The Wisconsin Senate seat being vacated by Herb Kohl is looking like a genuine Republican pick up opportunity, with both Tommy Thompson and Mark Neumann leading all the potential Democratic candidates we tested besides Russ Feingold.
Feingold, who doesn't seem terribly interested in running, would still be the strongest potential candidate. He has the best favorability rating of anyone we looked at both overall (49/43) and specifically with independents (52/37). He would have the slightest advantage over Thompson, 48-47, and a more healthy one over Neumann at 51-44. Feingold led them by 10 and 12 points respectively when PPP first looked at this race in May so there's been a good amount of movement toward the Republicans since that time.
Voters in the state are pretty evenly divided in their feelings about Thompson with 44% rating him favorably and 42% unfavorably. He would start out with decent sized leads over all the Democratic candidates not named Russ Feingold- 7 points over Ron Kind at 48-41, 8 over Tammy Baldwin at 50-42, and 8 over Steve Kagen at 49-41. Thompson was tied with Kind, led Baldwin by only 1, and had just a 3 point advantage over Kagen the last time we polled so again these numbers show momentum in the GOP's direction.
Neumann doesn't fare as well as Thompson but still has small leads over the Democratic field. He's up 3 on Kind at 43-40, 4 on Baldwin at 44-40, and 7 on Kagen at 45-38.
None of the candidates beyond Thompson and Feingold are particularly well known. Baldwin has 54% name recognition, Neumann's is 52%, Kind's is 44%, and Kagen's is 36%.
The timing of both Wisconsin polls we've done since Kohl's retirement announcement has been a little odd. The first was done just a couple weeks after the killing of Osama bin Laden and may have represented somewhat of a high point for Democrats. This one was done the same weekend that we nationally found a record low approval rating for Barack Obama. So unless Obama's numbers continue to get worse, this may be something of a high point for the Republicans.
Split the difference between the two polls and you're looking at a sheer toss up, with Democrats probably having the slightest advantage if Feingold runs and Republicans probably having the slightest advantage if Feingold doesn't run and Thompson can actually survive the Republican primary.
Everything we saw in the recall elections points to a closely divided state and against that backdrop it's no surprise the Senate race is falling into that category as well.
Full results here