MILWAUKEE -- Tommy Thompson characterized himself Friday as a reformer able to forge bipartisan relations, a stark contrast to the portrait Democrat Tammy Baldwin has painted of the former Republican governor who now wants to serve the state in the U.S. Senate.
Speaking to a couple dozen onlookers at the Milwaukee Press Club, he told those present "you are never going to cover a race where the candidates are more diametrically opposed."
Thompson also said he does not support a voucher plan for Medicare. "That's what Tammy Baldwin tells you I want."
Among the achievements he touted was the Part D prescription drug program for Medicare while he was secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush. The Senate was controlled by the Dems and the House by the GOP, he noted. "It was my job to get the votes."
Responding to Baldwin allegations that he had his work under Bush had prevented the government from negotiating costs with drug companies, Thompson said "it was not my deal." He said the Democrats were responsible for the failing to get negotiating power and that Baldwin, despite her 14 years in Congress, had failed to introduce legislation dealing with the issue.
He predicted that partisanship in Washington would ebb next year, noting that a president gets a honeymoon -- six months if newly elected, four months if re-elected -- and that Congress is going to have to act to avert a massive tax increase that will affect most Americans. No party is able to solve the nation's problems alone, he said.
Thompson was asked to respond to the notion that, while Thompson had done much during his 14 years as governor, his time had passed.
"Do you want someone to solve problems?" he asked, attacking what he said was his opponent’s sparse record during 14 years in Congress. "The only bill Tammy Baldwin passed was to rename the Madison Post Office for Bob LaFollette."
In response to another question, Thompson characterized himself as being one the 47 percent -- a reference to GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney saying at a fundraiser he could not win those voters because they were reliant on government programs.
He said he arrived at UW-Madison from Elroy with "two shirts, a sweater and a Thompson's grocery store bag" because he could not afford a suitcase.
"I guess you could say I'm part of the 47 percent," said Thompson, who has been attacked in the campaign by outside groups as a millionaire who traded in on his government connections.
Thompson attributed his dip in the polls to Baldwin outspending him.
"If Vince Lombardi -- St. Vinnie -- was on the ballot and four weeks they ran ads that said he was truly in love with the Chicago Bears, more than 10 percent of the people would believe it," he said.
He decried the negative ads but said they worked.
"The only chance she has is to try to completely destroy me," he said.
Despite the negative impact of the special interest group ads, he said he does not support a constitutional amendment barring or regulating them. Other legislation can be passed but the most powerful way to fight them would be for him to win, he said.
Thompson also attacked the Federal Reserve Board, saying "for the first time it has become political.
"They are printing 40 to 45 billion a month to stimulate the economy," and help President Obama's re-election, Thompson said.