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Politics

Democrats Intervening in Republican Senate Primaries

July 24, 2012
There is a plausible explanation for leaving Neumann out of Majority PAC's Wisconsin commercial. As arguably the candidate furthest to the right, the outspokenly conservative Neumann is not as well-equipped to compete with Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin for voters in the middle during the general election. A recent Marquette Law School poll showed Thompson running ahead of Baldwin while Neumann and Hovde each trailed the presumptive Democratic nominee. The poll also showed Hovde, a political newcomer, is less-defined than Neumann, making the businessman's general election outlook murkier than the former congressman's. In other words, if he is the nominee, he would be something of a wildcard. With Neumann, there is more familiarity. While Neumann may be the choice Democrats prefer to run against, most Republican voters haven't been on the former congressman's bandwagon so far this cycle. The early-July Marquette Poll showed him running third, with less than half the support of either Thompson or Hovde. That's why Democrats might be tempted to enter the fray and lend Neumann a hand, at least for now. In Missouri, something similar happened last week, with the release of a Majority PAC ad against frontrunning Republican John Brunner. Dinging Brunner on air should also elevate Rep. Todd Akin, who for several reasons could be a problematic nominee for the GOP. Democratic Sen. Claire McCaskill appeared to agree when she released a negative ad against Akin that looked more like a positive ad in the context of a GOP primary. A Majority PAC spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the group's strategy. In a press release announcing the new Wisconsin ad, group strategist J.B. Poersch said "Thompson and Hovde are each running to be the best senator money can buy, and their career choices make it clear to voters that they would sell out the people of Wisconsin from the halls of the Senate the first chance they get." Indeed, in both Missouri and Wisconsin, the Democratic ads have utility beyond the GOP primaries, which both take place next month. The spots are also early hits on the candidates most likely to be nominated. Internal polling shows that Brunner has the inside track in Missouri while public and campaign surveys in Wisconsin suggest Thompson and Hovde are the two Republican frontrunners. By releasing these commercials now, Democrats are introducing lines of attack they can continue in the fall. But with primaries on tap in a matter of weeks that could affect the balance of power in the general election, the nearer-term effect of the commercials is more important, and the design of the spots seems reflects this understanding. We'll find out soon enough how well the apparent Democratic strategy works.
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