NEWS BLOG (WSAU) After Monday’s GOP U.S. Senate debate, the natural question is ‘who won?’ Wrong question. ‘How’d they do?’ is the right way to look at it.
The candidate who played most to-form was Tommy Thompson. ‘Tommy was being Tommy.’ And he was. Never mind that he thinks the Straight of Hormuz is a gulf. Small wonder. He has a record. He has name recognition. He’s the unquestioned favorite to win the GOP nomination. One of the other three candidates will need an incredible amount of effort and push to take it away from him. I'm not sure any of his opponents can consolidate their support and mount a serious challenge. Thompson would be forminable in a one-on-one primary against any of his challengers. For now, whatever 'anti-Tommy' vote there is will be split three-ways.
Mark Neumann is a competent debater. He’s a serious candidate who’s familiar with the issues and comes with good conservative credentials. But his campaign is under-funded, and he’s uninspiring. He’ll have trouble breaking through in a four-way race.
Jeff Fitzgerald’s stock went down during the debate. Several times when given a chance for rebuttal, he had nothing to say – literally relinquishing his time to speak. That may be ok once, if the issue has been thoroughly hashed over. It can’t be done more than that. Then you look like a lightweight. That Fitzgerald doesn’t know that is a big miscalculation. He has the makings of a good candidate for statewide office, but now probably isn't his time.
Eric Hovde is the most interesting candidate. Independently wealthy, he’s bought a ton of advertising. He comes off better in commercials than in person. He’s the one candidate the others are trying to gang up on and drive out of the race. Before his debut on radio and TV, no one knew who he was. I still think he’s a bit of a mystery. He’s also the candidate Thompson should be most afraid of.
Still, the conventional wisdom is that name recognition usually carries the day. Thompson is known by every GOP primary voter. He’s not conservative in the modern-day tea party mold. My gut feeling is that Thompson wins the primary and defeats Tammy Baldwin. As for the debate, to me it seems like Tommy versus the three other guys.
An earlier verion of this blog incorrectly referred to Jeff Fitzgerald as 'Scott Fitzgerald'. I'm sorry for the mistake. -Chris