Jaws that dropped when Rep. David Obey, D-Wis., announced he would not seek re-election have become firmly set in the party races to name potential successors Tuesday.
For instance, MTV "The Real World" alum Sean Duffy was considered the designated also-ran Republican had Obey, who leads the powerful House Appropriations Committee, sought re-election in the 7th Congressional District. Now, Fox News said, Duffy, a county prosecutor, could have a real shot in November against likely Democratic nominee, state Sen. Julie Lassa. The other primary candidates are Don Raihala, a Democrat from Superior and a first-time candidate, and Daniel Mielke, a Republican from Rudolph who ran against Obey in 2008.
"In a year like this, which is bad for Democrats, he (Duffy) has a legitimate shot at winning," said Kenneth Mayer, a political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "In fact, I think he's probably going to win."
And the gubernatorial race could get interesting, too, since Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle decided against seeking a third term, setting up an open governor's race.
Emerging as a the likely Democratic candidate is Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, a former U.S. House member for a decade beginning in 1993, who faces token opposition, CQ Politics said.
On the Republican ballot are Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker, former congressman Mark Neumann and Scott Paterick of Wisconsin Rapids.
Handicappers see Walker as the front-runner in the race, although recent polls showed Neumann picking up some support, Wisconsin Radio Network said.
The GOP race is difficult to figure, UW-Madison Political Scientist Charles Franklin said, since no direct polling comparing the two candidates has been done until recently. Franklin said the lack of polling creates a situation where conventional wisdom can run amok and predictive outcomes won't be known.
The Republican battle to take on Democrat Steve Kagen, seeking his third term as the 8th Congressional District representative, has shrunk from eight to three: former state Rep. Terri McCormick, roofing contractor Reid Ribble and state Rep. Roger Roth, the Green Bay Press Gazette reported.
Kagen, unopposed for the Democratic nomination, is headed for a tough fight in the battleground district that traditionally tilts Republican, an analyst said.
"Kagen has won by fairly slim margins, and even though I think he's still considered by most pollsters and analysts to be favored, it is at the moment a competitive race," UW-Green Bay political scientist Michael Kraft told Wisconsin Radio Network.
Even veteran U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold finds himself facing a tough re-election bid once the primary ends.
While Feingold, seeking a fourth term, breathed easier when former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson decided not to run in the Republican primary, the incumbent still can't take a re-election race for granted, CQ Politics said, moving the race to the "Likely Democratic" category from its previously "Safe" listing.
Duking it out for the Republican nod on Tuesday are Oshkosh businessman Ron Johnson, endorsed by the state GOP, Watertown businessman Dave Westlake and long-shot Stephen Finn, a plumber from Milwaukee.
Jackson, who has raised lots of money, already is looking past Tuesday, running an ad against Feingold, charging the incumbent is a career politician camped with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California and President Obama.
Feingold dismissed the ad, saying, "No one could possibly believe that to be true."
"I have an exceptionally independent voting record that frankly drives some of my colleagues on the Democratic side crazy," he said.