U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson says he held six campaign stops on Monday.
Just don’t expect to get answers about them too quickly.
Under criticism that he hasn’t been on the campaign trail enough, Thompson told WBAY-TV in Green Bay on Sunday that he had six events slated for the next day. For three days since then, campaign spokeswoman Lisa Boothe would not provide any details about them despite repeated requests.
On Thursday, she listed eight events that Thompson participated in on Monday, though some of them would not traditionally be considered “campaign stops.” Thompson attended a Republican Party event in Waukesha, held a visit to Herzing University that was closed to the general public, sat down for four one-on-one interviews with reporters and held two fundraisers.
The former GOP governor faces Democratic U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the Nov. 6 election, and her campaign has tried to use Thompson’s campaign style as an issue. Some of Thompson’s Republican backers, including state Sens. Mike Ellis and Dale Schultz, recently told the Associated Press that Thompson needs to make more campaign stops and adopt the retail politicking that was his stock in trade as governor.
Boothe blanched at that assessment, insisting that Thompson is campaigning hard.
“Anyone who knows Tommy would say no one works harder,” she said.
She noted that Thompson will appear before the public Friday in Appleton, Milwaukee and Racine.
The National Review on Sunday published comments by Thompson in which he glanced at his aides and said, “People in this campaign are always trying to, you know, put me in a silo. Well, I will never be put in a silo.”
Public events provide voters an opportunity to see candidates up close and give reporters a chance to ask them questions. The events give the candidates the ability to draw media attention, frame the issues in the campaign and highlight the weaknesses of their opponents, but they also put them into a situation in which they lose some control and open the possibility of gaffes.
Thompson is a politician who has a reputation for speaking his mind. It’s been a hallmark of his popularity, but also contributed to more than his share of verbal miscues over the years.
He was videotaped at a tea party event this summer saying, “Who better than me . . . to come up with programs to do away with Medicaid and Medicare?” His complete comments at the event were more nuanced than that, but the statement is now being used by his opponents in an ad against him.
Boothe said in an email a week ago that Thompson had made at least 96 campaign appearances between the Aug. 14 primary to the time she sent that email.
She said those 96 appearances consisted of 30 press events, 29 community events, 17 association meetings, seven speeches and 13 other events.
She acknowledged Thursday that the 30 press events included one-on-one interviews as well as news conferences. She did not break down how many of each were held, and she also did not provide details on what the community events, association meetings and speeches were.
Baldwin’s campaign said she held 31 public events between the primary and late last week. Baldwin spokesman John Kraus provided details about each of those events and said the campaign notified the press about them in advance.
“Thompson has admitted that he was exhausted and that his campaign had put him in a silo,” Kraus said in a statement.
“His own supporters have been outspoken about the fact he hasn’t been working to earn people’s support. Thompson arrogantly believes he is entitled to this job but now polls show voters disagree.”
A Marquette University Law School poll on Wednesday showed that Baldwin was up 48%-44%, but advantage has narrowed in recent weeks.
Boothe said Thompson’s campaign does not put out news releases about some public events, such as one Wednesday when Thompson received the Wisconsin Builders Association endorsement in Milwaukee. Some media outlets found out about the event, but Thompson declined to take questions.
For several weeks after the primary, Thompson was not running ads because of a cash shortage. Boothe said she believed the lack of ads contributed to the perception that Thompson wasn’t on the campaign trail.
Thompson underscored the precarious financial state of his campaign after the August Republican primary on the radio Thursday morning.
Thompson said his campaign had spent all its money in the four-way Republican primary. He won the Aug. 14 race.
“For 28 days after the primary we were out of money,” Thompson told WTMJ-AM’s Charles Sykes.
That forced the campaign to stay off the airwaves while Baldwin was on the air and – he said – mischaracterizing his record.
Thompson said Baldwin has been attacking her “and she has done a pretty job of it.”
Lee Bergquist of the Journal Sentinel staff contributed to this report.