Former Gov. Tommy Thompson has clinched Wisconsin’s Republican Senate nomination, narrowly defeating two tea-party-backed opponents.
With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Thompson led with 35 percent of the vote over conservative businessman Eric Hovde and former Rep. Mark Neumann at the time the race was called by the Associated Press. Hovde received 30 percent of the vote, while Neumann pulled 23 percent. A fourth opponent, state Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, came in fourth with 12 percent.
Hovde trailed by five points on the night, even after spending more than $4.94 million through the end of July and having contributed $4.85 million of his own money to the campaign, according to the Federal Election Commission. Neumann had the support of the conservative Club for Growth and tea party kingmaker Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.).
The establishment favorite in the race, Thompson is widely considered the GOP’s best chance to beat Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin in November’s general election for the seat being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl (D). He served as governor of the Badger State from 1987 to 2001 and then as secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2005.
In a poll released earlier this month by the Marquette University Law Center, Thompson led Baldwin by 5 points, with a 2.9-point margin of error.