Matt Dolbey of WisPolitics.com reported that Ed Thompson will not be running for Congress in Wisconsin’s Third District:
Former gubernatorial candidate and Libertarian icon Ed Thompson said Saturday he would not enter this year’s 3rd Congressional District race challenging Democratic incumbent Ron Kind.
Commenting at the state Libertarian Party convention Saturday, Thompson, who got 10 percent of the vote in the 2002 governor’s race, said despite seeing some favorable polling and some strong encouragement he’s “definitely not going to run this year.”
“I’d love to beat him,” Thompson said of Kind.
Thompson, the supper club-owning brother of the former longtime GOP Gov. Tommy Thompson, said some top state GOP members asked him to run as a Republican. But he said he woke up one night and thought, “I can’t be one of those.”
A Green Bay-area Republican, Rep. Frank Lasee, who attended and spoke at the convention said, “I wish you would’ve.”
Thompson — now serving on the Tomah City Council after a stint as Tomah mayor — said a poll he saw had him receiving 24 percent of the 3rd District vote if the election were held now, regardless of what party he ran under. Thompson said he’s busy expanding his restaurant in Tomah, and it’s somewhat late to join the race now.
I also received an advance copy of this article by Justin Somma and Rolf Lindgren which analyzes the top-line polling results cited. Since I’m the one who conducted the survey, I have additional cross tabulation data which supports Somma’s analysis. I called Ed Thompson to obtain permission to publish some of these supportive data and he said I could do so.
While on the telephone, I also asked Thompson if he would absolutely rule out a run for Congress. As I wasn’t at the convention, I’m not sure of the exact context of the Thompson quote. Contrary to the aforementioned report, Thompson indicated to me that there was still a remote chance that he could be persuaded to run for office in 2006. In a telephone conversation with Thompson insider Rolf Lindgren, the same general message was confirmed. We’ll get to that issue in a minute — let’s look at some polling data, first.
The telephone survey of 377 likely voters was conducted on the week of March 8 through March 14, 2006. The margin of sampling error is +/- 5.0 percentage points with a 95% level of confidence. Here’s the topline data:
———-Total Raw—–Total Percent
What is your general impression of Democratic Congressman Ron Kind?
Never heard of him——-15—–4.0%
What is your general impression of Republican real estate broker Paul Nelson?
Never heard of him——230—–61.0%
What is your general impression of former Tomah Mayor and current City Councilman Ed Thompson?
Never heard of him——-85—–22.5%
If the congressional election was held today, would you vote for:
Democrat Ron Kind——150—–39.8%
Republican Paul Nelson—-42—–11.1%
Independent Ed Thompson-58—–15.4%
Undecided or other——127—–33.7%
Under which party affiliation would you be most likely to vote for Ed Thompson for U.S. Congress in Wisconsin’s third district?
I would vote for Thompson under any of the conditions listed above—–91—24.1%
I would not vote for Thompson under any of the conditions listed above–70—18.6%
Cross-tabulations provide the following for those who are not undecided in this potential three-way matchup:
Favorable View of Candidate Neutral View of Candidate Unfavorable View of Candidate Unfamiliar with Candidate Favorable View of Candidate Neutral View of Candidate Unfavorable View of Candidate Unfamiliar with Candidate Total Raw If the congressional election was held today, would you vote for: Democrat Ron Kind 89.4% 8.6% 2.0% 0.0% 135 13 3 0 151 Republican Paul Nelson 26.2% 21.4% 2.4% 50.0% 11 9 1 21 42 Independent Ed Thompson 66.7% 31.6% 0.0% 1.8% 38 18 0 1 57
Thompson is viewed favorably by 21.8%. Taken alone, he’s outgunned 2 to 1 by Kind’s 47.5%. However, 39.5% are neutral about Thompson. Considering Thompson’s political alignment, this block is likely comprised of mostly people who know his name, but don’t know enough about him to form an opinion. In addition, 22.5% have never heard of him. By election day, they will have, so lets distribute 18.5% of that 22.5% as a statistical match among the other categories, so that those who have never heard of Thompson lowers to 4%, which is the number of people who have never heard of Kind. The new numbers look like this:
His assessment is probably correct to slighly pessimistic. While one can’t poll on what might happen, the following may shed some light on the potential picture:
Percentage of undecided voters with a favorable or neutral perception of candidate (note: this does not adjust for name recognition):
Total Percent Raw Count Kind 43.6% 92 Nelson 16.1% 34 Thompson 40.3% 85
While Thompson came out slightly behind Kind, his name recognition is also lower. When people unfamiliar with the candidates are excluded, the following applies:
Favorables comparison (disregarding voters unfamiliar with the respective candidate):
Favorable Neutral Unfavorable Raw Kind 49.4% 28.2% 22.4% 362 Nelson 17.7% 45.6% 36.7% 147 Thompson 28.1% 51.0% 20.9% 292
When neutrals and favorables are added, Thompson actually comes out slightly ahead of Kind. If one places all the neutral and positive votes of people actually familiar with the candidates into one chart, it looks like this:
Average perception of undecided voters about each candidate with whom they are familiar (100% is most favorable, 0% is least favorable — adjusted for name recognition)
Favorability by average of perception results:
Kind — 54.3%
Nelson — 44.4%
Thompson — 58.2%
Here’s some additional cross-tab data about undecided voters:
Favorability and name recognition of undecided voters
Kind– Favorable Kind — Neutral Kind — Unfavorable Kind — Unfamiliar Kind– Favorable Kind — Neutral Kind — Unfavorable Kind — Unfamiliar Total Raw 27.6% 44.9% 19.7% 7.9% 35 57 25 10 127 Nelson — Favorable Nelson — Neutral Nelson — Unfavorable Nelson — Unfamiliar Nelson — Favorable Nelson — Neutral Nelson — Unfavorable Nelson — Unfamiliar Total Raw 4.7% 22.0% 8.7% 64.6% 6 28 11 82 127 Thompson — Favorable Thompson — Neutral Thompson — Unfavorable Thompson — Unfamiliar Thompson — Favorable Thompson — Neutral Thompson — Unfavorable Thompson — Unfamiliar Total Raw 22.8% 44.1% 10.2% 22.8% 29 56 13 29 127
The final question dealt with what party affiliation voters would like Thompson to choose for his campaign. 24.1% would vote for Thompson no matter what party he chooses. 18.6% wouldn’t vote for him at all, about the same number as those who have a negative impression of him.
