Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has no intention of endorsing a candidate in the upcoming Republican U.S. Senate primary in his state, hoping instead to act as a "referee."
"I'm excited," he told reporters at a breakfast event hosted by the Christian Science Monitor in Washington, D.C. on Thursday. "If you look at it -- and I don't just say this as a homer for Wisconsin -- but ... it's probably the most impressive primary, at least in this cycle, if not one of the most impressive ever."
Four Wisconsin Republicans are facing off in the primary for the open U.S. Senate seat, which is being vacated by Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl. State Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, businessman Eric Hovde, former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann and former Gov. Tommy Thompson are all vying for the nomination. The primary is on Aug. 14, and the winner will face Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin in the general election.
Walker credited the recent recall elections in the state with uniting the Wisconsin Republican Party, saying that they had staved off potential arguments and disagreements between the four Senate candidates.
"The interesting thing -- and it wasn't intentional -- but the recall kind of slowed what might of otherwise been a process leading down that path," he said. "All four of the candidates have been out campaigning, but they've spent most of their time talking about the need to help me, the lieutenant governor and the four state senate candidates [who faced recalls]. And so that's really been a unifying factor."
"Between now and August, will they start to distinguish themselves? I think so," he added. "But that's part of the reason why I'm not likely to get in and endorse a candidate, because for me -- it allows me to play a little bit of referee and call out candidates if they're stretching the truth about the views of other candidates."
Walker added that he won't be afraid to call people out if they are "grossly out of line in their characterization of other candidates."
He also praised each of the Senate candidates, saying Hovde was "a business person who's trying to replicate some of what [Sen.] Ron Johnson did two years ago in this election," Fitzgerald was "at the forefront of helping push our reforms through" the legislature, Neumann "almost beat Russ Feingold in 1998" and Thompson is "one of the most beloved former governors in the state of Wisconsin."
Walker said he was confident that the eventual victor could beat Baldwin, even though he has considered her "a friend" since they served together in the state legislature.
"Her policies are probably some of the most liberal in the country coming out of that congressional district," he said. "I just think they would be horribly out of whack with where the majority of the people are in the state of Wisconsin. I think it puts any of those four, coming out of that primary, in a tremendously positive position to be able to win."
A poll last month by Democratic firm Public Policy Polling showed Baldwin trailing Hovde and Neumann by 4 percentage points, and Thompson by 5, with a 4-point margin of error. The poll did not ask about Fitzgerald.
Baldwin told The Huffington Post last week that she believes the divisive Republican primary will help her campaign. While the Republican candidates go negative and attack one other, she said, she will be able to stay focused on the general election since no other Democrat is running for the seat.
"While they're having this divisive, negative brawl," Baldwin said, "I've been seizing the opportunity to travel statewide, to hold numerous events, listen to people and organize my campaign statewide."
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