Eric Hovde has caught fire in the Wisconsin Senate race, taking a 31-29 lead over Tommy Thompson with Mark Neumann at 15% and Jeff Fitzgerald at 9%.
Attacks on Thompson have taken their toll over the last 4 months. His net favorability has declined 21 points since we last polled the primary in February, from +49 at 66/17 to +28 at 56/28. There's an increasing sense that Thompson is not conservative enough- only 34% of voters say they want him to be the nominee, while 50% say they would prefer someone 'more conservative.'
Increasingly it is Hovde filling that void for voters searching for a more right leaning alternative to Thompson. He is by far the best liked candidate in the race with 50% of voters seeing him favorably and only 9% negatively, for a +41 favorability rating.
Neumann and Fitzgerald have seen their fortunes decline over the last four months as well. Neumann's favorability has gone from +33 (47/14) to +22 (43/21) and his vote share has gone from 22% before Hovde entered the race to now 15%. Fitzgerald's favorability has held steady at 42/12 since our last poll, but his vote share has declined even more precipitously, from 22% to 9%.
It's the Tea Party putting Hovde over the top. Non-Tea Party Republicans split evenly between Hovde and Thompson at 31%, but Tea Partiers give Hovde an 18 point advantage at 39-21. There's reason to think Hovde's lead could get wider between now and the primary- he still has only 59% name recognition, compared to 84% for Thompson. Among the voters who are familiar with Hovde he leads Thompson 47-21, suggesting that as he becomes better known in the final weeks of the campaign his fortunes could continue to improve.
The general election looks very close whoever the Republicans end up putting forward. Hovde leads Tammy Baldwin 45-44, while Thompson and Baldwin tie at 45% each. Thompson's favorability rating has dropped to 40/47, indicating he's hardly the electoral juggernaut he's made out to be in some circles. Baldwin's slightly under water as well with 37% of voters giving her positive marks and 39% negative ones. The only one of the serious candidates who has positive numbers at this point is Hovde, seen favorably by 31% and unfavorably by 27%.
Baldwin has 4 point leads over both Neumann (45-41) and Fitzgerald (46-42), although neither of them seem terribly relevant any more at this point.
For the time this race looks like a total toss up- both for the primary next month and for the general election in November.
Full results here