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Hovde Top Choice of GOP Insiders, But Thompson Fares Better Against Baldwin

In Patch's first political insiders poll, GOP Senate candidate Eric Hovde is the top choice among the state's influential conservatives. But those same conservatives believe former Gov. Tommy Thompson has the best chance to beat Democrat Tammy Baldwin.

Wisconsin's Republican insiders like candidate Eric Hovde in the U.S. Senate primary election, but they think former Gov. Tommy Thompson has the best chance to win in November.

That's the bottom line of Patch’s inaugural “Red Wisconsin” survey of GOP party leaders, activists and other "influencers."

If the Aug. 14 primary were held today, the insiders say they would vote for Hovde by a substantial margin over both former Gov. Tommy Thompson and Mark Neumann, according to the survey.

But those same influencers believe Thompson has the best chance against Democrat Tammy Baldwin in the November general election.

In the survey conducted by Patch, nearly 36 percent of respondents said they would support Hovde if the GOP primary were held today. That compares to 26 percent who backed Thompson and 15 percent who supported former congressman Neumann. About 10 percent said they would vote for Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, the fourth Republican candidate.

About 11 percent said they are still undecided.

Thompson may give GOP best shot to win seat

While Hovde topped Thompson by 10 percentage points in terms of candidate preference, 55 percent of those polled believe the former governor has the best chance of beating Baldwin in the general election. Another 15 percent thought Hovde had the best shot, and only 5 percent said the same for Neumann and Fitzgerald.

“Hovde needs to begin polling better head-to-head against Baldwin,” said one insider who supports Hovde. "If he doesn’t consistently beat her by August, I will vote for Thompson.”

One respondent, who is still undecided, said: "I'm waiting to see how things play out closer to the primary between Thompson and Hovde. I prefer Hovde, but the main objective here is to beat Baldwin. Right now there's not enough polling information out there that leads me to believe Hovde has a secure lead."

released last week shows that Thompson would beat Baldwin 45 percent to 41 percent in a November matchup. However, that same poll shows Baldwin topping Hovde, 44 percent to 38 percent.

Most of those who have decided whom they're going to vote for in the primary say there is little that could change mind at this point.

"Short of a major scandal surfacing of past governor dealings, not much will change my mind," said one Thompson backer.

One Hovde supporter said he will continue to back the candidate as long as his "squeaky clean" image isn't damaged.

"Hovde has impressed many through the content of his commercials. However, he is an unknown," that respondent said. "Many Hovde supporters hope and expect him to be another Ron Johnson; squeaky clean and practical."

Lawmakers, party leaders and pundits weigh in

In its first Red Wisconsin Survey, Patch sent questionnaires to 86 key party activists, elected officials, conservative bloggers and talk show hosts, and others who agreed to anonymously give their opinions in a series of surveys between now and November. Patch this week received completed surveys from 56 people — or 70 percent of those surveyed.

Among those who have agreed to participated are state Reps. Jeff Stone, Dan Knodl, Mark Honadel and Don Pridemore; Mark Green, former congressman and U.S. ambassador; Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas; and conservative radio talk show hosts Charles Sykes and Jeff Wagner.

Democratic influencers also will be given a chance to express their views in Patch's Blue Wisconsin Survey.

Unlike most public opinion polls, the Patch survey is not a scientific sample of any larger population, but rather an effort to listen to a swath of influential Republicans. All of these individuals have agreed to participate in the surveys, although not all responded to this week's questions. Surveys were conducted between July 12 and 16.

Time for Neumann, Fitzgerald to go?

Nearly two-thirds of those surveyed said either Neumann or Fitzgerald — or both of them — should drop out of the race. Both candidates

More than one-fourth of the respondents — 26 percent — said both candidates should withdraw from the campaign, while 21 percent said Fitzgerald should drop out and 15 percent said Neumann should go.

Hovde is believed to be the primary benefactor should either drop out; 52 percent of the respondents believe that if Fitzgerald dropped out, Hovde would see the biggest uptick, while 56 percent believe the same would happen if Neumann stopped his campaign.

