Will Feingold face a challenge from Tommy Thompson?

Until this year, Russ Feingold appeared to have a secure hold on his Senate seat from Wisconsin, despite being significantly more liberal than his state’s voters.   Feingold had earned their support for his plain spoken style and his occasional bipartisan forays — one of which bit the dust today as blatantly unconstitutional.  However, given the hostile reception Feingold has received at town-hall meetings, Wisconsin voters may be ready for a change — and Tommy Thompson could end the tenure of the Senate’s most liberal member:

In a brief interview Wednesday about the possibility of a Senate run this year, Thompson, a Republican, would only say: “I’m not saying no.”

The former governor mused last fall about a potential gubernatorial or Senate run, but if he does mount a campaign this year, it’s now almost certain to be a run against Feingold.

A Thompson-Feingold contest could become one of the country’s marquee matchups. Republicans have so far been unable to recruit a top-tier challenger to take on Feingold, who is one of the body’s most liberal senators.

That Thompson is seriously weighing a bid against Feingold illustrates how promising Republicans believe this November could be for the party. Following Scott Brown’s shocking win Tuesday in the Massachusetts special Senate election and victories in the New Jersey and Virginia gubernatorial contests last November, GOP officials believe it will become easier to woo potential candidates.

Chalk this up to Scott Brown’s amazing victory in Massachusetts this week.  Suddenly, every state is now in play, a dismaying prospect for Democrats who assumed that Barack Obama’s easy victory in 2008 wold translate to a generational majority:

The Republican victory in Massachusetts has sent a wave of fear through the halls of the Senate, with moderate and liberal Democrats second-guessing their party’s agenda — and worrying that they’ll be the next victims of voters’ anger.

“If there’s anybody in this building that doesn’t tell you they’re more worried about elections today, you absolutely should slap them,” said Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.). …

Several Democratic incumbents said later that none of the 19 Democratic seats up this year are safe — and that fundamental parts of the agenda need to be re-examined to win over voters back home.

“Every state is now in play,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who faces the toughest reelection battle of her career — most likely against wealthy Republican Carly Fiorina.

Brown’s victory showed that there is great opportunity for Republicans to advance.  In an open market, supply will follow demand, which means that top-drawer recruits will be easier to find for both the House and Senate races in 2010. We’re going to see a flood of Republican hopefuls in House races, and current House Republicans taking aim at Senate seats.

Thompson would be a key recruit in this effort.  Thompson had widespread popularity as a Wisconsin governor, serving for fourteen years in the top spot before moving into the Bush administration.  He had eyed another shot at the governor’s seat, but is better suited to run against Feingold and to take advantage of the damage the 111th Congress has done to his standing.

Meanwhile, Patrick Hynes looks at the Massachusetts Effect in New Hampshire for the Daily Caller:

The nation’s politicians and political operatives are noodling what Sen.-elect Scott Brown’s victory on Tuesday means for the political climate in their states. My guess is that the reality is there are too many variables for most states to draw a clean comparison analogy. But the Bay State’s neighbor to the north, New Hampshire, may present the most compelling analogy. And that’s bad news for the Democrats.

Voters in New Hampshire and Massachusetts have traditionally been polar opposites. “Taxachusetts” has earned the contempt of Live Free or Die skinflints. But over the past two election cycles (and signs of this can be traced further back), New Hampshire Democrats have been in the ascent and the political climates of these two New England states have, at times, become very similar.

The entire southern boundary of New Hampshire borders Massachusetts and many of the towns on either side are indistinguishable. Tens of thousands of families whose income earners work in Massachusetts nevertheless set up house on the New Hampshire side of the border to take advantage of tax benefits. These areas represent some of the fastest growing communities in New Hampshire. A majority of the state’s population lives in two counties that border Massachusetts, which are occasionally derided as “Massachusetts North.”

Expect to see recruitment for elections explode in the Granite State.