WASHINGTON -- Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) quickly became the most popular politician amongst Republicans in the state this week after Mitt Romney tapped him to be his vice presidential running mate. And in a last-minute effort to appeal to voters ahead of Tuesday's primary election, Wisconsin's Republican U.S. Senate candidates all rushed to tie themselves to Ryan.
On Sunday night, Tommy Thompson's campaign sent an email to supporters arguing that he is the person who will best help Republicans win Wisconsin in the November presidential election.
"The road to capturing the White House and the US Senate runs through Wisconsin," wrote Darrin Schmitz, Thompson's campaign adviser. "And a Romney, Ryan and Thompson ticket is the strongest team possible to deliver this critical victory for Wisconsin and America."
His campaign has been touting comments by Ryan at a rally in Waukesha on Sunday, when he specifically gave a shout-out to Thompson -- a fact the campaign reminded supporters of in a Monday night email. Ryan has not endorsed in the primary.
Ryan praised "what we pioneered here in Wisconsin, Tommy Thompson, welfare reform, getting people off of welfare and back to working and lives of dignity and personal responsibility, on to a life of hitting their potential" -- and criticized President Barack Obama for putting in place "more regulations."
Thompson, the former governor of Wisconsin and former Health and Human Services Secretary under President George W. Bush, was, for awhile, considered the frontrunner in Tuesday's GOP primary because of his long career in public service and popularity in the state.
Former Rep. Mark Neumann -- who has the support of conservatives like Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) and the Club for Growth -- is also close behind, essentially making it a three-way contest. He, like Hovde, has rushed in to try to capture some of the voters who worry that Thompson is too moderate. Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald, meanwhile, has lagged in the polls.
The winner will face Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) in the November election.
Both Thompson and Neumann also released robocalls name-dropping Ryan, as noted by Shaun Dakin, the founder and CEO of StopPoliticalCalls.org.
Former Wisconsin lieutenant governor Margaret Farrow robocalled for Thompson, saying, "Paul Ryan's selection as Mitt Romney's running mate is exciting news. We must enhance the Romney-Ryan ticket with the strongest possible U.S. Senate candidate who will add to the momentum, not take from it. Tommy Thompson is the only candidate who will not only win the Senate seat, but will also help pull in votes for Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan."
Neumann recorded his own robocall, telling voters, "I'm calling to ask for your support in our primary election on Tuesday. I also want to congratulate Paul Ryan on his vice presidential nomination. I've known Paul for 15 years, since I served in Congress back '90s, and we worked together balancing the federal budget by cutting wasteful spending. Paul is going to make a great vice president."
Hovde did not have a robocall, but his press secretary, Sean Lansing, told The Huffington Post Monday that the campaign planned a get-out-the-vote call with supporters for later that day that would congratulate Ryan while pointing out the similarities between his and Hovde's vision and plan.
"Eric believes Congressman Ryan was an outstanding pick for VP," said Lansing. "Congressman Ryan and Eric share the same priorities -- deficit reduction, a balanced budget and tax reform, and we need leaders in Washington who will tackle these issues and make the tough decisions that are needed to put America back on track."
Turnout is expected to be low -- 20 percent -- on Tuesday, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which could mean a tight contest.
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