Republicans in most of the states we've been polling over the last month aren't really sure who they want their Senate candidate to be in 2012. Wisconsin is an exception to that rule. GOP voters in the state overwhelmingly want Congressman Paul Ryan to be their standard bearer against Herb Kohl or whoever the Democratic candidate ends up being next time around.
52% pick Ryan from a laundry list of potential candidates with Tommy Thompson being the only other one who even hits double digits, at 14%. Rounding out the folks we asked about are former Congressman Mark Green at 9%, Attorney General JB Van Hollen and incoming Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch at 6%, incoming Congressman Sean Duffy at 5%, and 2010 primary loser Dave Westlake at 1%.
Ryan is a darling of conservatives and they do give him his strongest support in this poll, at 56%. But he's strong and well ahead of the pack with moderates as well. 43% of them want him to be the nominee with the next closest at 17%. If Ryan decides to run it looks like the nomination would pretty much be his for the taking.
It should be noted even though Ryan sucks most of the wind out of the field that Van Hollen, who may be a more likely candidate, is very well liked by the Republican base. 58% have a favorable opinion of him to only 10% with a negative one. That's a pretty good amount of name recognition for a down ballot state official- you can look at our Ohio numbers from earlier today for sake of comparison- and they do like him. So even if he doesn't quite generate as much affection it does appear he would be a strong contender for the nomination in a Ryan-less field.
The Presidential race in Wisconsin is close like it is most everywhere but Sarah Palin comes out on top with 21%, followed by Mike Huckabee with 18%, Mitt Romney with 17%, and Newt Gingrich with 13%. Tim Pawlenty leads the second tier with his strongest performance outside his home state at 10%, with Ron Paul at 4%, John Thune at 3%, and Mitch Daniels at 2% rounding out the field.
Wisconsin is another state, like Ohio, where Palin's dismal performance with moderates is rendered irrelevant because she does well with the conservatives who now make up the lion's share of the GOP primary election. With centrist Republicans Palin polls in fourth place behind Romney, Huckabee, and Pawlenty. But she has a comparatively wide lead with conservatives, getting 23% with the next closest contender at 18% and that vaults her to the overall advantage.
Full results here