A new Rasmussen Reports poll shows former Gov. Tommy Thompson beating Sen. Russ Feingold in a hypothetical senate race 47% to 45%. Feingold beats Terrence Wall 49% to 40% and David Westlake 51% to 35%.
From these numbers it might seem that Thompson is the only good bet the Republicans have against Feingold. But keep in mind how preliminary this data is. The poll we're looking at is Russ Feingold '10 against Tommy Thompson '01. People remember him fondly as a governor and have not had enough time to hear the Democrats blast him for what he's been doing over the last eight years. I think the perception could change significantly once Feingold the champion of overwhelmingly popular campaign finance laws and the man who's never accepted a pay raise goes after Thompson for being a lobbyist and opportunist.
Similarly, I wouldn't dismiss Terrence Wall. 40 percent ain't bad for somebody with such low name recognition. If he runs a good campaign he'll pick up another couple percent and if the Democrats mess up and become even less popular than they are now, he might have a chance. For right now, I think he's a big underdog.
One final point. If I were a Republican I'd be praying that the GOP pick a candidate ASAP. There's nothing that the Feingold campaign would love more than to watch Westlake and Wall duke it out over tea party credentials. The accusation that neither of them have been talking about agriculture hammers this point home: are these guys going to fight over Palin points or are they going to advocate for Wisconsin?