Obama in Madison to headline final campaign rallyWisconsin News
-- President Obama is in Wisconsin this morning, as he gets ready for his final campaign appearance in the Badger State before tomorrow’s elections.
MADISON - President Obama is in Wisconsin this morning, as he gets ready for his final campaign appearance in the Badger State before tomorrow’s elections.
The Democratic president landed in Madison at 2:40 a.m.. He’s scheduled to appear a downtown rally late this morning with a speech and a mini-concert by rock legend Bruce Springsteen. On Saturday, singer Katy Perry appeared with the president in Milwaukee. And in Cincinnati the same day, Stevie Wonder opened an Obama rally with a rendition of “Keep On Running.” National media reports say the president has enlisted over 180 musicians, actors, athletes, and popular political figures to hit their own campaign trails on Obama’s behalf. Comedian Danny DeVito and fellow cast members of the FX cable show “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” canvassed Wisconsin neighborhoods and visited colleges. Actor Laurence Fishburne helped lead a “Souls to the Polls” effort with local churches in Ohio.
Meanwhile, other candidates in the extremely close Presidential and U.S. Senate races are making their final pitches in Wisconsin today. Republican vice president hopeful Paul Ryan has a late night airport rally planned in Milwaukee before returning home to Janesville to vote tomorrow. In the Senate race, Democrat Tammy Baldwin appears with Obama in Madison before holding her own rallies in Wausau, Green Bay, and suburban Milwaukee. Republican Tommy Thompson started his day in La Crosse before making speeches in the Eau Claire, Wausau, and Green Bay areas.
Twelve U.S. Senate races around the country are considered toss-ups tomorrow, including the Thompson-Baldwin race in Wisconsin. Republicans need to gain four seats to take control of the Senate – and that’s why GOP supporters might have interrupted your weekend with almost constant phone calls. The Center for Responsive Politics said Republican Tommy Thompson benefited from almost six-million dollars in special interest spending over the past week – while Democrat Tammy Baldwin only got $1.3 million in support. The Federal Election Commission said outside groups have spent almost $46-million dollars on the Wisconsin Senate race. That’s the second-highest special interest money among the U.S. Senate races, behind only Virgnia. And it’s much more than the $20-million spent by the candidates themselves as of mid-October. That puts the total tally at $66-million and rising – not quite to the level of this summer’s Walker recall election, in which all sides spent around $81-million dollars. By the way, there’s a reason your phone went silent between noon and 3:30 yesterday afternoon. That’s when the Packer game was on –- and both Thompson and Baldwin say it’s not good to disturb a Cheesehead during the game.
Wisconsin voters will make history tomorrow when they elect a new U.S. senator to replace the retiring Democrat Herb Kohl. If they choose Democrat Tammy Baldwin, she would become the state’s first female U.S. senator – after she became the state’s first woman to be elected to the House in 1998. Also, Baldwin would be the nation’s first openly gay person to serve in the Senate. If Tommy Thompson wins, Wisconsin would have two Republican senators for the first time in about 60 years. Joe McCarthy and Alexander Wiley are the last pair of Republicans to serve the Badger State in the Senate in the 1940’s-and-50’s. Also, the 70-year-old Thompson would be the state’s oldest first-time senator. According to the University of Minnesota, the average of age of Wisconsin’s newly-elected senators is 45 over the course of a century – and a Thompson victory would raise that number to 47. At 50, Baldwin would also be older than the state average. In addition, it’s very possible that Wisconsin voters will choose a president and a U.S. senator from different parties – something that’s happened only twice in the same election in the last 100 years. The last time was 1968, when Wisconsin carried Republican President Richard Nixon while re-electing Senate Democrat Gaylord Nelson.
A federal stimulus program to make buildings more energy-efficient in three southern Wisconsin cities has largely gone unused. In 2009, the Obama stimulus provided $20-million to Madison, Milwaukee, and Racine to help homes-and-businesses lower their energy bills. But the Wisconsin State Journal says only about three-million dollars in grants have been awarded – and another one-million has been loaned for residential projects. That leaves just under 16-million available in the three-year program – and if it’s not spent in the next seven months, the funding goes back to Washington. About 100 businesses and 500 homeowners have benefited from the energy funding. But in Madison alone, a green organization was hoping to retrofit 45-hundred homes and about 110 businesses. But only 16-percent those homes and 28-percent of those businesses have been funded. One problem is that the program was limited to low-interest loans at first – and people and businesses hesitated to add to their debt during the Great Recession. Brian Driscoll, who organizes the Wisconsin program, said more funds were granted when cities could start giving grants in late 2010.
If you haven’t voted since the Walker recall contest, you might want to double-check your polling place for tomorrow. Redistricting has changed the places where some voters will cast their ballots. In Milwaukee, 11 wards have switched to seven new polling places – and one is temporary for tomorrow’s vote only. You can get your correct polling place by going online to MyVote.wi.gov. You can also check your registration status, find sample ballots, and more. The state Government Accountability Board runs the My Vote Web site.
Paul Ryan’s three kids often steal the show when they appear with their dad on the campaign trail. The Republican vice presidential nominee from Janesville has Liza, Charlie, and Sam Ryan – all under 10 – campaigning with him on the weekends. They were in Richmond Virginia on Saturday. And yesterday, they had their own tailgate party outside the Green Bay Packers’ game against Arizona at Lambeau Field. Their dad tossed bean-bags with them, as hundreds of Cheeseheads looked on. Reporters who travel with Ryan say his remarks are much softer when his children are around. But seven-year-old Sam Ryan doesn’t seem to notice – he’s too busy having fun and teasing the press corps. After the vice presidential debate, Sam was spinning around on his father’s chair on the debate stage as his dad and Vice President Joe Biden engaged in their final handshakes. In Marietta Ohio this weekend, Sam greeted the crowd with a huge grin and a “V”-sign for victory. And at a factory tour, he put his hands above his head to block photographers. His mother, Janna Ryan, says quote, “I don’t know where he gets it.”