LA CROSSE, Wisconsin (WXOW) – Last month, a national political group dubbed The Tea Party Express backed Texas candidate Ted Cruz for the Republican Senate nomination there.
Cruz went on to defeat the Republican Lieutenant Governor in the primary, and is now considered an overwhelming favorite in November's general election.
Tuesday, the Tea Party Express came to La Crosse backing Wisconsin Senate candidate Mark Neumann.
"In some respects this election reflects what's going on within the Republican Party, and that's essentially a fight for control," said Dr. Joe Heim, a professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse.
"The establishment republicans are the people in office, or the people that have been around the block a long time, and then you have this protest group, the Tea Party, versus the institutional people."
But that doesn't mean the former are opposed to the latter.
While in La Crosse campaigning for Neumann's opponent Tommy Thompson Tuesday, former speaker Newt Gingrich said he and many of his GOP allies in the U.S. Congress were elected as part of a similar movement – now dubbed the 1994 "Republican Revolution."
"We were elected in ‘94 on rebellion against high taxes, big government and killing jobs," Gingrich said. "So in many ways Tommy (Thompson) and I feel very comfortable with the way people want lower taxes, smaller government and more job creation now."
Neumann has campaigned for next week's Senate primary largely on a platform of cutting government spending.
But Heim said so too have a pair of his opponents, Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and businessman Eric Hovde.
Heim said it remains to be seen if the Tea Party's support will be enough to propel Neumann to victory.
"If it was either or, one establishment Republican candidate and one Tea Party candidate, I'd expect the Tea Party favorite to win here," Heim said.
"But when you're splitting the more conservative vote up between three different people, I think Thompson has a bit of an advantage," added Heim, who views Thompson as a moderate Republican.
But he said if the Tea Party does get their man onto November's ticket, Wisconsin voters would be faced with an interesting choice between Neumann and Tammy Baldwin – a congresswoman Heim said is a liberal Democrat.
"What's going to happen if a person like Neumann wins is you'll have the vast majority of Wisconsin voters in the middle of the political spectrum and they'll have to choose between an extreme conservative or an extreme liberal."
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