By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter
“If the anti-Tommy people could decide who the alternative was, if there was an alternative, then yeah, that alternative probably would be ahead,” said Marquette political scientist John McAdams, who is not involved with the poll.
With less than a week until Tuesday’s primary election, Thompson is leading the GOP pack, garnering the support of 28 percent
Marquette Law School’s Mike Gousha, left, discusses political polling with visiting professor Charles Franklin. MU’s latest poll shows former Gov. Tommy Thompson leading among the GOP candidates for U.S. Senate, just days before Tuesday’s primary election.
of likely primary voters, according to the MU poll. Millionaire businessman Eric Hovde is second at 20 percent, former Congressman Mark Neumann receives 18 percent of the vote and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald has 13 percent.
The winner of Tuesday’s primary will face U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-2nd District, in November.
“Republicans have shown an early and consistent understanding that this race is about making sure Tammy Baldwin does not represent Wisconsin for the next 36 years, and that Thompson is the candidate who can win and defeat Obamacare, balance the budget and create jobs,” Thompson spokesman Brian Nemoir said in a statement.
Thompson, however, isn’t the No. 1 choice among self-described “very conservative” voters, who prefer Hovde and Neumann to the former governor.
Among very conservative voters, who represent about a fifth of the GOP primary electorate, Hovde gets 23.1 percent of the vote and Neumann gets 21.6 percent, compared to Thompson’s 20.6 percent.
But that’s not enough to counteract Thompson’s support among self-described conservatives and moderates.
“Part of the story may be that the tea party oriented people don’t have their perfect candidate,” McAdams said.
Hovde has been dinged for contributing to former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle’s campaign.
Thompson, Neumann and Hovde have traded jabs for being attached to businesses that received federal stimulus money.
Conservatives have pounded Thompson, meanwhile, for supporting tax increases and for doing too little to limit the size of government.
“Tommy Thompson’s a big spender,” said 70-year-old retiree Carl Adkins of Crivitz, who supports Neumann. “He’s been kicking the can down the road.”
Hovde, though, would be “OK,” said Adkins, who doesn’t strongly dislike Fitzgerald but doesn’t approve of how the Assembly leader conducted himself during the past legislative session.
Hovde’s campaign responded to the Marquette poll by noting that recent surveys by Public Policy Polling and We Ask America show the Madison businessman with the lead.
Those polls are different from Marquette’s because they are conducted using automated phone calls and do not include cell-phone-only users, who slightly prefer Thompson, according to the Marquette polling data.
“We think this is going to be a close two-man race between us and Tommy Thompson, we question whether he’s ahead and we question even more that he’s ahead by eight points,” Hovde spokesman Sean Lansing said.
McAdams think it’s likely that Thompson will win, but that’s not a given.
The Marquette poll, conducted Thursday through Sunday, included 725 likely primary voters – including cell-phone-only households – and had a margin of error of 3.7 percent for questions regarding the Republican primary.
“Remember the Marquette polling was spread over several days several days ago,” McAdams said. ‘I think it does represent the best estimate of what was happening over the days when polling was done, but it certainly could have tightened a bit since then.”
Fitzgerald is almost an afterthought in many discussions of the race these days.
But he has his hopes set on two numbers: His support has doubled since the July poll, and 21 percent of likely Republican primary voters said they are still undecided.
Fitzgerald said he just started running TV ads Monday.
“You have to peak, and you have to peak at the right time, and I think that’s where we’re headed for,” he said.
Reporter Kirsten Adshead can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.