If Tommy Thompson decides to run for the Senate next year in Wisconsin he can't take receiving his party's nomination for granted. Although Thompson is quite popular with Republican primary voters in the state, with 69% of them rating him favorably to 19% with an unfavorable opinion, those same GOP partisans are pretty evenly divided on whether they'd like him to be their party's Senate candidate. 46% say they'd like Thompson to be the nominee to 45% who would prefer someone else. Thompson has the same issue we've often seen for Sarah Palin- Republicans like him but that doesn't necessarily extend to their wanting him to be the candidate.
Thompson's issues are coming with the right flank of his party. Moderates (by a 48/43 margin) and 'somewhat conservative' voters (by a 47/46 margin) hope that he'll be their Senate candidate. But 46% of 'very conservative' Republican partisans want it to be someone else compared to 42% who support Thompson.
My sense is that these numbers are probably somewhat of a high water mark for Thompson. Almost all voters in the state know him already and his support has nowhere to go but down. Thompson's not starting out in a position as strong as other establishment Republicans like Lisa Murkowski and Mike Castle did last year and they ended up losing anyway. If he gets in a one on one primary contest with a serious candidate who can run to his right, he will probably lose.
What would help him though is a divided opposition. Given a choice of 8 potential Senate candidates for next year, 36% of Wisconsin Republicans pick Thompson. He's followed by Mark Neumann at 22%, JB Van Hollen at 9%, Jeff Fitzgerald at 8%, Rebecca Kleefisch at 7%, Scott Fitzgerald at 5%, and Reince Priebus at 4%. Obviously not all of those folks will end up running but if 2 of them ran rather than just 1 it could split the anti-Thompson vote and let him win the nomination with less than 50%. It'll be interesting to see how the field unfolds but a Thompson win is far from inevitable.
Mitt Romney and Sarah Palin are basically tied for President in the state at 17% and 16% respectively. The candidates next door finish third and fourth with Tim Pawlenty at 12% and Michele Bachmann at 11%. Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, and Ron Paul are in a three way tie for 5th (sounds like something Joe Lieberman would get excited about) at 10%, and Jon Huntsman's in the basement at just 2%.
Gingrich's favorability is a 28/49 spread, more evidence that his image with Republican voters has pretty much been destroyed in the last few weeks. This is one of three GOP primary polls we'll release today showing that Cain is in double digits- he's clearly reached the point where he has to be taken seriously.
Full results here