Tommy Thompson Trudges On

Madison, Wis. — Tommy Thompson may be the biggest name in Wisconsin politics, but the former four-term governor faces serious challenges in his Senate race against Democrat Tammy Baldwin.

Thompson tells National Review Online that he is working hard, after a bruising primary that left him “a million dollars in the hole,” to recover from Baldwin’s barrage of negative advertising.

“I was exhausted,” Thompson says of the post-primary period. “I used to box in school, and there’s an old adage that when you get so tired that you can’t hold your arms up, you just drop them, and you hope that the other guy gets tired and stops hitting you.”

To improve his chances, Thompson plans to campaign vigorously up until the election. The Associated Press reported last week that Thompson has made “only a handful of appearances” since he won the GOP primary in August.

Thompson won’t have another quiet month. In the final five weeks, he wants to meet as many Wisconsin voters as possible. His strategy is to be enthusiastic and accessible, the way he ran his gubernatorial campaigns.

“Let’s put all of the cards on the table,” Thompson says as he glances at his political aides. “People in this campaign are always trying to, you know, put me in a silo. Well, I will never be put in a silo.”

Beyond hitting the trail, Thompson will hold two more debates with Baldwin and he will continue to hold fundraisers. His campaign has also produced a handful of new ads that target Baldwin’s liberalism.

“We should end the quarter with north of a million dollars, plus having paid for our TV through the 1st of October,” Thompson says. “It’s not nearly enough, but I’m out there raising money every day.”

For weeks, Thompson says, his money woes were real. “In order to get to the finish line on the primary, I had to borrow $600,000,” he says. “The campaign doesn’t want me to say that, but I did.” By late August, “We were hurt, but we won.”

In Washington, Thompson’s financial and political troubles have alarmed Republican leaders. His candidacy is considered one of the party’s better opportunities to pick up a swing-state Senate seat.

Thompson, however, is confident that he’ll win. “I really think I’m going to just win on my own,” he says. “It’s amazing how many people still know me.” His “passion,” he predicts, will be the critical factor.

Robert Costa — Robert Costa is National Review's Washington editor and a CNBC political analyst. He manages NR's Capitol Hill bureau and covers the White House, Congress, and national campaigns. ...

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