Additional information provides that 81.4% of people might remotely consider voting for Thompson under some circumstances — with only 18.6% who would never consider such a vote. Cross-tabs show this number going up to 92.1% when only undecideds are considered.
As with his governor’s race, Thomson did well at home. In Monroe County, Thompson had a 70% favorable rating, as compared to Kind at 35%, and 4% for Nelson. We collected county by county data, which roughly approximated previous Thompson results.
When asked about voting preferences in Monroe County, here was the result:
Kind — 13.0%
Nelson — 17.4%
Thompson — 65.2%
Undecided — 4.3%
When one looks at the party choice question, my assessment is the same as Somma’s:
11.7% suggested he run as an independent. This is perhaps his best option. Running as an independent removes the “party” bottleneck from his voter pool. Republicans, Democrats, independents, and Libertarians will all read his literature and visit his web site before deciding whether or not they like him. This is required if he is to best approach voter blocks like the 22.5% who have never heard of him, the 39.5% who see him neutrally, the 21.5% who see Kind unfavorably, or any of Nelson’s supporters who see Thompson as a more viable candidate (shoe’s on the other foot this time, eh?).
Subjectively, the amount of Libertarian votes Thompson would lose are negligible were he to run as an independent. While a few die-hards might hold out for the party label, he’s well known and respected in LP circles already. This small percentage of an already small percentage isn’t worth consideration, in this case. He’d likely lose in a Democratic primary to Kind. If he ran as a Republican, he’d be typecast as a Republican in an district that consistently votes against them. The anti-Republican fever felt throughout country would hurt him even more. He’d also lose potential Democratic support, as well as some independent votes. Running as an independent in the congressional district which borders Minnesota (of Jesse Ventura fame) simply makes good sense.
These numbers offer both opportunity and challenge. Kind is popular, but Thompson is popular as well, though his popularity is currently more of a niche. Though he should look to this poll for guidance, we need to realize that these numbers are inherently flawed. For one, they’re early numbers, and early polling usually favors an entrenched incumbent, especially when his only current challenger is a Republican sacrificial lamb. So far all the voters have to go on is five terms of Ron Kind’s publicity — not an unbiased situation.
This fact is key, and probably introduces the largest bias to the poll: Thompson has yet to enter the race. These numbers were generated without Thompson offering a single word about his agenda or his vision. These numbers are generated without a pro-Thompson web site, news story, or even a road sign. When Thompson is out there, getting his name out, putting forth a realistic, populist, Venturan agenda, his numbers will jump through the roof. He has the ammo to isolate Kind from the grassroots left (five terms of recorded votes and campaign promises make for quite a character assassination). He’ll have the credibility and positioning to steal Nelson’s voter base. Run a tactical campaign and he’ll build momentum right up to November.
He’s correct. I’ll add that while Kind looks strong, a five term incumbent has a long congressional vote record to attack. A bit of opposition research on his record combined with some issue polling would expose a considerable amount of weak spots in Kind’s armor. Combine this with the established reality that people who know Ed Thompson vote for Ed Thompson and there is the very real potential of a win. A busy speaking tour and heavy distribution of the recent film documentary about him could have a most dramatic impact. Having a marginalized Republican in the race combined with a popular Republican as a brother won’t hurt, either.
Back to that conversation I had with Thompson. I’ve personally known Ed for a couple of years and know that he genuinely enjoys listening to people — especially those that support him. To me, he sounded as though he might run if he felt he had enough solid support behind him. If you wish to see him enter this race, I’d suggest popping him a quick message encouraging him to do so. I’d also indicate how much money I’d be likely to contribute and any special skills which might assist him in his campaign.
Somma wrote, “The stars have aligned in Wisconsin’s CD3. It would be a political sin to pass this up.” Those of us who feel the same way should use the link I just provided to put our money where our mouths are.