Sunday, December 4th, 2016

Poll shows Tommy ahead of the rest of those guys

1

You know how I know the latest Marquette Law School Poll was a good poll for former Governor Tommy Thompson? John Nichols of the Capital Times said it wasn’t.

When is a lead in the polls a bad thing?

When you’re Tommy Thompson and you’re only at 34 percent in a multi-candidate race for a Republican U.S. Senate nomination in Wisconsin.

Ten years ago, when he was still the state’s iconic “Mr. Republican,” Thompson could have announced for an open Senate seat and cleared the field.

Now, he can’t convince almost two-thirds of Republicans to back him.

The new Marquette Law School Poll still puts Thompson ahead, and that counts for something.

But his 34 percent is hardly impressive, especially when we consider that almost 25 percent of voters say they are undecided.

Yeah, I’ll just go ask Governor Barrett how being behind in the polls is a good thing.

Nichols’ analysis only makes sense if Thompson needs to get to 50% (and there’s a chance he may still do it). All he has to do is get more than the other guys.

The other guys are former Congressman Mark Neumann (16%), businessman Eric Hovde (14%), and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (10%). These are not lightweight protest candidates yet none of them are close to toppling the king. There’s no market yet on Intrade but I would have to put Thompson’s odds of winning at over 60% at this point – and climbing. Everyday that goes by until the August primary that none of the other three make a huge gain on Thompson is a win.

Yes, Nichols is right that ten years ago Thompson could have cleared the field merely by announcing. This isn’t ten years ago, and Thompson is not the almighty thunder god of the GOP. But nobody still makes as much noise.

By the way, Republicans love winning. They love to pick winners. They love front runners. Guess what? This poll just reminded everyone Thompson’s a winner.

Let’s look at the rest of the field:

Neumann: He had to hate this poll. Neumann is a candidate that’s run statewide twice, most recently just two years ago. He was probably hoping to claim a part of the “next in line” crowd. Instead, even with much higher name recognition (48%) than Hovde (27%) and Fitzgerald (39%), Neumann still can’t separate himself from the rest of the pack. This is unlikely to sit well in Neumann world.

Coincidentally, Neumann was about this far behind Scott Walker two years ago at the same point in the campaign. That’s when Neumann launched his dishonest attack on Walker’s budget record as Milwaukee County Executive. Later that month Neumann tried blaming a tragic, accidental death on Walker, another false and shameless accusation. Don’t be surprised if Neumann returns to the same tactics, especially as this campaign already resembles the last campaign in it’s dishonesty. However, the other campaigns are aware of how low Neumann can sink, and both Thompson and Hovde have the resources to counter.

Hovde: He’s rich. No, really, didn’t you know that? He’s in Senator Herb Kohl territory rich. And he’s prepared to spend it.

Hovde is going to have to. Time is running short, and the 27% name recognition proves that few Republicans were paying any attention to anything but the recall when Hovde was running those ads. The difference between Hovde and Neumann is that Hovde’s low name recognition means that he is likely to move in one direction: up.

Hovde’s air war better pay off because on the stump his stump speeches are, well, stumpy. Gaffes such as the less sob stories about the poor will also make life difficult for Hovde. Remember, Republicans like backing someone they think can win. Hovde can explain the gaffe, and Terrence Wall had a solid explanation regarding his taxes two years ago.

Time to pull out the bigger check book and figure out a way to set himself apart from the other candidates, or Hovde is going to join that other class of political types: donor.

Fitzgerald: Speaker of the Assembly sucks if you’re looking for a promotion. Unless the fundraising numbers become real shockers, Fitzgerald will have a nice career coming up as a lobbyist or something.

You would think Assembly Speakers would do better in Wisconsin given the power they wield in the chamber where they preside. However, there are 99 members in the Assembly making the actual electorate served by the speaker very small. In a field with candidates that have already won statewide (Thompson, Neumann) or have the resources to buy name recognition (Hovde) it becomes very hard for one member of the Assembly to break through.

Fitzgerald’s best hope at this point is that the other three candidates go so negative disgusted voters will turn to him instead.

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