By Ruth Conniff on October 18, 2012

Tammy Baldwin and Tommy Thompson face each other tonight in their second debate in Wisconsin's hot Senate race.

The debate comes the day after the latest Marquette University Law School Poll showed their race--along with the Presidential contest--in a dead heat in Wisconsin.

Two weeks ago, before the first Presidential debate, the same poll found President Obama up by 11 points, and Baldwin up by 4 points.

Since then, Wisconsin's airwaves have been jammed with ads.

Thanks to Citizens United, outside groups are putting more money and buying more air time than the candidates for the first time in a U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin--making it the second most expensive race in the country.

Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS, the top spender in the race, has put in about $5 million.

That's a big change from the beginning of the campaign, when Thompson, having spent all his money in a contentious three-way primary, was slow to respond to attacks in ads by Baldwin.

Initial polls showed Thompson winning, and national groups, including the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee and Crossroads GPS, were putting money into other states, in their effort to retake the Senate for Republicans.

But after two September polls showed Baldwin leading Thompson by 6 to 9 points, outside money came flowing in for Thompson.

With $22.5 million in spending by outside groups, the Wisconsin Senate race is now the second most expensive in the country after Virginia, according to data collected by the Sunlight Foundation.

Even as recently as the 2010 Johnson/Feingold race, the candidates did almost all the spending—a total of $3 to $4 million, says Mike McCabe of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign. What jumps out about this race, besides the quintupled spending, says McCabe, “is the extent to which the candidates are doing less of the talking and the interest groups are doing more of the talking.”

The Marquette poll showed that negative ads supporting Thompson and attacking Baldwin were having an impact on voters in the last two weeks. While the same 48 to 49 percent agreed with the statement that Thompson "has sold out to special interests and isn't working for you anymore" as in the poll two weeks ago, the number who think Baldwin "is one of the most liberal members of Congress and is too liberal for Wisconsin" increased from 45 to 48 percent.

The candidates' latest FEC filings this week showed that the Baldwin campaign had raised a total of about $11.7 million, almost double the $6.1 million the Thompson campaign reported.

If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Joe Biden's Class Act."

Follow Ruth Conniff @rconniff on Twitter

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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