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Wisconsin's GOP Senate Hopefuls Cozy Up to Walker

By Caitlin Huey-Burns - June 7, 2012

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Neumann has received endorsements from the conservative and financially well-heeled Club for Growth and South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint. But he ran against Walker for governor two years ago in what observers describe as an ugly primary. “There are some residuals of that, so he has been going overboard to publically be seen with the governor,” says Schimming, noting that “people remember things like that.”

The former congressman said he has “worked hard in building a strong relationship” with the man who defeated him in the 2010 primary, and insists they are on good terms. Walker will be “very, very important” in this U.S. Senate race, Neumann said.

Eric Hovde, a wealthy businessman also seeking the nomination, went so far as to run a radio ad supporting Walker during the recall campaign. “I’m proud of the principled stand Governor Walker took to fix out state,” Hovde says in the spot. “It is now time for us, the silent majority, to show our support and re-elect Scott Walker.” He then goes on to ask for support for his own bid. Hovde is hoping to emulate the success of a fellow self-funder, Ron Johnson, who defeated Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold in the 2010 midterm.

But the candidate who perhaps has the closest relationship with Walker is state House Speaker Scott Fitzgerald. His service to the governor in the legislature bodes well for him, but he faces a fundraising challenge -- which, observers say, could be his undoing.

Analysts on both sides of the aisle suggest Thompson would be the strongest candidate to put up against liberal Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the race to fill the seat of retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl.

The recall figures to be a feature of the Senate race beyond the primary. Republicans put out a 90-second Web video Wednesday morning highlighting Baldwin’s support of the recall. The video features footage of Baldwin cheering on the protests in Madison that erupted after Walker pushed through a measure curbing collective bargaining for public workers in the state, a move that eventually triggered the recall. Baldwin is considered among the most liberal lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and her progressive ties could help to boost Obama in Wisconsin in November.

Baldwin is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination. A Republican nominee will emerge after the mid-August primary. And over the next several weeks, they will talk a lot about Walker and attempt to court him.

An endorsement, Thompson told RCP, is up the governor. “I’m not going to put any pressure on him. He’s got a big job in front of him, and I support him enthusiastically; I’ve been all over the state supporting him. “ 

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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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