The poll shows businessman Eric Hovde in the lead with 28 percent of the vote, followed by former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and businessman and former congressman Mark Neumann, each with 25 percent. But with the margin of error at plus or minus 4.9 percentage points, it could be anybody's race.
The poll surveyed 400 likely GOP primary voters, asking who would get their vote "if the election was today." It was conducted via automated telephone message on Monday and Tuesday.
The surge from Neumann, who in had dropped to 10 percent, marked a notable shift in opinion. On a call with Patch Wednesday morning, Neumann's campaign manager Chip Englander was ecstatic.
"This confirms everything that we're seeing around the state," Englander said. "People are beginning to focus on the proven conservative in this race: the candidate who is going to balance the budget and repeal Obamacare. That's Mark Neumann, and it's reflecting itself in the polls."
Englander said Neumann's recent focus on heavy advertising and "barnstorming the state" with campaign events has helped Neumann's rise in the polls.
In an analysis of the poll data, PPP President Dean Debnam mentioned Tuesday night's runoff election in Texas for the Republican Senate nomination, in which the Gov. Rick Perry-backed candidate David Dewhurst was defeated handily by the Tea Party favorite Ted Cruz. Debnam said Thompson could meet the same fate.
"Tommy Thompson's position is looking more and more perilous as his establishment Republican brethren lose one primary after another," Debnam said. "This has become an exciting three-way contest and it's impossible to say what will happen in the last two weeks."
The Thompson campaign sees the new polling data as a reflection of "massive" spending, and they maintain that Thompson will be bolstered by his record above all else. Here's the emailed statement from Thompson campaign spokesperson Brian Nemoir:
The various public polls demonstrate the impact of massive outside and candidate spending from our opponents. In the end we believe this race will be determined not by who spent the most money on television, but rather the candidate the voters trust to get the job done, and Tommy Thompson's record of delivering property tax relief and jobs separates him from his rivals.
Following the , Thompson's campaign dismissed the data from PPP, calling it a Democratic-leaning and unreliable firm:
PPP is a known Democrat polling firm, and their results mirror Baldwin's leak of her own poll on the GOP primary within the last week. These numbers do not reflect our internal polling numbers or other credible public polls.
In an emailed statement from the Hovde campaign Wednesday morning, Hovde campaign manager Joe Fadness noted Hovde's resilience to attacks from the other contenders in the race:
Despite a barrage of negative and misleading attacks from Tommy Thompson, Mark Neumann, Tammy Baldwin and a number of deep-pocketed Washington, D.C. super PACs, Eric is continuing to lead in the polls.
Millions of dollars in attack ads from desperate career politicians and out-of-state special interest groups has not stalled Eric’s momentum. While Governor Thompson continues to slide, Eric remains well-positioned for victory on August 14th.
The winner in the Aug. 14 primary will face the Democratic candidate, Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin.
Patch's Heather Asiyanbi contributed to this report.