New MU poll shows Thompson leads Baldwin, Obama leads Romney

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MILWAUKEE — A new Marquette University Law School poll shows Republican Tommy Thompson with a solid 49% to 41% lead over Democrat Tammy Baldwin in the race for the U.S. Senate seat.

The poll also shows Thompson leads other Republican candidates.

Among those planning to vote in the August 14th primary, 34% say they'd vote for Thompson, 16% for Mark Neumann, 14% for Eric Hovde and 10% for Scott Fitzgerald. 25% remain undecided.

"With 25 percent undecided, I don't think any lead is safe," Marquette University Professor Charles Franklin said.

The MU Law School poll shows if Baldwin and Neumann went head to head, they would be virtually tied -- with 44% support for each. Baldwin would beat Fitzgerald 45% to 39% and Baldwin would beat Hovde, 45% to 36%.

Thompson has the widest name recognition among the Senate candidates, according to the new poll. 84% of people surveyed knew his name. 48% had a favorable view of Thompson. 36% had an unfavorable view.

"He still has to work to reintroduce himself to voters, to show he's the future of the Republican Party, not just its past," Franklin said.

As for Baldwin, 27% of those polled had a favorable view of her; 30% unfavorable.

"I think primarily, the recall has kept attention away from the Senate candidates and so all of them, with the exception of Gov. Thompson, still have a long way to go to introduce themselves to voters," Franklin said.


On the presidential front, President Barack Obama's job approval rating is at 51%. 43% disapprove of how the president is doing in the White House. These numbers have remained unchanged since the last poll at the end of May.

Among likely Wisconsin voters, President Obama would beat Republican Mitt Romney 49% to 43%. That gap has closed a bit. In late May, it was Obama, 51% to 43%.

"The voters are pretty capable of going opposite directions right now. One of the great ironies of this year is both Gov. Walker and President Obama have every reason in the world to want the public to think the state is doing quite well," Franklin said.

Though the latest poll indicates the state is leaning toward Obama, Romney's visit to the state this week suggests he intends on putting up a serious fight here.

Dan Balz is the chief correspondent for the Washington Post, and one of the nation's most respected political journalists. He says Wisconsin's recall was an indication of just how divided the state is when it comes to politics.

"I think the big question was, 'would Wisconsin be a competitive state presidentially like it was in 2000 and 2004, or would Obama continue to have a pretty sizeable advantage, like he did four years ago. I think the recall helped to remind people Wisconsin is a closely divided state, and the Republicans have made progress since Obama won in 2008, so people are looking at it as a much more competitive state than they might have six months ago," Balz said.

In 1984, Reagan took 49 of 50 states, including Wisconsin. Since that landslide, no Republican president has won in Wisconsin.

George Bush, Sr. lost in 1988 to Michael Dukakis, and in 1992 to Bill Clinton.

George W. Bush came the closest to winning the state, but lost to Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004 in one of the closest presidential margins ever. Kerry won 49.7% to Bush's 49.3% -- just 6,000 votes.

Then, in 2008, Obama thumped John McCain 56% to 42%.

"If Gov. Romney is able to win (Wisconsin) it would be a real breakthrough, so I think you'd still have to say we have to wait to see if this is going to be competitive by October," Balz said.


This poll was taken after the recall election. 50% of those surveyed said recalls should be used only in cases of criminal wrongdoing. Back in January, only 43% said that should be the case.

Among those who want to limit recalls, Gov. Scott Walker got 70% of the vote. Among those opposing limits, Tom Barrett got 61%.

84% of those surveyed said they would like to see more cooperation between the two parties. 55% think cooperation is possible between the parties, while 41% said party differences are too great.