When Polling And Wishful Thinking Combine
Let's understand one thing from the beginning. Wisconsin Democrats want the Republican Senate nominee to be anyone but Tommy Thompson.
You can perhaps argue that Tommy isn't as conservative as some of the other candidates. You can argue that Tommy's age would make him a one-term Senator. You can argue that Tommy is a part of the Republican establishment.
What you can't argue though is that he gives the Republicans the best chance of winning Herb Kohl's Senate seat in November. I'm not suggesting that the other three GOP candidates can't win in November but Thompson has won four statewide races by huge margins. Additionally, he has a crossover appeal that gives him a huge advantage against Tammy Baldwin - especially if President Obama carries Wisconsin in the Fall.
All of which might explain the peculiar results coming from a Democrat polling operation this week.
In the liberal leaning PPP poll, pollsters claim that Eric Hovde now leads Thompson in the Republican primary by a margin of 31% to 29%. Mark Neumann had 15% of the vote. Jeff Fitzgerald brought up the rear with 9%. The poll also showed Thompson and Baldwin tied.
I wonder if these guys helped out the polling outfit Tom Barrett used when he claimed the recall race against Scott Walker was tied?
Anyway, my take on the PPP numbers in two words? How about "no way" or "wishful thinking".
The Marquette University Law School poll has become the gold standard for Wisconsin polling. Their newly released numbers show Thompson with 35%, Hovde with 23%, Neumann with 10% and Fitzgerald with 6%. Frankly this strikes me as much more realistic assessment of where the race stands as of today.
There's a lot of residual good will in the Republican Party towards Thompson. Moreover, Tommy draws support from a lot of pragmatic Republicans who want to see GOP choose the most electable candidate. So, 35% in a four way primary seems reasonable to me (if not a little bit low).
As an alternative to Thompson, Hovde's largely self-financed advertising blitz appears to be moving voters from Neumann and Fitzgerald. In the unlikely event that Neumann and Fitzgerald drop out, it would clearly allow Hovde to consolidate the anti-Thompson vote. Still, I think Hovde has a long way to go in the next five weeks. I also have to believe that a good portion of the undecided voters will ultimately do what they've done before - vote for Tommy.
That said, it is undoubtedly a fluid race with a lot of undecided voters. However, if the election were held tomorrow, I think the Marquette poll is spot on. That means that Tommy Thompson would win comfortably.
Despite what some liberal pollsters may say - and hope - on behalf of their now and future clients.