Wisconsin’s battleground state status was on display Friday with a fourth likely presidential contender coming to the state for a voter rally just days before the 2018 midterm election.
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., stumped for Democratic U.S. Sen Tammy Baldwin, who is seeking a second term, at Madison’s Monona Terrace.
Baldwin, of Madison, has maintained a double-digit lead over her opponent, state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, in public polling throughout the campaign. The latest Marquette Law School Poll showed Baldwin leading 54-43 among likely voters.
Warren, a likely 2020 presidential candidate, criticized the Republican party for attempting to dismantle the Affordable Care Act, taking down unions, making decisions for women and questioning science.
“All I have to say is tick-tock,” she told the crowd of Baldwin supporters. “Four days, four days!”
Warren is the latest prominent Democrat to join Baldwin on the campaign trail. Earlier this week, former Vice President Joe Biden rallied about 1,000 on UW-Madison’s campus. Last week, former President Barack Obama campaigned for Baldwin at a Milwaukee high school and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders stopped by Madison on the first day of early voting as part of a national tour.
Warren, Biden, Sanders and California Sen. Kamala Harris, who also recently campaigned in Madison for Baldwin, are possible 2020 presidential candidates.
“We believe money should not determine the outcome of elections,” Warren said, adding that Citizens United, a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision on campaign finance, will be overturned.
Kathy Evers, the wife of state Superintendent Tony Evers, who is challenging Gov. Scott Walker, introduced Baldwin at the rally attended by a few hundred people.
“You can say, I think safely, that health care is on the ballot,” Baldwin said, launching into her own story of a medical diagnosis at age 9 that derailed her from getting health insurance for many years because of the pre-existing medical condition.
Health insurance coverage for people with pre-existing medical conditions has been a key issue in the 2018 election, with both Republicans and Democrats promising to protect such coverage, though for years Walker, Vukmir and other Republicans have worked to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which requires health insurance companies to cover pre-existing conditions.
“Washington is a mess right now,” Baldwin said. “There’s distractions. It’s loud. It’s chaotic. I fear what the president tweets every morning when I get up. And it distracts the attention of our Congress and others from the issues that really matter to Wisconsin families.”
Vukmir’s campaign manager, Jess Ward, issued a statement in response to Warren’s visit that referred to Warren as “Pocahontas,” the nickname President Donald Trump has given to Warren. Ward refers to Baldwin as “Tomah Tammy,” a nickname Vukmir has given to Baldwin in relation to her handling of the over-prescription of painkillers at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
“After Tomah Tammy looked the other way and let our veterans down at Tomah, she has now decided to campaign with Senator ‘Pocahontas’ Warren who falsely claimed to be a Native American, so she could have preferential employment opportunities,” Ward said. “Leah is a nurse and military mom who has played by the rules, but Tomah Tammy and ‘Pocahontas’ Warren have despicably spent their lives taking advantage of our veterans and minorities to advance their careers.”
Warren in October released DNA test results that provide some evidence of a Native American in her lineage. The test has done little to quell criticism of her by Trump and his supporters.
Baldwin has acknowledged her office made mistakes in handling an inspector general report on over-prescribed painkillers at the Tomah VA hospital, but a Senate committee that investigated it determined she did not engage in a cover-up, and Baldwin worked to pass a law that toughened guidelines for prescribing drugs at VA facilities. Vukmir has pressed the issue, recently calling Baldwin “Princess Painkiller,” even though Baldwin’s mother suffered from opiate abuse.
Baldwin encouraged the crowd to cast their ballot early, as she did Thursday on UW-Madison’s campus. A key part of Baldwin’s campaign targets college voters, who typically vote Democratic.
NextGen America, a liberal political action committee founded by billionaire Tom Steyer, has been a mainstay on college campuses in battleground states this semester. The group spent nearly $3 million across 32 Wisconsin campuses and registered more than 8,300 young voters, according to its latest report.
The Wisconsin Elections Commission reported that a record number of voters have already cast their ballot in Tuesday’s election. As of Thursday, about 46,000 more Wisconsinites had voted compared to the 2014 midterm election that set the previous early voting record.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.