Former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompsonâ??at 71 and 14 years after he last won election to anythingâ??defeated three opponents with 34 percent of the vote to claim victory in the Wisconsin Republican primary.
As much as the race was dubbed Thompsonâ??s â??last hurrahâ? and there was open discussion about what would happen if a â??Sen. Thompsonâ? could not complete his term, it didnâ??t matter to primary voters. The old political warrior who first won a seat in the legislature in 1966 defeated multimillionaire businessman and political newcomer Eric Hovde (30 percent), tea party-backed former Rep. Mark Neumann (23 percent), and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (13 percent).
The most recent Marquette University poll showed Thompson leading Democratic nominee and left-wing Rep. Tammy Baldwin by a margin of 48 to 43 percent statewide. Although other surveys have shown the two in tighter match-ups, Thompson is likely to gain momentum from his triumph tonight and from sharing the fall ticket with vice presidential hopeful Paul Ryan, now Wisconsinâ??s favorite son.
â??Tommy won because he just had a network of old and loyal friends that he was still able to activate and mobilize into action,” veteran Madison GOP consultant Scott Becher told Human Events, â??He demonstrated he was not out of touch by any means.â?
Using their personal wealth, Hovde and Neumann slammed Thompson hard for his service on boards of companies and foundations that supported Obamacare (which the former governor insisted he would vote to repeal). But both had their own drawbacks: Hovde had not lived in the state for many years until relocating last year to become a candidate and Neumann had lost two statewide races since he last served in Congress fourteen years ago, when he was succeeded by Ryan.
For his part, Thompson was still warmly remembered as a strong pro-growth governor who brought fresh business into his state, balanced its budgets repeatedly, and was an early champion of school vouchers and welfare reforms. While critics said it was odd that someone who had eight buildings named after him should be running for office again, primary voters did not seem to mind.
To deflate criticism that he was too old for office, Thompson ran spots in the primary of him doing his regular regimen of fifty pushups in the morning. As the results came in, the Wisconsin GOP seemed to be joining together behind the â??old warriorâ? Thompson, who appeared to look quite vigorous.