When Tommy Thompson made noises last week about possibly challenging Russ Feingold for the Senate next year there was a bit of a 'here we go again' feeling in Democratic circles. The party is already having to vigorously defend a lot of its seats, and Wisconsin would have joined states like Illinois and Connecticut in the category of places where a couple years ago at this time they would have felt pretty safe.
A former four term Governor would seem like the best candidate Republicans could possibly put forward except for one catch- Wisconsin voters don't really like him anymore. 45% have an unfavorable opinion of him to just 38% who view Thompson positively.
The upshot of that is Feingold leads Thompson 50-41 in a hypothetical contest. Feingold leads 47-41 with independents, a rarity for Democrats anywhere these days, and wins 88% of his party's vote while only 82% of Republicans commit to voting for Thompson. If you lead with independents and have your party more unified around you and you're a Democratic Senator in a blue state you don't have much to worry about.
A Thompson candidacy seems like a long shot anyway. Feingold leads little known Republican candidates Dave Westlake and Terrence Wall by margins of 47-32 and 48-34 respectively. Each of them has only 2% positive statewide name recognition.
As for Feingold 45% of voters approve of the job he's doing in the Senate with 38% disapproving. He's not very popular with Republicans, nor has he ever been, but Democrats give him strong reviews and he's at 43/39 with independents.
Democrats have work to do in a lot of places on the Senate front next year, but Thompson or no Thompson it doesn't appear Wisconsin will be one of them.
Full results here