Tommy vs. Tammy III: Our US Senate debate roundup

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson and Democratic rival Tammy Baldwin squared off Oct. 26, 2012 in their final debate.
Republican U.S. Senate candidate Tommy Thompson and Democratic rival Tammy Baldwin squared off Oct. 26, 2012 in their final debate.

In the final U.S. Senate debate, Republican Tommy Thompson and Democrat Tammy Baldwin stuck much closer to the truth in the first half, before falling back on some far less accurate attacks late in the debate.

Here’s a recap of how PolitiFact Wisconsin and PolitiFact National have rated some of the key claims that came up in the Oct. 26, 2012 debate.

Legislative accomplishments

Thompson said Baldwin had done little in Congress, saying, "she passed three bills" in nearly 14 years. We rated a similar claim from the GOP primary by Republican Jeff Fitzgerald as Mostly True, while noting that it’s only one way to determine the effectiveness of a legislator.


Baldwin accused Thompson of a "sweetheart deal" while serving as U.S. Health and Human Services secretary -- a deal she said made it illegal for the federal government to bargain with big drug companies on the prices of prescription drugs for seniors.

We rated True a Baldwin claim that the Medicare Part D law made such negotiation illegal, but we have not rated the accusation that it was due to a "sweetheart deal" involving Thompson.

Thompson said Baldwin and Democrats "took $716 billion out of Medicare to fund Obamacare," the federal health care reform legislation approved in 2010.

We rated a similar Mitt Romney statement Half True, or partially accurate.

The number is correct, but the law does not take money that was already allocated to Medicare and fund the new healthcare law with it. The law uses a number of measures to try to reduce the rapid growth of future Medicare spending.


Baldwin claimed that Thompson "starts with supporting the (U.S. Rep. Paul) Ryan plan, which has massive new tax cuts for the very wealthiest," some $260,000 on average for millionaires.

We rated a two-part Baldwin claim that included that figure and an allegation that Thompson would raise taxes on the middle class. The number about the wealthy is based on research by a respected group, we found. But we found the middle-class claim debatable and unclear. We rated the combination of the millionaire and middle-class claims Half True.


The candidates heatedly repeated the allegations in their respective TV ads on the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

We rated Mostly False a Thompson ad that said Baldwin "had the opportunity to vote to honor the victims of 9/11 and she voted against it."

The ad said Baldwin voted against a resolution honoring 9/11 victims. She did, in 2006, but said it was because it added in references to the Patriot Act, immigration bills, and other controversial matters. Baldwin has voted nine times in favor of similar resolutions and the day before the vote in question supported creation of a memorial at the World Trade Center site.

We rated Mostly False a Baldwin ad that said Thompson "personally made over $3 million" from a federal contract granted to his healthcare company, but left 9/11 first responders "without the care they were promised."

Thompson’s firm was slow to get care for some first responders as it took over the contract, we found, but Baldwin ignored the mixed blame for the problems as well as the short-term nature of them, while making a sensational and unsubstantiated claim that Thompson personally pocketed millions from this particular contract.