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Lessons from the latest Wisconsin Senate polls

Earlier this week, two sets of polling data regarding the Wisconsin Senate race were released, one from Quinnipiac, the other from Marquette University. These polls suggest the following: (1) Tommy Thompson has a good chance of defeating Democrat Tammy Baldwin, and should probably be considered the favorite in such a race and (2) two other Republicans, Mark Neumann and Eric Hovde, might also defeat Baldwin, but Baldwin would be favored in a race against either. (Full disclosure, Tommy Thompson was my law partner for a while, and was a team player – not all of them are, you know).

Quinnipiac has Thompson even with Baldwin, and Baldwin leading Neumann and Hovde by 3 and 4 points, respectively. Marquette gives Thompson a lead of 5 points over Baldwin. Neumann runs even with Baldwin in its polling, while Hovde trails by 3 points.

How should conservatives view respond to these results, assuming that, collectively, they are reliable? The Buckley rule holds that we should support the most conservative of the electable candidates.

Neumann and Hovde are considered more conservative than Thompson, although Hovde is a political newcomer and thus has no real political track record. The latest poll results do not show either Neumann or Hovde to be unelectable. Thus, the Buckley rule militates in favor of Neumann, I would think, followed by Hovde.

However, while Neumann and Hovde may be electable, the latest poll results indicate that neither would be easy to elect, while Thompson’s prospects in the general election are fairly good. Thus, considering that Wisconsin could determine which party controls the Senate, and taking into account that Thompson is a legitimate center-right candidate, one could make a pragmatic case for Thompson.

The primary will take place this coming Tuesday, August 14.

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