Neumann Expected to Enter Wisconsin Senate Race

Neumann Expected to Enter Wisconsin Senate Race

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - August 26, 2011

Though several notable Republicans and Democrats are eyeing Wisconsin's open Senate seat, no one has officially entered the race. That will likely change Monday, when former Republican Rep. Mark Neumann is expected to announce his candidacy.

Neumann will appear on Charlie Sykes' conservative talk-radio radio program Monday morning to announce whether he will compete for retiring four-term Sen. Herb Kohl's seat, Neumann’s top campaign adviser, Chip Englander, told RCP. The National Journal reported Thursday that Neumann plans to enter the race.

This will be Neumann’s third attempt in a statewide race. After serving two terms in the House (in a district similar to the one Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan now represents), he lost a Senate bid to Russ Feingold in 1998. Last year, he sought his party’s gubernatorial nomination but was defeated by Scott Walker, who went on to win the general election.

Despite these previous setbacks, he enters this race with a few advantages.

According to a recent Public Policy Polling (D) survey, he leads Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin, 44 percent to 40 percent, and former Rep. Ron Kind, 43 percent to 40 percent. Baldwin is expected to enter the Democratic fray but has not yet made a public decision. She would likely be considered her party’s front-runner should she chose to enter.

“He feels really encouraged by the poll,” says Englander. “He feels very good about that. Nobody has announced yet . . . but we are getting to that stage in the cycle, and on Monday he will make his decision known.” Englander says Neumann is most concerned about “the American debt crisis.”

Neumann also has a shot at attracting lucrative endorsements from conservative groups like Club for Growth, which is actively campaigning against another possible Republican Senate candidate, former Gov. Tommy Thompson.

“[Neumann] is a strong, fiscal conservative,” says Barney Keller, Club for Growth's communications director. “He is certainly one of many conservatives that have been bandied about. Regardless of who that conservative alternative is, Wisconsin Republicans can do a lot better than Tommy Thompson.”

Keller said Club for Growth is keeping an eye on this Senate race: “We want to see how the field develops. Wisconsin seems like it could be a good opportunity for us.”

Club for Growth took to the airwaves earlier this week to discourage Thompson, who is expected to join the race. The group’s ad buy paints Thompson as a liberal and claims he supports higher taxes, increased government spending and President Obama’s health care law. In 2009, Thompson, a former Health and Human Services secretary under George W. Bush, released a joint statement with former House Majority Leader Dick Gephardt describing the health care bill in the Senate as a representation of “another milestone in achieving meaningful health-care reform for millions of Americans.” The pair conceded the bill was not perfect and needed further cost-cutting measures. Thompson insisted to the president of Club for Growth that he opposes the president’s health care law.

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

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