Voters are split on Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin heading into the 2018 election, while few know much about her potential Republican challengers, according to the latest Marquette Law School poll.
Republican Kevin Nicholson, a Delafield businessman and Iraq War veteran who has not held elected office, has an early lead over state Sen. Leah Vukmir, R-Brookfield, in the GOP primary to challenge Baldwin, the poll finds.
The error margin for those results is large and the poll says most Republican voters remain undecided.
The Marquette poll, released Monday, sampled 800 registered voters from Feb. 25 to March 1, with a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points.
It is the first independent publicly released poll to encompass all three candidates in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.
Baldwin, D-Madison, is viewed favorably by 37 percent of respondents to the poll, while 39 percent view her unfavorably.
Baldwin’s favorability has ticked slightly downward in the poll over time. In the past two Marquette polls that surveyed Baldwin’s favorability, in June and March 2017, it was 38 percent and 40 percent, respectively.
Democratic and Democratic-leaning voters surveyed are slightly less positive about Baldwin — 66 percent view her favorably, 12 percent unfavorably — than Republicans and Republican leaners are negative about her, at 10 percent favorable, 72 percent unfavorable.
While Baldwin’s favorability in the poll is lukewarm, her possible Republican challengers remain largely unknown at this early stage in the Aug. 14 primary race.
About 85 percent of poll respondents had not heard of or didn’t know enough about Nicholson; 83 percent said the same about Vukmir.
The winner of the GOP primary will oppose the first-term Baldwin in the general election. Madison businessman Eric Hovde also has said he may run as a Republican.
Seven percent of respondents viewed Nicholson favorably and 7 percent unfavorably; the numbers for Vukmir were 10 percent favorable and 6 percent unfavorable.
Nicholson has an early lead in the Republican primary race with Vukmir, with the majority of potential Republican voters uncommitted. Because only 243 of the poll’s respondents plan to vote in the GOP primary, those results come with a large margin of error: plus-or-minus 8.2 percentage points.
Among those who said they’ll vote in the GOP primary, 28 percent supported Nicholson and 19 percent backed Vukmir.
A majority, 53 percent, said someone else, they didn’t know or refused to answer.