Rep. Paul Ryan is Wisconsin Republicans’ top choice to run for Senate in 2012, according to a new poll from the Democratic-leaning firm Public Policy Polling looking at Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl's potential re-election bid.
Kohl handily won re-election in 2006, but in 2012 it may not be so easy. Fellow Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, first elected in 1992, lost to first-time Republican candidate Ron Johnson, 52 percent to 47 percent, this fall. Wisconsin Democrats also lost two House seats, the governor’s office and control of both chambers of the state Legislature on Election Day.
No Republican has announced intentions to run for the Senate nomination. Ryan has been rumored to have Senate ambitions in the past, but it seems less likely he’ll run in 2012 now that he’ll be chairman of the House Budget Committee in the 112th Congress.
Nonetheless, Wisconsin Republican primary voters preferred him over six other potential candidates who were tested in the survey. Ryan received 52 percent of Republicans’ support in the survey, which was taken Dec. 10-12 and had a margin of error of 4.9 points. More than two-thirds of voters had a favorable opinion of Ryan, while 7 percent had an unfavorable opinion and 26 percent weren’t sure.
Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson finished well behind Ryan in the poll with the support of 14 percent of Republicans. Thompson served as governor from 1987 to 2001 and was President George W. Bush's Health and Human Services secretary.
Thompson began a presidential bid in 2007 but dropped out before the Iowa caucuses and considered running for Senate in 2010 but decided against it before the Republican nominee was decided. He had a favorable rating of 65 percent, just less than Ryan. However, 23 percent had an unfavorable opinion of him and 13 percent weren’t sure.
The other five candidates all finished in single digits. Former Rep. Mark Green, who lost his gubernatorial bid in 2006, got 9 percent. Incoming Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen both got 6 percent, and Rep.-elect Sean Duffy got 5 percent. Businessman Dave Westlake, who lost the Republican nomination for Senate in 2010, got 1 percent, and 8 percent of respondents said they would support someone else or weren’t sure who they would support.
For more from our At the Races politics blog, click here.