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He may have lost a statewide election just six months ago, but former Wisconsin Sen. Russ Feingold (D) would be a strong favorite in the race to replace Sen. Herb Kohl (D) in 2012, according to a poll released Tuesday by Public Policy Polling.
The pollster, a Democratic firm, found that Feingold led a series of hypothetical contests by 10 to 15 points. Former Gov. Tommy Thompson would be the strongest GOP candidate, but he trailed Feingold 52 percent to 42 percent.
Other Democrats — including Reps. Tammy Baldwin and Ron Kind and former Rep. Steve Kagen — would basically run even with Thompson, while leading a host of potential Republican candidates by a relatively narrow margin, according to PPP. The poll surveyed 1,636 Wisconsin voters May 19-22. It had a 2.4-point margin of error.
“Russ Feingold’s going to start out as a solid favorite if he wants to go back to the Senate,” PPP President Dean Debnam said in a statement. “His loss last year had less to do with him than the national political climate and because of Scott Walker’s unpopularity things have shifted back toward the Democrats more quickly in Wisconsin than most other places.”
Feingold was viewed favorably by 51 percent of Wisconsin voters, according to PPP, which makes him the best-liked of the potential candidates, many of whom appear to have low name identification. Baldwin, for example, had a 27 percent favorability rating with 47 percent not sure. It’s similar for Kind: 22 percent viewed him favorably, with 60 percent not sure.
Meanwhile, an equal number of voters, 42 percent, viewed Thompson unfavorably as favorably. Other potential GOP contenders have low favorables, but like their lesser-known Democratic counterparts, that’s likely because they’re not yet known statewide.
The list includes state Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen (25 percent favorable rating with 43 percent not sure), former Rep. Mark Neumann (27 percent favorable, 47 percent not sure) and state Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (19 percent favorable and 47 percent not sure).
“We’ll have to see how the field shapes up in the next few months but at this point Democrats certainly look to be favored to hold onto the seat,” PPP pollster Tom Jensen wrote in his blog.
See the full results here.