MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Insurgent conservative Republicans who have shaken up U.S. Senate races across the country now have their eyes on defeating former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson in a GOP Senate primary two months away.
The Wisconsin race has been going on largely under the radar, eclipsed for most of the spring by Gov. Scott Walker’s recall election. But with that over, the Senate race is showing renewed signs of life as Thompson, a 70-year-old political giant, deals with three conservative Republicans trying to oust him in the Aug. 14 primary.
A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday shows that Thompson still has the upper hand, but one in four voters had yet to make up their minds.
“It’s been so overshadowed by the recall election, voters haven’t really formed opinions about a lot of things,” said Marquette pollster Charles Franklin.
The poll showed Thompson with 34 percent support among likely voters, followed by former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann at 16 percent, hedge fund manager Eric Hovde at 14 percent, and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald at 10 percent.
The random telephone poll of 344 likely primary voters was conducted June 13 through Saturday and has a margin of error plus or minus 5.4 percentage points.
The only Democrat running is U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, a liberal from Madison who in 1998 became the first openly gay non-incumbent elected to a congressional seat.
Neumann has garnered the most support from tea party conservatives, including the Club for Growth which ran ads attacking Thompson in August months before he got into the race.
Club for Growth spokesman Barney Keller said Wednesday that voters still haven’t focused on the Senate race because of the Walker recall, but as they do Thompson’s support will wane.
“Right now Tommy Thompson’s marginal lead in the polls is all due to name recognition,” Keller said. “Republicans already suspect that Tommy Thompson isn’t a true conservative, and once they realize it they’ll look for a conservative alternative, and that will be Mark Neumann.”
Thompson spokesman Darrin Schmitz said he suspected a flurry of attack ads targeting Thompson in the wake of the poll showing him
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