The Club for Growth launched a large broadcast and cable ad buy today throughout Wisconsin targeting current GOP Senate primary frontrunners former Gov. Tommy Thompson and businessman Eric Hovde.
By taking on both frontrunners, the club reaffirmed its support for former Rep. Mark Neumann, despite his low numbers in recent polls. Many observers have said that dividing support among Thompson's various challengers would only elevate the former governor above the fray of other candidates.
"Both Tommy Thompson and Eric Hovde are bad for Wisconsin and bad for America," club spokesman Barney Keller said. "We've backed underdogs in the past, and our members don't care where someone is in the polls a few weeks out."
The club was influential in electing Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) in 2010, as well as in helping Indiana Treasurer Richard Mourdock defeat Sen. Dick Lugar in the state's GOP primary this year.
The new ad focuses on Hovde's and Thompson's records on taxes, a key issue for the fiscally conservative club.
"When Tommy Thompson was governor he proposed raising the gas tax. He called for higher taxes on nursing home beds. In all, Thompson pushed for nine different tax hikes," the narrator says t0 open the spot.
The Thompson campaign pushed back on the ad in a press release. Thompson campaign consultant Darrin Schmitz said the former governor cut taxes 91 times and fostered record job growth during his time as governor.
“Mark Neumann should be ashamed of himself. He ran an ugly and deceitful campaign against [now-Gov.] Scott Walker and now his attack dogs are grossly distorting Tommy Thompson’s record,” Schmitz said in the statement.
The ad attacked Hovde on his public statements.
"And Eric Hovde? In a national TV interview Hovde said he had no problem with raising taxes. And Hovde supported tax-raising Gov. Jim Doyle," the narrator says. "On taxes, Hovde's like Thompson, only worse."
The Hovde campaign responded to the ad by trying to bolster the businessman's credentials as an outsider running against career politicians.
"Eric is a political outsider who's never run for political office," the statement said. "Tommy Thompson is a career politician and corporate lobbyist who increased state spending by 118 percent, raised taxes and fees by millions of dollars and increased our debt by $2 billion in just five years as governor."
The winner of the GOP primary will face presumptive Democratic nominee Rep. Tammy Baldwin in November. Roll Call rates the general election race as a Tossup.