FreedomWorks unlikely to jump into Wisconsin Senate race

On top of that, the group's hesitation points to a larger problem for Thompson's opponents: because there are three of them and none is the clear favorite as an alternative to Thompson, there is a good chance they split the anti-Thompson vote and allow him to escape with a win in the August primary.


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"At this point we just haven't been able to say there's one candidate who's the most conservative with a large proportion of our members supporting him," said Steinhauser.

While the Washington-based outside groups involved in the race are backing Neumann, some Wisconsin conservatives are still resistant to him because of a nasty 2010 primary between him and now-Gov. Scott Walker (R).

Businessman Eric Hovde (R) has inserted himself into the race in a big way, spending more than $3 million of his own money on ads, and while state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald (R) has lagged far behind in fundraising he's known in the state for helping Walker push his agenda and has maintained some support in the polls.

A recent Marquette University poll showed Thompson at just 34 percent support but leading all of his opponents by double digits. If none can consolidate the anti-Thompson vote he's likely to win the nomination — despite his problems with the GOP base.

UPDATE: FreedomWorks PAC Executive Director Max Pappas called The Hill to say that Steinhauser is not involved in deciding who the group endorses because he works for the issue advocacy side of the organization — and that they plan to check with their members next week on whether they should endorse in the race.

"He overstated it — to say that we're unlikely to get involved is an overstatement," he said. "These complicated FEC and IRS rules, and the firewalls that prevent communication unfortunately lead to these misunderstandings sometimes."

Pappas said that he had not checked with the group's Wisconsin members since Hovde got in the race and if they'd coalesced around a candidate the group might still get involved.

This post was updated at 5:20 p.m.

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