GOP Senate race a virtual tie, Democrat gubernatorial race could come down to in person campaigning

Partisan primaries are just a week away. 

On the republican side, a very close race between front runners for the US senate, the winner of which will run against democratic senator Tammy Baldwin.

Right now, latest polls suggest a virtual tie between State Senator Leah Vukmir and Marine Corps veteran Kevin Nicholson with not much separating them in terms of policy.

Really the only thing differentiating the candidates is the approach to their campaigns. Vukmir has taken a more traditional route, and has received the most support from GOP colleagues including official endorsement from the party. Nicholson is running as an outsider candidate, having never held public office.

In past debates, each has said there are no issues they would push back on with President Trump. 

"Certainly there are going to be issues that you will see candidates take where they are disagreeing with Trump on something but then overall supporting the Trump presidency," UW-La Crosse Political Science Professor Tim Dale said. "Of course, if Trump is unpopular, that may have an impact on the general election for whether a candidate is going to be successful."

Nicholson’s outsider status may more closely align him with the president, although he did formerly identify as a democrat before entering the military. Either one will face Baldwin in the fall which is a critical race for the GOP, already drawing millions in spending from both sides of the aisle. Previous primaries and special elections have shown that what some call ‘The Trump Effect’ could be a negative one. Public opinion of the president could play a major role in the US senate race come November.


Democrats will decide on who will take on Governor Scott Walker. Polls show a clear front runner, but Dale said that may not be a given.

It’s true that the last three polls put State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers ahead by double digits, but name recognition may not necessarily translate to how well voters think they will fare in November. What it may come down to is who democratic voters think has the best chance to beat Governor Walker and Dale said the amount of in person campaigning may come into play when people head to the polls next week.

"Even if we may see a candidate who has a lot of television ads out or we see a candidate who makes it on to the news when they show up to town, with a field this wide there may be a candidate or two that’s made a lot of headway out there on the campaign trail," Dale said.

There are 10 democratic candidates for total on the ballot. Two – Andy Gronik and Dana Wachs – have dropped out but their names remain on the ballot. For the most part, the rest seem not to be debating each other and are focusing heavily on the general election. Evers is ahead just based on numbers available with Kathleen Vinehout in a distant second. However, the most recent polling available is from July 28 and may not accurately reflect how voters are feeling headed into the primaries.

A Marquette poll in June showed Governor Walker polling ahead of all eight democratic candidates.

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