Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson led his closest competitor in the Republican Senate primary by a margin of almost 20 points in a Marquette University Law School poll released today. The survey, one of the first in the state since the widely followed gubernatorial recall election earlier this month, also showed Thompson ahead of presumptive Democratic nominee Rep. Tammy Baldwin by 8 points.
Thompson, who was elected four times as the state's governor, took 34 percent in a test of the GOP primary, according to the survey. The remainder of the GOP field were closely split, with former Rep. Mark Neumann, businessman Eric Hovde and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald taking 16 percent, 14 percent and 10 percent, respectively. Twenty-five percent of the likely voters polled were undecided.
The poll also confirmed that Thompson's early lead is a reflection of his wide name recognition, an advantage that is likely to narrow as the Aug. 14 primary gets closer. Thompson was the only Republican candidate with name recognition above 50 percent, according to the poll.
The poll, which had a margin of error of 5.4 points, surveyed 594 likely voters June 13 to 16.
Meanwhile, Hovde grabbed national attention this week after complaining that the media gives too much coverage to the plight of the poor and then later brusquely challenging Arianna Huffington to a debate.
Hovde's comments regarding the poor came Friday at the end of an appearance before the Greater Brookfield Chamber of Commerce and were captured on video.
"I just pray that you start writing about these issues. I just pray. Stop always writing about, 'Oh, the person couldn't get, you know, their food stamps or this or that,'" he said after spotting a reporter in the audience. "It's like, another sob story, and I'm like, 'But what about what's happening to the country and the country as a whole?'"
National media outlets, including the Huffington Post and MSNBC, picked up the story. Hovde defended his remarks in an interview with Hotline.
"[P]overty in America is vastly different than poverty in most of the world. We have multiple safety nets and multiple programs that are taking care of people, and yet that is where the press almost always invariably goes," he said.
Facing media scrutiny from across the country, Hovde's campaign issued a press release claiming bias on the part of the "elite liberal media" and challenging Arianna Huffington to a debate.
“I will gladly debate Ms. Huffington any time and any place in front of a room full of journalists on what she has done for the less fortunate versus what I have done,” he said in the statement.
Roll Call rates the Wisconsin Senate race as a Tossup.