Experts say no GOP endorsement levels U.S. Senate playing field - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Experts say no GOP endorsement levels U.S. Senate playing field

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GREEN BAY (WAOW) -

Recall efforts have dominated the headlines, but another race is heating up.

State Republicans were supposed to choose a candidate for the Wisconsin's open U.S. Senate seat during this weekend's party convention, but none of the four candidates were able to capture the 60% of support needed to win the endorsement. Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald came the closest with 51% of the vote.

"We're gonna travel the state and keep talking to people and try to build support for this campaign," said Fitzgerald. "This is a big positive for us right now, were gonna go out there and keep talking to the people and keep moving this forward."

The endorsement would have provided the winner with money and other support from the party.

Three other big name Republicans are also on the ballot: Former Governor Tommy Thompson, Hedge fund manager Eric Hovde, and former U.S. Representative Mark Nuemann. Neumann finished second with 49% of the vote.

"Obviously it took all three campaigns to stop us," said Neumann. "I think the key to this whole thing, the first ballot is the primary, we won 2 to 1 on the first ballot."

Political experts say when Hovde and Thompson supporters realized their candidate wouldn't be nominated, they rallied around Fitzgerald to prevent Neumann from winning the endorsement.

"In a way you could argue that this was sort of a calculated move by some of the party faithful to ensure that there wasn't an endorsement," said Eric Giordano, UW-Marathon County political science professor. "So the playing ground would be relatively fair."

And while no endorsement was given, Giordano says Fitzgerald is in a good position.

"I don't think Fitzgerald was expected to win," said Giordano. "And he did get the majority of votes and he came out on top."
    
With no clear winner, experts say a fight for the nomination could hurt the state Republican party. But a bitter fight for the Republican nomination could also keep GOP candidates in the headlines leading up to the August primary.

Tammy Baldwin has already received the Democratic party's endorsement.

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