Plover - Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), who has a very real chance of becoming the first openly gay or lesbian person elected to the U.S. Senate, stood with a 73-year-old potato farmer in his fields here the other day and asked him: “How hot am I?”
For the previous half-hour, the farmer had been boastfully showing Baldwin, 50, his equipment: the sorting machine, the stacking machine. And now, in response to her question, he nudged his thermometer close to her. I do mean thermometer, an infrared one, with which he’d just determined that the temperature of the dirt on this scorching July afternoon was 136 degrees.
He took a reading of Baldwin’s skin, which was a crackling 101.
“Wow,” she said, repeating a syllable that was getting a thorough workout as she deftly played a social role as traditional as any: the attractive younger woman stroking the older man’s pride. Her sexual orientation was irrelevant.
Because he didn’t care about it? Or didn’t even know? I had just a few minutes to chat with him before she and a few aides, doing a campaign swing through rural Wisconsin, arrived, and I got the sense that he was familiar only with her politics, the populist tone of which he said he liked.
“And the lesbian part?” wasn’t a phrase I instantly blurted out. The lesbian part shouldn’t be the deciding factor. And to judge from what I observed while shadowing her one day last week, it won’t be.
Baldwin, a Democrat serving her seventh term in the U.S. House, won’t know until mid-August which of four Republican aspirants she’ll face and precisely what kind of fight she’s in for.
But I don’t think its outcome will be governed by whom and how she loves. Not in 2012. Not with all the change afoot.
Look at the past few weeks, even the past few days. The high-profile wedding in the news over the weekend was of the retiring congressman Barney Frank and his male partner. The high-profile wedding the weekend
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