After much hand-wringing, Tommy Thompson, the former Wisconsin governor, appears to be jumping into the 2012 race for U.S. Senate.
Thompson, a Republican, is one of the most popular politicians in the state’s history, having served four terms as governor from 1987 to 2001. But his entrance into the fray comes at a time when his party has shifted away from his brand of conservatism.
Specifically, Thompson is on record as a supporter of the health insurance exchanges and other elements of the Democratic healthcare overhaul legislation. As the secretary of Health and Human Services during the George W. Bush administration, he praised the Massachusetts healthcare plan enacted under then-Gov. Mitt Romney. And he supported the massive Medicare drug benefit plan passed during the Bush administration, one that substantially contributed to the current federal budget deficit.
All of that has Thompson viewed with mistrust by "tea party" activists and other fiscal conservatives in Wisconsin. He already faces one challenger in a primary: Mark Neumann, a former congressman who unsuccessfully ran for the GOP gubernatorial nomination last year. Thompson has been working to court tea party voters for months.