The Washington Times - July 10, 2012, 02:49PM

Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson is getting stiff competition in the state’s Republican Senate primary, according to a poll released Tuesday.

Public Policy Polling, a Democratic-leaning firm, found that 31 percent of voters in the state’s Aug. 14 GOP primary would support Eric Hovde — a businessman and political newcomer — compared to 29 percent who say they would vote for Mr. Thompson.


Mr. Thompson, who was governor from 1987 to 2001 before taking a post as U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services under President George W. Bush, has long been regarded as the frontrunner in the four-way GOP race.

The candidates are vying to replace Democratic Sen. Herbert H. Kohl who will retire after his term. U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.

Mr. Hovde has surged in recent weeks due largely to his campaign spending. He and other challengers have painted themselves as more conservative than Mr. Thompson, attacking him as being too moderate and blasting comments he made in 2009 supporting Democratic efforts to reform health care.

Mr. Thompson cast doubt on the poll Monday night, accusing the left-leaning polling firm of trying to hurt his campaign because it recognizes him as the most electable GOP candidate.

“They know if I get the nomination, which I’m going to, I’m going to beat Tammy Baldwin,” he told Green Bay’s WLUK-TV.

A poll released June 20 by Marquette University Law School showed Mr. Thompson to have 34 percent of support in the GOP primary, compared to just 16 percent for former congressman Mark W. Neumann, 14 percent for Mr. Hovde and 10 percent for Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald.

The poll showed Mr. Thompson with an eight-point lead over Ms. Baldwin in a potential general election, while all other Republicans either tied or trailed her.

The poll also showed that President Obama has a six-point lead over Mitt Romney in the state.