Fitzgerald Now Top Choice of GOP Insiders, Thompson Still Best to Beat Baldwin
Among Wisconsin's influential conservatives, Jeff Fitzgerald now has plurality support over Tommy Thompson, Eric Hovde and Mark Neumann, but they still see Thompson as their best bet for defeating Democratic candidate Tammy Baldwin in November.
In the primary season, a lot can change in a month. A recent Patch survey of influential Wisconsin conservatives proved just that.
A plurality of Wisconsin Republican insiders now favor Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald for their party's U.S. Senate nominee, according to the unscientific survey. Fitzgerald has generally polled behind former Gov. Tommy Thompson and businessmen Mark Neumann and Eric Hovde throughout the race.
In fact, a similar Patch survey in mid-July of the same political insiders showed Hovde as the favorite with Thompson close behind and Fitzgerald trailing at 10 percent, a spread that mirrored most representative polling data.
Thursday's survey, which asked for whom the 53 respondents would vote if the election were held that day, put Fitzgerald at the front with 32 percent, followed by Thompson and Hovde with 28 and 23, respectively.
The race, marked by attack ads in recent months, has generally carried a negative tone between Thompson, Hovde and Neumann — and Patch respondents have noticed. Now, some GOP insiders are lauding Fitzgerald for staying out of the negative fray.
One respondent said the frontrunners "have ruined their credibility with me by insulting each other and muddying up the waters with all this mud slinging.
"I think that when I got upset over this I started to pay more attention to Jeff Fitzgerald," that insider said. "I now feel the most honest and best candidate is Fitzgerald and he most typlifies what I want to send to Washington as my senator."
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Another said that "Speaker Fitzgerald has been the only candidate who hasn't had to, or decided to, go negative or defend his previous actions. That's admirable."
And Fitzgerald's television ad was markedly different from the rest, as Fitzgerald focused on himself and not attacking his opponents, one insider said.
"The negative attacks from Hovde, Neumann and Thompson have disgusted me to the point where I've decide(d) to cast my vote for Jeff Fitzgerald, the only candidate who has maintained his principles," that insider said. "His television ad is a big reason why I chose to vote for him - it focuses on himself and his proven leadership rather than attacking his fellow conservatives."
Insiders: Thompson can beat Baldwin
Despite the support for Fitzgerald and his clean campaign, many influencers believe the polls have read the tea leaves properly and only Thompson can beat Democratic candidate Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the November general election.
"People need to believe the polls — Tommy is the only candidate that can beat Tammy," one said simply.
An overwhelming 64 percent of respondents on Thursday are of the same opinion, and this figure that hasn't changed much since the mid-July survey.
"This time, we need a pro, one who has the experience and the know-how that Tommy Thompson possesses," another respondent said.
But a few insiders, particularly Fitzgerald supporters, put their faith in money's ability to win a campaign. Those few predict the GOP will rally around any nominee in the end.
"At first, I was concerned about Fitzgerald being able to win on the state level," one said. "However, I am convinced that whoever wins the primary will receive a large amount of financial support statewide and nationally to defeat the radical leftist Baldwin."
For Patch's complete coverage of the U.S. Senate race so far, click here.
Who has your support in Tuesday's primary? Tell us in the comments.
About Red Wisconsin
Our surveys are not a scientific random sample of any larger population but rather an effort to listen to a swath of influential local Republican activists, party leaders and elected officials in Wisconsin. All of these individuals have agreed to participate in the surveys, although not all responded to Saturday's questions.
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 state. If you are an activist, party leader or elected official and would like to take part in a weekly surveys that lasts just a few minutes, please email Mark Maley at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants in Patch's Red Wisconsin Survey 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; Steve Ponto, mayor of Brookfield; Don Pridemore, state representative, 99th 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 executive director of FoundersIntent.org; Chris Wright, Sturtevant village trustee and former candidate for State Assembly; Phil Ziegler, CEO of InPro Inc. and party activist.