Dem 51
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GOP 49
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Mike Gallagher Won't Challenge Tammy Baldwin for Wisconsin Senate Seat

It is recruitment season and you win some and you lose some. The NRSC won a big one in West Virginia when Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) announced that he will challenge Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV)—assuming Manchin runs, which is not certain. Now the NRSC lost a medium-sized one. Rep. Mike Gallagher (R-WI) has decided not to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in 2024. This is a big disappointment for the NRSC. They were really hoping he would get in. He is probably the strongest candidate they have against Baldwin. But Gallagher clearly knew that beating a sitting senator who has won the seat twice is very difficult. He also knows that his district, WI-08, in the northeast part of the state, is R+10, so given a choice of an easy reelection to the House or a long-shot bid for a Senate seat that he would probably lose, he played it safe and will stay in the House.

One Republican strategist was dour and said that no other Wisconsin Republican could plausibly beat Baldwin. The bench is simply too thin and there are no other top-shelf Republicans available. Most likely what will happen now is that a couple of self-made millionaires or billionaires, who think they are definitely Senate material, will decide to drop $10 million or more in a primary. Then the winner will go on to spend another $30 million or more on the general election and still lose. You can buy a lot of name recognition if you are rich enough, but you can't make Democrats vote for Republicans by yelling SOCIALIST SOCIALIST SOCIALIST very loudly. Once in a while it works (see: Johnson, Ron) but it's rare and works best in an open seat against a weak opponent.

The thing about Wisconsin that makes it very special is that it is one of the top three battleground states, along with Georgia and Arizona. Both parties can and do win there, but they need strong candidates and weak opponents. The Democrats have a strong candidate in Baldwin and she is likely to face a weak opponent.

One possible Republican candidate is former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, who served two terms with Scott Walker way back when. She ran for governor in 2022 and lost the primary to a rich businessman, Tim Michels, who went on to be wiped out by Gov. Tony Evers (D-WI). However, Kleefisch may be waiting for Evers' current term to end in 2026 and try for a move to Madison rather than to D.C. That would be understandable; after all, Madison is much closer to Lambeau Field than Washington is. (V)

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