WI Senate: GOP race still a toss-up thanks to conservative divide
Wisconsin Republicans will head to the polls tomorrow to determine their nominee for United States Senate. Whoever wins this brutal primary will go on to face Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) in the fall.
Depending on what polls you’re looking at, former Gov. Tommy Thompson either has a slight advantage or the race is a toss-up between him, Eric Hovde, and former Rep. Mark Neumann. For example, a poll released last week by Marquette showed Thompson with a 9-point lead. But the final survey in the race from Public Policy Polling still shows a race that is too close to call:
PPP’s final poll on the Republican primary for Senate in Wisconsin continues to find a three way toss up: Eric Hovde’s at 27%, Tommy Thompson’s at 25%, Mark Neumann’s at 24%, and even Jeff Fitzgerald isn’t that far behind the rest of the pack at 15%.
The race has seen little movement in the last week. Fitzgerald’s gained two points, Hovde and Neumann have each dropped by a point, and Thompson hasn’t moved at all.
Some of the underlying numbers bode well for Hovde’s prospects. Among voters who say they’re ‘very excited’ about casting their ballots he leads with 37% to 20% for Fitzgerald, 19% for Neumann, and 17% for Thompson. In the Missouri and Texas GOP contests over the last two weeks Todd Akin and Ted Cruz had the most enthusiastic supporters and both ended up outperforming their final poll numbers. Hovde appears to be the candidate best positioned to do that here.
Hovde seems to have staked out the position as the candidate of the Tea Party in this race. He’s at 36% with those voters to 21% each for Neumann and Thompson, and 17% for Fitzgerald. He’s also leading with voters who categorize themselves as ‘very conservative’ with 30% to 22% for Neumann and 19% for Thompson.
There’s plenty of reason to think Neumann could end up pulling this out. He’s ahead with evangelicals, getting 30% to 27% for Hovde and 22% for Thompson. He’s first with women at 28% to 24% for Thompson and 22% for Hovde. And he’s tied with Thompson for the lead among seniors at 27% with Hovde back at 23%. Seniors and evangelicals in particular are vital groups in a GOP primary electorate.
There has been a debate inside the conservative movement on who should be receiving support in the race. As noted before, the Club for Growth, Sen. Jim DeMint’s Senate Conservatives Fund, and RedState have all gotten behind Neumann’s candidacy. And while they haven’t endorsed in the race, Americans for Tax Reform has criticized Hovde for refusing to sign the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. On the other hand, FreedomWorks, an influential organization that has backed several winning candidates in this year’s primaries, has endorsed Hovde.
This has setup a scenario where the divide may well cause Thompson to walk away with the nomination. This is somewhat odd since Thompson has been frequently criticized by conservative groups over his support of ObamaCare. Many of these groups have made repealing ObamaCare their number one policy goal in the next Congress, should Republicans manage to win the White House and control of the Senate, in addition to keeping the House of Representatives.
Given Thompson’s poor record on economic policy and ObamaCare and Hovde’s support of bailouts and playing coy on taxes, Neumann seems like the best candidate in the race from a fiscally conservative prespective. But if Thompson, whose vote for repealing ObamaCare is questionable at best, manages to pull out a win in the race, there will be questions over what could have been if FreedomWorks had backed Neumann.
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