Tommy doesn’t want us to forget him

    Is former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson seriously thinking about running for office again in Wisconsin, or does he just like to float those trial balloons to keep his name in the headlines, draw attention to himself and mess with people’s heads?

    Thompson recently said he will soon decide whether to run for governor, senator or the mayor of Elroy.
    Governor? That really causes heartburn for declared Republican candidates such as Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker and former Congressman Mark Neumann. I mean, after all the time,effort and dollars they’ve put into their candidacies, to hear Thompson just float the notion and steal away the spotlight – again – is insulting at this stage in the game. Furthermore, it can leave prospective GOP voters thinking, "They’re OK, but neither one of them is Tommy Thompson."

    Reince Priebus, chairman of the Wisconsin Republican Party, said Thursday he would like Thompson instead to challenge Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold for his seat in 2010.

    "I have talked to him about it. He’s thinking about it," Priebus said at a Milwaukee Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon Thursday. "The door’s wide open."

    Mike Tate, chairman of the Wisconsin Democratic Party, said he was confident Feingold would survive a challenge by Thompson, should it come to pass. To be sure, Feingold has already raised a massive $9 million re-election warchest, which is one of the five largest of the senators seeking to return to office in 2010.

    A poll of Wisconsin voters released Nov. 24 by Public Policy Polling claimed Feingold would win a hypothetical race against Thompson, 50 to 41 percent. The remaining 9 percent were undecided. Keep in mind, Public Policy Polling, which is based in Raleigh, N.C., only does polling for Democrats.

    "Thompson’s popularity is not what it used to be, and it looks like Russ Feingold is in a solid position," said Dean Debnam, president of Public Policy Polling.

    As a journalist, I’m trying to imagine a debate between Russ Feingold and Tommy Thompson … I think I would pay to see that one.

    Meanwhile, look for the Republican gubernatorial primary to be sealed one way or the other on May 21-23, when all of the state’s GOP delegates will gather at their 2010 convention in Milwaukee and make their endorsements. It remains to be seen if those endorsed candidates will gain the support of those in the Tea Party movement.

    Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes Milwaukee.

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