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Neumann Expected to Enter Wisconsin Senate Race

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - August 26, 2011

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Of course, there is still plenty of time for more conservatives to enter the race -- for instance, State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald -- and Club for Growth is far from endorsing a candidate. However, a recent PPP poll suggested that Thompson is vulnerable to a challenge from the right. Though he led Neumann in a head-to-head matchup, his numbers plummeted when voters were read likely attacks on Thompson's record.

Another advantage for Neumann is his proven ability to self-finance a campaign. Much of the $6 million he spent on the governor’s race was his own, National Journal reported.

“All the races next year are going to be super expensive,” says Wisconsin Republican strategist Scott Becher, who doesn’t anticipate self-funding to work against Neumann. “Ron Johnson funded his own race, and he didn’t receive much blowback for it,” he says, referring to the businessman who defeated Feingold last year.

But it’s not clear that a well-funded organization is enough for Neumann to take the Republican nod. Even after spending $6 million, the lawmaker last year lost a brutal battle to Walker by 14 points.

Thompson, who served four terms as Wisconsin’s governor, won’t have difficulty raising money either. “He still has strong ties to the Milwaukee business community, a major market to make money, so he has that access,” says Becher. “He was governor for so long, and there’s so many people that really have a good feeling for him, and they will come out and help Tommy.” His connections in Washington will also be useful in terms of fundraising.

Comparatively, Neumann doesn’t appear yet to have the same statewide appeal. “Mark Neumann is the kind of guy who is the outsider,” says Becher. “He hasn’t really run a campaign since 1998. In politics that might as well be 1888.”

And unlike Thompson and Fitzgerald, Neumann hasn’t served in state government. “He wasn’t in the Wisconsin legislature, and there aren’t really any state lawmakers who have an affinity for Neumann. There’s no sort of home team for him.”

Aside from Thompson and Fitzgerald, former state Sen. Ted Kanavas is also considering a Senate bid on the Republican side.

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Caitlin Huey-Burns is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. She can be reached at chueyburns@realclearpolitics.com. Follow her on Twitter @CHueyBurnsRCP.

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