A new Rasmussen poll shows Republican Tommy Thompson leading Democrat Tammy Baldwin by 50-38 in a potential Senate match-up in Wisconsin. This is an open seat currently held by Democrat Herb Kohl. Thus, Wisconsin represents an opportunity for Republicans to pick up a Senate seat.
Thompson’s lead isn’t suprising. Before becoming Secretary of Health and Human Services, he was an election-winning machine in Wisconsin, having been elected governor of the state, which leans Democratic, four times. In his last two races, 1994 and 1998, he captured 67 and 60 percent of the vote.
Thompson’s presence on the ticket in November might help another former center-right governor, Mitt Romney, in Wisconsin. Depending on the condition of the economy, Romney could be competive there.
Thompson faces opposition in the Republican primary, though. One of his opponents is former Rep. Mark Neumann, a member of the heroic class of 1994 that swept into Washington during the Gingrich-inspired revolution. Rasmussen shows Neumann with a slight 44-42 lead over Baldwin. Another challenger, Jeff Fitzgerald, the Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly, trails Baldwin 45-41. Fitzgerald is one of the heroes of the current fight for fiscal sanity in Wisconsin.
All three Republican candidates are performing better against Baldwin than they did in the last set of Rasmussen polls. Wisconsin Republicans seem to be on the rise, at least for now, as evidenced by the strong turnout in support of Gov. Walker earlier this week.
In early April, a PPP poll showed Thompson leading his Republican rivals. He had 38 percent, compared to 25 percent for Neumann, and 18 percent for Fitzgerald.
The primary isn’t until August 14, so a poll from early April may not be terribly meaningful. Republican Senate primaries can be fluid affairs these days. In any event, Wisconsin conservatives will have plenty of time to watch how the Republican contenders fare in poll match-ups with Baldwin and, if they are so inclined, to balance considerations of electability against ideological concerns, to the extent they may be in tension.