Democrat Herb Kohl is retiring, and Wisconsin is one of the 23 senate seats Democrats have up for re-election. Republicans have turned this supposedly-progressive state red since Obama won WI in 2008 by a healthy margin. Ron Johnson defeated incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold and Scott Walker won the governor's mansion. When liberal unions attempted to oust Walker on a recall vote, he won by an even larger margin than his original 2010 victory.
Polls have shown that GOP primary features a 3-way race between a more establishment former Governor, a tea-party backed congressman, and a self-funded businessman.
Tommy Thompson is the slight favorite based on his modest popularity in the state. He is the former governor of Wisconsin and has the largest political backing of any of the candidates. Establishment types such as Jeb Bush, Newt Gingrich, and Mitch Daniels join a host of organizations, special interest groups, and Herman Cain in supporting Thompson. Most of Thompson's support comes from the feeling he has the best chance of picking up the seat, and that might be enough to give him the edge.
Eric Hovde is a businessman who is trying to become the next Ron Johnson, a political newcomer with strong business experience and a mostly self-funded campaign. Hovde has run on a conservative fiscal platform but has gained little support among either prominent tea party activists or the establishment. He does, however, add FreedomWorks as a backer. Despite this, Hovde has actually led or tied the field in the GOP primary in recent polls and has a shot at the win. The question is if he can get-out-the-vote in a close race the way the more experienced candidates in the race will.
Mark Neumann is a former congressman who lost the GOP primary for Governor to Scott Walker in 2010. Despite being a longtime politician, Neumann has the backing of tea party favorites Rand Paul, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey, and Jim DeMint as well as the Club for Growth. The tea party has leaned towards newcomers recently such as Hovde, but in this race the tilt is towards Neumann from national leaders.