Hovde, who runs a Washington, D.C. financial firm, spent millions of his personal fortune on television advertising. The first-time candidate tried to win with the same narrative employed by Sen. Ron Johnson in 2010: a conservative businessman inspired to run for office to help solve the country's pressing fiscal issues. But opponents hammered Hovde for living out of state and donating to former Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.
Neumann had appeared to have the late momentum headed into the primary, buoyed by a flurry of late television spending by his campaign and the conservative groups backing his campaign. The Club for Growth and Tea Party Express endorsed the former congressman, as did a host of conservative senators, including Sen. Jim DeMint and Sen. Tom Coburn.
Thompson's narrow victory marks a political resurgence for the former face of the Wisconsin GOP. A general election win would be the final act in a storied political career and erase the unpleasant memory of Thompson's short-lived 2008 presidential campaign.