- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 10, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - With Wisconsin’s largely perfunctory primary over, the table is set for the Nov. 8 general election.

The hotly contested Senate rematch between Republican Sen. Ron Johnson and Democrat Russ Feingold tops the list of races to watch in Wisconsin, along with an open congressional seat in the Green Bay area.

It may be too soon to know whether Wisconsin will be a top-tier battleground state in the presidential race between Democrat Hillary Clinton and Republican Donald Trump.

A Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday had bad news for Trump and Johnson. It showed Clinton leading Trump by 10 points among registered voters and 15 points among likely voters. In the Senate race, Feingold was leading by 6 points among registered voters and 11 points among likely voters.

The poll was conducted by phone Aug. 4 through Sunday, sampling 805 registered Wisconsin voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.6 percentage points. The margin of error was 5 points among likely voters.

Ohio, Pennsylvania and Iowa look to be more competitive than Wisconsin, said Democratic pollster Paul Maslin, who isn’t connected with the Marquette Poll. With Clinton leading in Wisconsin polls, “it just feels to me like Clinton’s in pretty good shape,” said Maslin, who lives in Madison.

Trump’s running mate, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, planned a pair of campaign stops in La Crosse and Milwaukee on Thursday. Trump and Clinton’s running mate, Sen. Tim Kaine, each campaigned in Wisconsin last week. But neither campaign has focused its television advertising spending on Wisconsin yet.

Trump supporters are hoping to win Wisconsin after a string of Democratic presidential victories dating back to 1988. But Trump has divided Republican leaders in the state, with some refusing to back him and others, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Gov. Scott Walker, being openly critical of his most controversial remarks and positions.

Trump lost Wisconsin’s April primary by 13 percentage points and his initial refusal to back Ryan in Ryan’s primary race further angered Republicans. All of that will hinder Trump’s chances in the fall, Maslin said.

Ryan said Tuesday that the ease with which he dispatched his primary opponent, Trump backer Paul Nehlen, doesn’t spell doom for Trump’s chances in Wisconsin in November. But he also cast his victory as one for political leadership that is inclusive, not divisive.

“In times as uncertain as these, it is easy to resort to division,” Ryan said after beating Nehlen by a more than 5-to-1 ratio. “It’s simple to prey on people’s fears. That stuff sells, but it doesn’t stick. Most of all, it doesn’t work.”

Before Ryan even talked about his own race, he made sure to endorse fellow Republican Mike Gallagher, who is running for the open 8th Congressional District seat in the northeastern part of the state that includes the Fox Valley.

Gallagher, a former Marine and adviser to Walker in his presidential race, handily won a three-way primary. He will face Democrat Tom Nelson, the Outagamie County executive and former state Assembly member.

Gallagher cast his victory as one for political outsiders. But the primary results showed that voters mostly still favor the insiders.

Ryan and three other incumbent House members - Republican Sean Duffy and Democrats Ron Kind and Gwen Moore - all cruised to victory.

In the Senate race, Johnson is also pushing the outsider argument, highlighting his background helping to found a plastic manufacturer in Oshkosh before he ran for the Senate in 2010 and defeated Feingold. He’s casting Feingold, who served in the Senate for 18 years before his ouster, as a career politician who shouldn’t be given another chance.

But Feingold, who is counting on historically high Democratic turnout in a presidential year to help him avenge the 2010 loss, argues that Johnson has been ineffective and doesn’t deserve a second term.

“Do voters want change this year? Yeah,” Maslin said. “But I think they’re going to be very picky about what kind of change they’re going to vote for.”


Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at https://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at https://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer .

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