MADISON (WKOW) -- Eric Hovde has bolted to the front of the Republican race for U.S. Senate, taking a 31-29 lead over Tommy Thompson, with former Congressman Mark Neumann at 15 percent and State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald at 9 percent.
That's according to Public Policy Polling (PPP), which surveyed 1,057 likely primary voters from July 5-8.
Attacks on Thompson appear to have taken their toll over the last four months.
The former Wisconsin Governor's net favorability has declined 21 points since PPP last polled the primary in February, from +49 at 66/17 to +28 at 56/28.
Only 34 percent of voters say they want Thompson to be the nominee, while 50 percent say they would prefer someone 'more conservative.'
Hovde is by far the best liked candidate in the race with 50 percent of voters seeing him favorably and only 9 percent negatively, for a +41 favorability rating.
Neumann and Fitzgerald have seen their fortunes decline over the last four months as well.
Neumann's favorability has gone from +33 (47/14) to +22 (43/21) and his vote share has gone from 22 percent before Hovde entered the race to now 15 percent.
Fitzgerald's favorability has held steady at 42/12 since the last PPP poll, but his vote share has declined even more precipitously, from 22 percent to 9 percent.
Its the Tea Party putting Hovde over the top.
Non-Tea Party Republicans split evenly between Hovde and Thompson at 31 percent, but Tea Partiers give Hovde an 18 point advantage at 39-21.
The general election looks very close whoever the Republicans end up putting forward.
Hovde leads Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin (D-Madison) 45-44, while Thompson and Baldwin tie at 45-45.
Baldwin has 4 point leads over both Neumann (45-41) and Fitzgerald (46-42).
The Marquette University Law School will release its latest poll on the U.S. Senate Race on Wednesday.
The GOP primary is set for August 14. The winner will then face Baldwin in the November 6 general election.
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