Identifying and analyzing emerging trends in campaigns and elections.

Hovde Surges Past Thompson in Wisconsin

In Polling, Senate on July 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm

Photo: Hovde Campaign

Public Policy Polling (July 5-8; 1,057 registered Wisconsin voters; 564 “usual” Republican primary voters) just confirmed what two previous campaign surveys claimed last week. That is, upstart hedge fund manager Eric Hovde is gaining in the Wisconsin Senate race and now is a legitimate top-tier candidate.

According to PPP, Hovde has actually overtaken former governor Tommy Thompson in the Republican primary. Ex-representative Mark Neumann (R-WI-1) and Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald have dropped back into a clear second tier. The numbers give Hovde a 31-29-15-9 percent lead over Thompson, Neumann, and Fitzgerald, respectively. If Hovde and Thompson were in a two-way race, the newcomer would lead the former Wisconsin chief executive 46-39 percent.

Though the spread is virtually even between Hovde and Thompson, the momentum is not. When compared to PPP’s April 13-15 poll, one that did not test Hovde, Thompson has fallen 10 points. Neumann has dropped seven points in support, and Fitzgerald 13. Two other research studies released last week, one from Democratic candidate Tammy Baldwin and the other from Hovde’s campaign, also showed a change in the Republican field. Baldwin’s data showed Hovde leading Thompson. The businessman’s own poll had him close to, but still behind, the former four-term Governor.

Mr. Hovde has been dominating the airwaves with a series of ads focusing on government spending and the debt crisis, while others offered a vigorous defense of Gov. Scott Walker. As you will remember, the governor successfully repelled a recall effort that gained national attention.

In his best series of spots, Hovde’s daughters talk about their father in the family kitchen with the candidate in the background reading the newspaper at the counter. They banter back and forth about how Hovde won’t be liked in the Senate because he won’t vote for increased debt and more government spending, at which point Hovde chimes in about not caring if he’s liked but certainly approves of their message.

Clearly Mr. Hovde’s campaign strategy is working as evidenced by his move past the other candidates and because his substantial personal favorability rating, at 50:9 percent positive to negative, is better than all of the other candidates including Democrat Baldwin.

The Wisconsin Senate race, open because four-term incumbent Herb Kohl (D) is retiring, is one of the most important in the nation and its result will go a long way toward determining which party will control the chamber in January.

The current Public Policy Polling survey, as found in other polls, continues to detect weakness for Tammy Baldwin. The consensus Democratic candidate, a seven-term congresswoman from Madison, again fails to take command on the general election ballot test. A Democrat leading in the early going of a Wisconsin general election is expected. The fact that Baldwin is virtually tied with all four GOP candidates is a troublesome sign for her. In the latest PPP poll, Hovde leads the Madison Representative 45-44 percent. Thompson and Baldwin are tied at 44 percent. The congresswoman leads both Neumann and Fitzgerald by only four points apiece.

Clearly the conglomeration of polls is making several things clear. First, whether he has overtaken Thompson or not, Hovde clearly has positive momentum in the Republican race. Second, Rep. Baldwin is under-performing for a Democrat at this point in a Wisconsin statewide race, and third, the GOP has a strong chance of winning this open seat, which would constitute a major step in wresting the Senate majority away from the Democrats.

The Wisconsin primary is Aug. 14, and its result will be significant in shaping the national political landscape.

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