It looks like a two-way battle in Wisconsin

About 30 percent of the precincts have reported in the Wisconsin Republican Senate primary. Former Governor and Secretary of HHS Tommy Thompson holds a small lead over businessman Eric Hovde, 33.7 percent to 31.0. Former Congressman Mark Neumann is third, but well behind with 22.7 percent. State Senator Jeff Fitzgerald is out of the running with 12.7 percent.

In the last poll I saw from Wisconsin, by Quinnipiac, Thompson was running even with Democrat Tammy Baldwin in the general election (47-47). Hovde trailed Baldwin by 4 points (47-43).

UPDATE: With about 80 percent of the precincts in, Thompson leads Hovde by about 4 points (34.3 to 30.4) and by almost 20,000 votes.

THOMPSON WINS: The numbers cited in the UPDATE have held up, making Thompson the winner. The former four-term Governor was miles ahead in the early polling, but trailed narrowly in the last poll I saw, by PPP. Frankly, I’m mildly surprised that Thompson pulled off this win, given the fate of so many Republican establishment candidates lately. I imagine that the unusually large number of credible candidates in the field running to Thompson’s right assisted him in the primary.

As for the general election, I have little doubt that Thompson is the strongest candidate the Republicans could put up this year to take on liberal Democrat Rep. Tammy Baldwin. It will be a tough race to be sure. But I see no good reason why Thompson, one of the most popular politicians in Wisconsin history, can’t follow in the successful recent footsteps of Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker.

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