Hovde seems to be the Tea Party favorite: 56 percent of respondents said that Hovde had the most support from the Tea Party. Twenty-one percent said Fitzgerald had the most support, followed by Neumann with 15 percdent and 3 percent for Thompson.

Respondents pointed to Hovde’s , his ability to communicate well through advertising and media outlets and his “fresh face” as reasons for him gaining support since June.

The influencers mentioned the economy and repealing President Barack Obama’s health care law as the race's top issues.

Patch will be conducting Red Wisconsin and Blue Wisconsin surveys throughout 2012 in hopes of determining the true sentiment of conservatives and liberals on the ground in the Badger State. If you are an activist, party leader or elected official and would like to take part in a weekly survey that lasts just a few minutes, please email Regional Editor Mark Maley at mark.maley@patch.com.

Members of Patch's Red Wisconsin Survey particpants are:

Jim  Bender, president of School Choice Wisconsin, former chief of staff for Assembly Republican Leader Jeff Fitzgerald; Bill Berdan, first vice chairman, Wauwatosa Republicans; Keith  Best, public relations chairman for Waukesha County Republicans;  Bob Bradley, party activist; Charles Brey, field director for state Assembly candidate Tracy Herron; Tracy Brodd, Republican campaign worker; Paul  Bucher, former Waukesha County district attorney and candidate for Wisconsin attorney general; Roy Catron, Tea Party activist; Andrew Cegielski, former Milwaukee County Board candidate; Sara Conrad, party activist; Bill Cosh, spokesman for the state Department of Natural Resources; Michael Crowley, Waukesha County supervisor; Jake Curtis, former state Assembly candidate; Lou D'Abbraccio, board member, Racine County Republican Party;  Brian Dey, Racine County Tea Party member; Fred Dooley, conservative blogger; Steven Duckhorn, former Republican candidate for Milwaukee County sheriff; Bill Folk, chairman of Racine County Republican Party;Elisabeth Friesen, Republican activist; Jesse Garza, chairman, St. Croix County Republican Party; Mark Green, senior director of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, former U.S. ambassador to Tanzania and former congressman; Chris Haines, longtime campaign volunteer and former GOP campaign manager; Deb Hawley Jordahl, conservative strategist and consultant; John  Hiller, co-chair of Scott Walker's transition team as governor; Sandra Hollander,  member of Mitt Romney's  “Juntos con Romney” leadership team; Ethan Hollenberger, former chairman of the College Republicans at Marquette University and staff member on several legislative campaigns; Mark Honadel, state reprsentative, 21st District; Marguerite Ingold, party activist; Valerie Johnson, former GOP fundraiser and staffer for various campaigns; Thomas J. Keeley, political consultant; Scott Kelly, communications director for former state Sen. Van Wanggaard; Cindy Kilkenny, conservative blogger; Rik Kluessendorf, attorney and former state Assembly candidate; Dan Knodl, state representative, 24th District; Tif Koehler, campaign volunteer and civic leader; Johnny Koremenos, regional field director for Tommy Thompson campaign; Gordon Lang, member of North Shore Republicans; Chris Larsen, trustee in Village of Sturtevant Trustee; Noelle Lorraine, field coordinator for Americans for Prosperity; John P. Macy, first vice chairman of Waukesha County Republican Party; Kathleen Madden, Waukesha County Clerk of Circuit Court; Ginny Marschman, party activist; Jessica McBride, conservative columnist; Bill McCoshen political consultant and; former cabinet secretary for Gov. Tommy Thompson; Joe Medina, party activist; Randy Melchert, field director for Mark Neumann's campaign; Gerald Mellone, Brookfield alderman; Ryan Morgan, conservative blogger; Dean Munday, conservative blogger; Mark Neumann, U.S. Senate candidate and former congressman; Kelly O'Brien, founder of Shorewood Citizens for Responsible Government; Eric Wm. Olsen, conservative activist; Nick Oliver, state Assembly candidate, 22nd District; Victoria Ostry, treasurer of the Wisconsin Federation of Republican Women.; Rick Owen, Brookfield alderman; Monnine  Parnitzke, party activist; Brent Pickens, former Assembly staffer for Republicans; Steve Ponto, mayor of Brookfield; Don Pridemore, state representative, 22nd District; Paris Procopis, grassroots activist; Jim  Pugh, director of public relations and issue management for Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce; Denise Rate, Tea Party member; Bob Reddin, Brookfield alderman and executive director, Jobs First Coalition; Pam Reeves, treasurer, Waukesha County Republicans;  Joe Rice, former county supervisor and member of North Shore Republicans Executive Committee; Nate Ristow, candidate for 13th District State Assembly; Brandon Rosner, Wisconsin Republican consultant;  Bill Savage, aide to state Rep. Don Pridemore and  officer of Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association; Jim  Schaefer, Muskego-Norway School Board president; Josh Schimek, conservative blogger; JB Schmidt, conservative blogger; Christian Schneider, senior fellow at Wisconsin Policy Research Institute and former policy analyst for Wisconsin State Legislature; Ashley Schultz, state director of the Recall Action Fund;  Nick Schweitzer, Libertarian pundit and blogger; Tim Schwister, former State Assembly candidate; Dan Sebring, vice chairman, Milwaukee County Republicans and candidate for 4th Congressional District; Cathy Stepp, Wisconsin Natural Resources secretary and former state senator; Jeff Stone, state representative, 82nd District; Jonathan Strasburg, attorney; Dave  Swarthout, board member, 1st Congressional District Republicans; Charles Sykes, conservative talk show host for WTMJ Radio;  Steve Taylor, Milwaukee County supervisor; Jenny Toftness, executive director of the Republican Assembly Campaign Committee; Greg Torres, Jefferson County supervisor; Jim  Villa, former chief of staff to County Executive Scott Walker and Alberta Darling; current CEO of Commercial Association of REALTORS® Wisconsin; Robin Vos, state representative; 63rd District; Dan Vrakas, Waukesha County Executive; Yash Wadhwa, former State Assembly candidate; Jeff Wagner, conservative talk show host, WTMJ Radio; Tom Weatherston, candidate for 62nd Assembly District and Village of Caledonia trustee; Steve Welcenbach, head of the Menomonee Falls Taxpayers Association and Tea Party activist; Todd Welch, Wisconsin state coordinator at Campaign for Liberty; James Wigderson, conservative blogger and columnist for Waukesha Freeman; Eddie Willing, conservative columnist in Racine County and active in Rick Perry's presidential campaign; Chris Wright, Sturtevant village trustee and former candidate for State Assembly; Phil Ziegler, CEO of InPro Inc. and party activist.

