When Packers play, campaigning takes a back seat
GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — In a season where political campaigns disagree on almost everything, candidates have found common ground on one point: Never disturb a Wisconsin voter when a Packers game is on.
Over the past few months, the campaigns' armies of volunteers have been nearly impossible to avoid. They've made countless phone calls and knocked on doors from one end of the state to the other. But the phones and doorbells all go quiet when Green Bay takes the field.
"If you want to lose votes, call somebody during a Packer game and talk politics," said Tommy Thompson, the Republican candidate in a hotly contested U.S. Senate race. "It is a dumb move."
Since the start of the NFL season, Thompson and Democratic opponent Tammy Baldwin have instructed their campaigns to suspend voter outreach during a game. Even the presidential campaigns for Barack Obama and Mitt Romney stop the phone calls and door knocks in Wisconsin during a Green Bay game — the only NFL state where the campaigns make that concession.
That doesn't mean the candidates take a three-hour timeout. They might attend tailgate parties with fans or relax with their staffs, while volunteers take a break from making calls to assemble packets and enter data into computers.
Thompson stopped by Lambeau Field before Sunday's game, where supporters in Packers sweatshirts and green and white jerseys crowded around him to shake his hand and pose for pictures.
He was generally well received, but 31-year-old Dave Schommer of Green Bay looked up from the grill where he was serving up burgers and brats to shout, "Keep politics out of football!"
"This is fun," he told a reporter afterward, gesturing to the swarms of tailgating fans around him. "There is nothing fun about politics. I get why they come here, but I just don't like it."
The Packers have long figured into politics, especially in recent races.
Packers star Charles Woodson campaigned for Obama at a rally in Green Bay last week, and Obama thanked the crowd for giving such a warm welcome to a fan of the rival Chicago Bears. The following day, former Packer quarterback Bart Starr stumped for Romney in the Milwaukee area, telling supporters Romney has the sort of character and integrity that coach Vince Lombardi would respect.
Republican vice presidential contender Paul Ryan has also touted his Green Bay loyalties, and he appeared at a separate Lambeau rally Sunday.
All managed to avoid Packers-related gaffes, unlike Democratic Sen. John Kerry. During his presidential bid in 2004, Kerry mistakenly referred to Lambeau Field, hallowed ground to Packers fans, as Lambert Field.
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