Politico reports exclusively that former Gov. Tommy Thompson, R, is running for the Senate seat being vacated by the retiring Sen. Herb Kohl, D, in Wisconsin. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will instead stay in the House.
This seems like a sound choice for both. Thompson was a bit of a tease in the 2010 cycle, hinting that he might run against Sen. Russ Feingold, D, before opting out. Ryan, on the other hand, has far more power as chairman of the budget committee than he would as a freshman senator.
Wisconsin is obviously an important state in presidential politics, but Wisconsin will be the site of a key national showdown at many different levels. First, there will probably be recall elections this summer, in which Republicans will have to defend their state Senate majority. In 2012, Ryan and his fellow GOP congressmen will have to prove themselves right about budget reform by holding on to their House seats. Their ease of doing so depends heavily on how the recall battle goes, since redistricting will probably take place only after August 11, when the state's municipalies create their new ward lines.
Then there's the Senate race. Tommy Thompson is probably the strongest candidate Republicans can field. The state's last GOP governor will face an environment in which extremely active unions, their political relevance threatened, will pull out all the stops -- just witness their mafia-like threats to businesses in the state, their chicanery over recall petitions, and even the recount of the April 5 Supreme Court election, which their candidate lost narrowly. The race could become very interesting if former Sen. Russ Feingold, D, jumps in, which Politico reports he does not seem inclined to do -- at least not at the moment.
Wisconsin will be the site of the big battle over the influence of public sector unions. In short, we are about to see what happens when you corner the animal.