Bring Me the Head of Tommy Thompson

Last week I took note of a weak Tea Party campaign in Virginia and proposed that no Republican incumbents would actually lose to Tea Party candidates in 2012. Still true. But I didn’t say anything about former governors trying to make comebacks and running up against new challengers! Case in point: The Club for Growth announces that it’s backing former congressman Mark Neumann over Tommy Thompson in the 2012 GOP primary for a Wisconsin U.S. Senate seat. Jim DeMint all-but-announces he’s behind Neumann.

Who’s Mark Neumann? You may remember him from 1993, when he narrowly lost a special election for the House and signalled the mounting problems of Democrats in suburban seats, or from 1994, when he won the seat in a rematch, or 1998, when he narrowly lost a Senate race to Russ Feingold. He’s one kind of “Tea Party” candidate, the Pat Toomey kind – the guy who’s been around, lucklessly looking for a comeback, before realizing the power of the Tea Party rebrand. He is also polling single digits behind Tommy Thompson, who (like Charlie Crist in 2010) is liked by national Republicans as a safe, well-liked vet who can more easily win. A Thompson campaign pits a 71-year old gold-watch-seeker against, probably, gay congresswoman Tammy Baldwin. A Neumann campaign pits Baldwin against a guy who said in the 1990s that homosexuality shouldn’t be allowed.