Tommy Thompson Wins The Wisconsin Senate Primary

Tommy Thompson Wisconsin

Photo: Getty

UPDATE (11:45 p.m. ET): Tommy Thompson has won the Wisconsin Republican Senate primary, The Associated Press reported. With almost 90 per cent reporting, he had 34.5 per cent of the vote to top challenger Eric Hovde’s 30.6 per cent. Thompson will face Democrat Tammy Baldwin in a crucial general election matchup.Read about the Republican race in the original post below:

The Wisconsin Senate race keeps getting overshadowed, first by a nationally important gubernatorial recall race in June and this week by the selection selection of native son Paul Ryan as the Republican vice presidential candidate.

But Tuesday, the Wisconsin Republican Senate primary should, at least for one night, garner some well-deserved consideration. 

Former Gov. Tommy Thompson is the leading a three-way race  to win the Republican primary, but Tea Party favourite Mark Neumann and businessman Eric Hovde are still nipping at his heels, hoping for potential upsets

The race is the “most important” for Wisconsin Republicans in more than a half decade, said Marquette pollster Charles Franklin.

A Republican victory in November would give the GOP control of both Senate seats in the state for the first time since 1957. It would also cap a momentous rightward swing in Wisconsin that began with the election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s in 2010 — even if Republicans don’t capture a majority of votes in Wisconsin’s presidential election.

“Winning the Senate seat would be confirmation of the Republican movement over the past couple years. It would change the conventional wisdom,” Franklin told Business Insider on Tuesday.

But first, Republicans need to emerge from a heated primary race that still has four candidates, three who have a chance at winning Tuesday night. 

Franklin predicts that Thompson will hold on to his lead and claim victory Tuesday night. In the latest Marquette Law School poll, released last week, Thompson grabbed 33 per cent of the vote. Hovde followed with 24 per cent, while Neumann grabbed 21 per cent. 

In the past few weeks, though, Thompson has seen his lead shrink considerably — thanks mostly to conservative groups that despise him. The Club for Growth, a fiscally conservative group that backed Tea Party candidate Ted Cruz in Texas, has been behind an ad blitz hammering Thompson for supporting tax increases, and has sent out 10 emails in the last month blasting the candidate.

Here’s one of the ads: 

The onslaught has helped close the gap — Neumann gained 11 points of support in just a month — but Thompson’s challengers might be running out of time. Meanwhile, the self-funded Hovde gained 10 points in two months, after blasting his opponents with ads for months before the other candidates got on the air. 

“I was really surprised that Neumann and Thompson left airwaves completely to Hovde in June,” Franklin said, adding that Neumann didn’t start running ads until after July 4.

But Thompson appears to be the GOP’s best shot at winning Wisconsin’s Senate seat in November. In the same Marquette poll, Thompson was the only Republican candidate that led Democrat Tammy Baldwin in a general election matchup, beating her 48 per cent to 43 per cent.

Thompson — who is more of an establishment candidate than Tea Party favourites like Cruz, Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer or Indiana Republican Richard Mourdock — might be the electable figure Republicans need to take back control of the Senate this fall. 

“It would be a very powerful success,” Franklin said of a potential Republican win in November. “And it would mean the Democratic Party really needs to do some serious soul searching and candidate recruitment.”

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