Can Tammy Baldwin, a proud progressive, become the next U.S. senator from Wisconsin and make history as America's first openly LGBT senator? Not only can she, but I expect she will.
It won't be easy. This could be one of the hardest-fought Senate contests in the country, and recent polls show the race to be a "sheer toss up," according to Public Policy Polling. But Tammy's ready for that fight, and she has some built-in advantages that will make her more competitive than some conservatives seem to understand, such as:
Momentum: Tammy stood with working families against Scott Walker's assault on labor. Wisconsin voters know better than anyone in America: elections have consequences. After the far-right took over both chambers of the state legislature and helped elect Walker governor, working-class Wisconsinites were horrified at the ensuing attack on the middle class. Tammy literally stood with thousands of people in the Capitol fighting against a far-right agenda, and she's the only candidate who will give these newly energized citizens a reason to be excited about this race.
Unity: Tammy is likely to escape a primary challenge. While the Wisconsin Republican primary is shaping up to be a long and expensive battle for the soul of the party, Democrats appear to be uniting around Tammy's campaign. The GOP nominee is going to emerge bloodied, beaten and broke, while Tammy might well be able to conserve resources for the fall, when the campaign really heats up.
Resources: Tammy will have a remarkably broad and committed donor base, so she will have the money to compete and get her message out. As the first woman to represent Wisconsin in Congress, she will be able to draw on the financial support of women's groups such as EMILY's List and NOW. As a rock-solid supporter of working families and labor, she's earned the support of labor groups that will be fighting hard in 2012. As one of just a handful of openly gay members of Congress, Tammy will enjoy strong financial support from LGBT donors across Wisconsin and America, and from groups such as Fair Wisconsin, the Victory Fund and the Human Rights Campaign.
Authenticity: Tammy's an honest broker, a truth-teller who won't shy away from a record of tenacious support for middle-class working families, and who won't flinch when people ask about her sexual orientation. There's a genuine thirst for that kind of honesty in politics, and for Tammy it's not a political ploy. It's who she is, and voters will respond.
Washington is filled with boneheaded pundits who misunderstand what it takes to win in politics. Tammy's going to compete smarter and harder than many people realize, and she's going to be supported by middle-class families who believe, as she does, that government has stopped working for them.
Don't listen to pundits who tell you she's too progressive, too honest or too anti-establishment to win. They're wrong.