WISCONSIN — Political analysts expect former Wisconsin governor Tommy Thompson to have an advantage out of the gate in November’s general election. Thompson defeated Eric Hovde, Mark Neumann and Jeff Fitzgerald in the GOP primary Tuesday, August 14th and will take on Democrat Tammy Baldwin in November for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Herb Kohl. If history is an indicator, the race in November will likely be close and expensive, according to analysts.
UW-Milwaukee Professor of Governmental Affairs Mordecai Lee says he’s not surprised Thompson has an early advantage in the polls after Tuesday’s primary win.
“People often respond based on name recognition. For example, Tommy has high name recognition around the state. Tammy has high name recognition in her old congressional district in the Madison area,” Lee said.
Lee said Baldwin needs to take advantage of the fact she had no competition in the primary while Thompson is coming off a hard-fought victory Tuesday night.
“If I were a consultant to Tammy Baldwin, I’d tell her to get her ads on the air tomorrow. In other words, define herself and define the race before her opponent does,” Baldwin said.
Political consultant Chris Haworth agrees the Baldwin camp should be aggressive early on, since Thompson is by far the toughest opponent she’s faced.
“She has run largely, I shouldn’t say unopposed, but with not a very strong candidate against her,” Haworth said.
Analysts say something else to watch is all the money that could pour into Wisconsin from around the country.
“It could be that the Tommy-Tammy race is going to be the race that’s gonna decide which party is the majority party, in which case we’re gonna see wall-to-wall advertising, every dollar. We’re gonna be stunned how much TV advertising we’re gonna see if this ends up being the key race,” Lee said.
The most recent Marquette University poll shows Thompson with a five-point lead over Baldwin.
Haworth says one group to watch for on election day is those who vote for both Thompson and President Barack Obama. He says those voters might make the difference for their respective candidates.