Keith Schmitz July 19, 2012 at 12:14 PM
Hey Greg, should we set up a meeting between you and the Dweeb?
Luke July 19, 2012 at 12:23 PM
@keith - Wow, we actually agree on something.
CowDung July 19, 2012 at 01:35 PM
'Better dead than red' is what they used to say back in the McCarthy era...
Bob McBride July 19, 2012 at 01:51 PM
Nick, the race is going to come down to a Republican versus a Democrat. The demand for a third party apparently isn't great enough to warrant the existence of a solid one at this point or, in turn, a viable third party candidate. While perhaps not appealing from an idealistic standpoint, when the purpose is to attempt to get a read on how candidates with an actual potential for attaining the position are doing, it's the realistic way of doing things. If the idea was to measure dissatisfaction with one or both parties, perhaps a count of those who self-identify as truly independent and who actually vote for candidates other than those of the two dominant parties might be of interest. That doesn't appear to be the focus here.
Nick Schweitzer July 19, 2012 at 07:24 PM
@Bob - There is demand for a Third Party Candidate, and there exists a viable one. He is the Libertarian Party candidate. He is the former two term governor of New Mexico. He WILL be on the ballot in all 50 states. The only reason why he doesn't SEEM viable is because there is practically a media blackout against anyone who isn't an R or a D. Despite the fact that he will be on the ballot in all 50 states, and is a former governor, he won't be invited to the debates unless he polls at 15%. However, the polling organizations won't include him in the polls... so its a silly catch 22. If you aren't popular enough, you won't be in polls. But you can't get popular if people don't even know you exist. The rules have been written by the two major parties to keep it that way... just two parties. That is what needs to change. I am confident that if he were actually allowed a spot on the debate stage, it would significantly change the race.

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