By Cameron Joseph - 10/14/12 07:26 PM EDT
WHITEFISH BAY, Wis. -- Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) sought to tie her Senate opponent, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R), to entrenched special interests - and vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan - during a candidate forum with the Milwaukee Jewish Federation Sunday morning.
"People in this state want somebody who's going to go and fight for them not for Wall Street, not for the big pharmaceutical companies, not for the big insurance companies, not for the Tea Party, but for them," she said to an audience of 150 that had more Green Bay Packers sweatshirts than traditional Jewish skullcaps. "That's what I'll always do and that's what I have always done, standing up to powerful interests sometimes as a small minority, but when it's the right thing to do for the hard-working people of this state."
Baldwin and Thompson are locked in a tight race for the seat, left open by Sen. Herb Kohl's (D-Wis.) decision to retire. She has held a narrow lead in most recent public polls in the swing state, and has sought to portray Thompson as a Washington, D.C. insider while running a populist campaign.
The congresswoman criticized Thompson for standing with Paul Ryan, who has quickly become the state's most famous politician, and his budget, saying their plans would "slash" investments to education, infrastructure and research and development.
"Tommy Thompson spent the last six to eight months embracing the Paul Ryan plan, his budget, and saying he wants to be the 51st vote in the Senate to help pass that. And I look at budgets as values documents," she said, when asked how her values differed from Thompson's.
“I do believe we are all this together and that everyone deserves a fair shot, but everyone deserves their fair share. And that's the antithesis of what we see in the Paul Ryan budget," she added.
Ryan is holding a fundraiser on Thompson's behalf Sunday afternoon in Milwaukee, and has previously referred to Thompson as his "greatest mentor."
Baldwin also attacked Republicans for creating a "manufactured crisis" with the debt ceiling last year.
"The folks who are screaming right now about the Defense Department sequestrations are the very folks who voted for this and the folks who have obstructed our getting to the point where we let the Bush tax cuts expire for just the top two percent but maintain absolutely needed small and middle class tax cuts," she said. "The reason why we couldn't get to that vote was too many like my opponent had signed this pledge to a Washington, D.C. lobbyist named Grover Norquist that precluded them from being able to take a vote on which I would hazard a guess that 99 percent of Congress agrees with, that we want to keep middle-class taxes low.
“We didn't have to be here," she added.
The debate moderator also asked Baldwin about Israel, what he called the "elephant in the room" for the heavily Jewish audience. Baldwin told the story of her first trip to Israel, with her grandfather at age six, and described the country as "our most important ally and friend in the world" before touting votes for $35 billion in aid to the country including both economic and military support.