MADISON, Wis. -

U.S. Senate candidate Tammy Baldwin is using her spotlight at the Democratic National Convention to take aim at prominent Wisconsin Republicans, saying they don't understand the state and that candidates like her will fight for the middle class. 

Baldwin's speech Thursday evening came just hours before President Barack Obama was scheduled to speak.

It was Baldwin's third time speaking at a national convention, but it was her most prominent role as she fights for votes in the U.S. Senate race.

Baldwin said Gov. Scott Walker and her Senate opponent, former Gov. Tommy Thompson, don't speak for Wisconsin. She said the same of GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin native Paul Ryan.

"I want you to hear about the Wisconsin I know," Baldwin said. "The place where my grandparents raised me. The place where generations of families have worked hard to get ahead. The place where our state motto might sound familiar to you. It's just one word: forward."

Baldwin took a specific jab at Thompson, a former lobbyist, saying he "went to Washington, cashed in on his special interest connections and never really came back."

The most recent poll on her race shows her trailing Thompson by 9 points.

Thompson, the former four-term Wisconsin governor, has been in Congress since 1999.

Baldwin said she was exhilarated and honored by her speaking slot. WISC-TV asked whether she thought her speech would raise her profile or her poll numbers in the U.S. Senate race.

"We use every opportunity we can to bring a message to the voters of Wisconsin because there are such high stakes, and there is such a clear choice. And so this is a very humbling opportunity for me; it's just a thrill," Baldwin replied.

Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008, but polls show the race is much tighter this year against Romney and Ryan.