David Dewhurst tonight became just the latest in a line of establishment Republicans to lose in Senate primaries this year, and it looks Tommy Thompson could be next on the list. PPP's newest Wisconsin poll finds Eric Hovde leading with 28% to 25% for Thompson and Mark Neumann, and 13% for Jeff Fitzgerald.
Thompson's seen a precipitous decline in his standing with GOP voters over the last 5 months. In February he was at 39%. By early July he had dropped to 29% in our polling and he's continued to decline now to his 25% standing. His personal image has taken a big hit as well. Where his favorability with primary voters earlier in the year was a +47 spread at 66/19, it's now declined 41 points to only +6 at 47/41.
It's concern about whether Thompson is sufficiently conservative that is driving a lot of his problems. 58% of primary voters now say they want someone more conservative than him to be the nominee, compared to only 29% who are content with him. And he's posting extremely weak numbers with voters identifying as 'very conservative,' getting 21% to 28% each for Hovde and Neumann.
The momentum in this contest is on Neumann's side. He's gained 10 points over the last month to go from 15% to 25%. His strength is coming from the most conservative wing of the GOP electorate. In early July he trailed Hovde by 20 points, 32-12, with those voters describing themselves as 'very conservative.' Now he's pulled into a tie with him at 28%.
There's a pretty strong argument for why any of these three guys could emerge victorious. Hovde has the lead. Neumann has the momentum. And Thompson could still survive where David Dewhurst and Richard Lugar did not because of the split in the conservative ranks. In a head to head with Hovde he would trail 48-41. In a head to head with Neumann he would trail 47-42. But they could just end up splitting the vote enough to let Thompson win yet. This is going to be a fun once to watch in the closing two weeks.
Full results here