Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) announced on Tuesday that she's running for the Senate seat held by retiring Democrat Herb Kohl. If she wins, Baldwin will be the first openly gay senator in U.S. history. When Baldwin won her first congressional term in 1998, she was the first openly gay politician to be elected to the House — Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was the first congressman to voluntarily come out, but he did so in his fourth term. Will Baldwin's sexuality matter in her Senate race?
She can win, but it won't be easy: Baldwin's campaign announcement focused on her policies, from her promise to fight for the middle class to her vote against the Iraq war, says Dave Weigel at Slate. But make no mistake: At some point, the fact that she would be America's first openly gay senator will become a factor. Baldwin may be in a slightly better position than a gay man would be — "multiple studies have shown that people are marginally less biased against lesbians than they are against gay men" — but she's still sure to face some opposition from the 48 percent of Americans who view lesbians unfavorably.
"Tammy Baldwin's Senate run"
Her problem may be her voting record, not her sexuality: Republicans say they're confident Baldwin can't win statewide, says Rachel Weiner at The Washington Post. That's not "because of her sexual orientation, but because she’s too liberal." They're already blasting her as "an extreme Madison liberal" and "an avowed supporter of job-killing tax hikes, reckless deficit spending, and out-of-control debt." If she gets the Democratic nod, she's in for a tough fight.
"Will Tammy Baldwin be the first openly gay senator?"
She's at least the favorite for her party's nomination: Republicans might not be scared — but any Democrat eyeing this seat sure should be, says Sean Sullivan at National Journal. Baldwin has several national activist groups backing her up — Emily's List, which is dedicated to electing anti-abortion candidates, has already endorsed her candidacy. She'll have fund-raising power no other Democrat is likely to match. But the same liberal profile that will help her win the Democratic nomination "is also her biggest general election question mark."
"A closer look at Tammy Baldwin's Senate candidacy"