Tammy Baldwin (D): 45 (46)As a bonus finding as part of Daily Kos's poll (via Public Policy Polling) of the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall, there's also a new look at the Senate race in Wisconsin. The Wisconsin race is on track to be one of the closest in the nation in November; it's an open seat, thanks to the retirement of long-time Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl, and, assuming he can survive the Republican primary, ex-Gov. Tommy Thompson gives the Republicans a strong option here. Whoever wins the GOP primary will face Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin from the Madison-area WI-02.
Tommy Thompson (R): 47 (45)
Undecided: 8 (9)
Tammy Baldwin (D): 46 (47)
Mark Neumann (R): 45 (41)
Undecided: 9 (12)
Tammy Baldwin (D): 47 (47)
Jeff Fitzgerald (R): 40 (39)
Undecided: 13 (14)
If you've already seen the gubernatorial recall numbers, you know that they weren't the most optimistic bunch of numbers for the Democrats, showing all of the Democratic candidates having fallen off at least a few points against Scott Walker since the previous poll in February, with even top prospect Tom Barrett trailing by 5. Since different races usually move in concert with each other from sample to sample, it stands to reason that Baldwin would also likely to lose a few points vis-a-vis her Republican opponents, and that's exactly what happened here. (It's also seen in the presidential portion, where Barack Obama's previous 14-point lead turned into a 6-point spread.)
Baldwin's one-point advantage against Thompson from last time turns into a two-point deficit. The biggest gainer here is ex-Rep. Mark Neumann, who gains a net +5, though (going from a six-point deficit to a one-point gap), while state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald only moves the needle a net +1. Thompson, however, has led previous polls of the GOP primary (there's no primary poll as part of this sample, though); unless conservatives find a way to coalesce behind one of the other two candidates, Thompson seems the likeliest nominee, which points to a down-to-the-wire fight in November.
There's one important caveat with the sample, though, which is more important in considering the Senate race than the gubernatorial recall. Since their previous poll, PPP switched from a registered voters sample to a likely voters sample. The likely voters screen makes perfect sense for the recall, since it's happening in June, only a few months away. The Senate election, however, is part of the regularly scheduled election in November, for which it would ordinarily be premature to start screening for likely voters at this point.
That doesn't mean that the Senate portion is wildly off; it may still be right on target. It just means that the people being polled here are only the people who are planning to vote in the June recall, while the voters who turn out in November (when, of course, there's also a presidential election) may be a broader slice of the population. That broader slice is likely to contain more of the Democratic-leaning but infrequent voters (the type who turn out for presidential elections but not for midterms and certainly not for off-year stuff) who might boost Baldwin by a few points—which will be crucial, if, as it looks now, the race in November will come down to a game of inches.