(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."
Thank goodness that we in Wisconsin won't be plagued by the Thompson name again! Of course, his brother ran for office and lost big time!
CNN, is this what you consider the "Big Blow". Geez, it is hardly news. It won't make much difference come November because so many Dems will be unseated anyway. Just because Thompson has decided not to run doesn't mean some other Repub may decide to jump in the race. CNN, you have become so biased, no wonder your ratings are dropping. Bet you won't post this either.
I'm glad there's at least one Republican with some sense. I wouldn't want my family member in politics either. The more radical the Republican party becomes the more I dislike them. What is going on with them? They talk about shooting, targets, taking back THEIR country, etc. The more they scream and yell the more I'm turned off by them.
An independent voice with $4 million whoppers....not too representative of your average Wisconsinite!
How does the leader "republicans dealt big blow" relate to this article? Are you all like Chris Mathews and Maher, the twits who spend their time complementing each other on how intelligent they are while referring to others as morons (part of the bipartisan Democratic agenda I guess).
Get real. There is a strong and growing movement that is based on fiscal prudence, and zero toleration for "business as usual" folks inside the beltway whether they be Republicans or Democrats or Independents.
I'm glad he stated it's time for new faces in DC. Old faces like Pelosi, Reed, Dodd, Frank, Rangel, and especially ( a perrenial member of CREW's most corrupt list) Maxine Waters need to go and go now.
Tommy is loved in this state like motherhood, the flag and the Packers. But his pulling out is not close to a big blow to the republicans. A qualified dog catcher could be competitive against Feingold this year.
perhaps there is a mistress in his past?
What I like best about Obama is his leadership. He relentlessly keeps doing the right things for America despite the witless naysayers. Tax cuts, health reform, turning around the economy, nuclear summits,...he just keeps going – He's the Energizer Bunny of Presidents.
Too many bones in his closet.
Very wise move! The great State of Wisconsin doesn't need him to be a dog-catcher!
Frankly, I wish he would run for governor again. I don't want to lose our Mayor to a win and I don't like the yahoos in the GOP. On the other hand, Thompson is old school - civilized and polite - and he would hate the political climate today.
This big wind bag didn't run because he knew he wouldn't win. I listened to his speech and he sure patted himself on the back. In 16 years as govenor in wisconsin he manage to pass on the school tax to the property owners. Property taxes went from $750 on my home to $3500 during his administration. Taxes on business & corporations no longer had to pay personal property tax. Tommy talked about cutting taxes by 3billion dollars, funny but that about the same as the states budget shortfall. Private schools also began to get the money from the state that was meant for public education, the state was to pay for 75% of the schools but that was never met under tommy either. We where all happy when Bush selected him for sec'y of health and human services, but if anyone remembers he screwed that job up with the flu vaccine.
As far as the tea party goes why can't the news media figure out that its just the Republican's with a new name. (Religionist right, Conservatives, Party of No,) etc.
All the tea party does is recycle Republican's that have lost elections or now are has beens. Besides being a for profit organization.
He might have been offered and offer he couldn't refuse. Chicago's politics is alive and well in Washington DC.
Hey Lando...Nice original thought.
Good luck. Feingold is the man and maybe even the very best Senator always true to the people and sticking up for the middle class. Good luck trying to bump Russ with that clown.
Oh I almost forgot that Tommy owns a healthcare related business that will probably make a fortune for him since health reform has passed.
To Jude you are close, he's had one for years.
Tommy Thompson is smart and I respect him for not running against Russ Feingold. It's about proectionism and Russ Feingold needs to remain a Senator to keep checks and balances in place, there is too much at stake here in America.
Good. He's not that impressive anyway. Reps can do much better.
He has courage bowing out. He knows he will only be part of group that is killing the American way of life. It is time for a lot of politicians to get out of office. We need term limits on these guys.
Tommy Thompson screwed up the Department of Health and Human Services when he was their Secretary. President Bush put all his old governors friends in secretarial positions at the different agency. None were qualified for the jobs, which left the agencies in a big hole that they are still trying to dig themselves out of today.
This guy is a "has been". He's cooked. He's history. Stick a fork in him.
Hopefully, Wisconsin voters will still be smart enough to give Feingold the boot. Haven't liberal policies done enough damage?
He would have lost and he knows it.
Russ would have won anyway, and he knew it.
Darn Darn Darn. I live in WI and don't want to vote for feigngold. Guess I will do a right in. My Choice for governor is looking bleak too. Not to crazy about Tom Barret, but sure as heck not crazy about scott walker may go with mark newman.