Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin (Wis.) on Thursday blamed her low approval rating among Wisconsin voters on political polarization fueled by outside donors such as the Koch brothers.
Baldwin lamented that Wisconsin has become "a terribly polarized state" during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Asked about her 2018 reelection campaign and a poll showing her approval rating at 37 percent, Baldwin said that Charles and David Koch, libertarian billionaire industrialists and philanthropists, have fueled polarization.
"We're a terribly polarized state, which I hate," Baldwin said.
"Wisconsin has seen more outside spending, more super PAC spending, particularly from the Koch brothers," she said. "These out-of-state special interests think they own Wisconsin, and they've been attacking me, and that certainly contributes to how people feel about politics."
Baldwin said politics used to be much less polarized.
"When I started in political life running for office, people were ticket splitters," she said. "There wasn't the partisan polarization that we see."
The Koch network has stated that it intends to spend millions nationwide, including in Wisconsin, on the 2018 midterm elections to support conservative and libertarian issues, such as tax reform.
Baldwin's campaign has fundraised on her opposition to the Kochs, such as in a January letter to supporters.
"Tammy is a go-to target of special interest groups—already they've spent more against her than all of the other Democratic senators up for reelection combined," a fundraising letter said. "Now it looks like a lot more cash is going to come flowing into Wisconsin from the Koch network. Tammy doesn't kowtow to large corporations and millionaires and billionaires, and it's becoming clear that they're going to spend whatever it takes to replace her."
Wisconsin's Republican Senate primary will be held on August 14, and the current front-runners are state Sen. Leah Vukmir and businessman Kevin Nicholson.