(CNN) - Former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson has decided against mounting a Senate bid, dealing a blow to Republicans who viewed him as the party's best chance to topple incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold.
"My family didn't want me to run," Thompson told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Thursday about his decision not run. The onetime presidential candidate announced his decision at a Tea Party rally outside the Wisconsin State Capitol.
"It's time for new voices and new faces," Thompson told the crowd, according to local television station WBAY.
Thompson, who was governor of Wisconsin for 14 years and served as health and human services secretary under former President George W. Bush, remains popular in his home state. Recent polls showed that Thompson was running neck and neck with Feingold in a hypothetical matchup.
Thompson's decision leaves the race for the GOP Senate nomination to businessman Terrence Wall and former State Commerce Secretary Dick Leinenkugel - neither of whom have high name recognition throughout the state.
Feingold, who is seeking his fourth term as senator, is sitting on $4 million in campaign cash as he awaits an opponent, according to his campaign.
UPDATE 4:48 p.m.:
The Feingold campaign put out a statement Thursday afternoon with Sen. Feingold's reaction:
"I'm disappointed that Secretary Thompson decided not to get in the ring. I'm sure there will now be talk about other candidates getting in this race, but it's my hope that the election can now be focused where it should be – on the issues important to the people of Wisconsin and who will be an independent voice for them in Washington, working hard to move our state forward."
This is a long way from being the last problem the GOP has in 2010. The baggers, the wanna-be movers and shakers in a teapot, and the hard right Repugnicans have a real surprise coming.
Actually, I recall that he was one of the few Bush appointees as HHS who actually did his job in such as way as not to wind up or deserve to wind up in prison and perhaps I can even go so far as to say competently. Enjoy the private sector.
Memo to the Republicans:
Allow Rush and Beck to poison your party and the good and decent among your ranks will flee.
I agree "it's time for new voices and new faces". For the leadership in both parties, I hope they listen to this mantra! The GOP has said for over 1 year, just stop and start over – well, it's time for the voters to take that advice. Vote in November for new faces and new voices! Marlene in Mich
If your supporters are known racisct, obstructionist, birthers, gun toters, warmongerers, hypocrites, "No" ner's, called Tea Party/Republibans...I would'nt dare to run either...Ha Ha Ha Ha..
He wised up......
Leinenkugel comes from one of the most prominent beer families in Wisco, so get your facts straight.
oh the tea baggers are not gonna be happy
what will sarah terrorist do now
Love the title....made me do a happy dance!
such a huge blow!
way to go CNN...
REALLY hard to see which party's water you are carrying these days...
If that new voice and face is the likes of Sarah Palin, guess what Tommy, it ain't gonna work. The American people are looking for constructive leadership that will benefit ALL Americans, not just a privileged few. No amount of the same hateful, self-serving rhetoric is going to convince the newly educated public will change that.
Okay....I'm a progressive from NYC........I'm totally not voting for the GOP until they actually grow up........
However, why is this such a huge blow to the GOP?
Sen. Feingold would have won anyway......He's a tough SOB who is not scared to run on his record, and loves Wisconsin.
Sometimes CNN blows things way out of proportion......
I am no fan of Tommy Thompson and I really like Sen. Feingold. But you can see why Thompson didn't run. Just to get the same amount of campaign money Sen. Feingold has today, Thompson would have to raise $20,000 per day, every day until the election. And of course, Sen. Feingold will continue to raise money over that 200-day period. This system is broken and the SCOTUS made it worse last month. It is a supreme irony that Sen. Feingold was the sponsor of the campaign funds limitation bill that the SCOTUS partially invalidated, and that his opponents are now scared off by his large campaign warchest.
"My family didn't want me to run,"
Yeah, Tommy, neither do most of the people in Wisconsin and I don't care WHAT CNN says about how he "remains popular in his home state". Seriously . . .not!
Russ Feingold all the way for Wisconsin!!
Thompson - Good idea your family has! They do not want you to get caught up in the flushing of the Republican party down the right-wing extremist toilet of history!
GOP and old politics will not have any in the 21st global economy . let us start re- building our country with the President Obama !
If it's bad for Republicans, then it's good for the country. Thompson is right, it's time for new voices and new faces. Vote out all of the Republicans. They have proven to be incapable of leading the country in a progressive direction. Their mindset toward starting a war with any country that doesn't bend to their will has proven disastrous too. Let's put these war-mongers out to pasture and push their predecessors to cut off their fat pensions!
Thankis for not running if you are a cracker barrel ,,oops I mean tea partier. Its because of the racist connection that I confuse the two..cracker barrel and teaparty I mean.
I've lived in Wisconsin for 31 years. The harmThompson did as governor in destroying any semblance of bi-partisan approaches to our governance, and the strucural damage to our economy, was immense. I am grateful he will have no opportunity to re-create is destruction on the whole country.
His family. Sure.
Another one bites the dust! This is a good day.
"It's time for new voices and new faces," – well said.
A smart man will retire and have some fun before you really do grow old.
The republican party needs to be dealt as many big blows as it takes to destroy it. this party has caused this country and the world grievous harm and it's time everyone saw it for what it is, the party of the rich and the suckers. i'm all for the two-party system. but it's time we had two parties actually working for the American people, not one party working for us and the other doing everything in its power to stop progress and turn back the clock to the days of the robber barons and the poor and no one in between, no protection for workers, no protection against shoddy, dangerous products, no protection of the environment. let's have honest disagreement over how to accomplish good goals, let's not have a party that says NO to all the good goals!
Tommy Thompson is one of the real decent Republicans, I just think he looked around and saw who is running the Republican party today and bailed! I mean the likes of Sarah Palin, Rush Limbaugh, and the whole ultra right wing gang who needs it!
Leinenkugel is a very well-known name in Wisconsin. Don't you guys ever get out?
he is right...time for new faces, new ideas. Let's hope the people of Wisconsin are wise enough to dump Feingold.
This is not a big blow. That chump never had a legitimate chance of beating Feingold.