In the first real test of the relative strength of the candidates running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Wisconsin, Delafield business consultant and former Marine Kevin Nicholson has taken the lead, but his opponent state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) has a slightly better favorability rating.

Nicholson received 28 percent support from those who said they would vote in the GOP primary over state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) who received the support of 19 percent. A plurality of GOP voters, 49 percent of them, were still undecided.

Vukmir, on the other hand, had a favorable rating of just 10 percent among all registered voters polled, but Nicholson’s was even lower at 7 percent. Nicholson had an unfavorable rating of seven percent to Vukmir’s six percent. The vast majority of those polled, 58 percent in Nicholson’s case and 60 percent in Vukmir’s case, needed more information before they could make a judgement of the two candidates.

The poll was conducted February 25 through March 1, 2018 and had a sample of 800 registered voters. Respondents were asked their opinions on a variety of questions, from gun control to their opinion of the governor.

However, the sample size was much smaller for those voting in the GOP Senate primary, just 243 respondents. As a result, the margin of error on that question is +/- 8.2 percentage points.

Nicholson’s campaign was pleased with the poll result showing he was leading in the race.

“Today’s release of the Marquette University Law poll showing Kevin Nicholson with a strong advantage in the primary is more evidence showing that he is the candidate to unite Republicans and beat Democrat Senator Tammy Baldwin,” said Brandon Moody Nicholson’s spokesman in a statement released Monday. “Whether it’s the public endorsement by conservative leaders like Senator Ted Cruz, former Ambassador John Bolton and organizations like FreedomWorks and the Club for Growth, or the over 6,000 Wisconsin donors who have generously contributed to Kevin’s campaign, it is clear that conservative leaders and Wisconsin Republicans are coalescing around his outsider candidacy and want to Send in the Marine to fix Washington’s mess.”

A statement from Vukmir’s campaign would indicate that they’re not worried about the poll results.

“Given the millions from out-of-state interest groups spent on ad buys, this poll shows it hasn’t bought Nicholson much,” said Mattias Gugel, Vukmir’s communications director. “Leah’s conservative record of standing with Gov. Walker in Wisconsin is well known inside the state, and our team will continue getting her message out with her overwhelming support from grassroots conservatives.”

The primary is not until August 14. With that much time still left in the race and given the number of undecided GOP voters, businessman Eric Hovde could be encouraged by the results to consider entering the race. Hovde finished second in the GOP primary in 2012 and could self-finance his campaign to make it quickly competitive. The poll’s questions on the Senate race did not include a possible candidacy by Hovde.

The poll also contained disturbing news for Democratic Senator Tammy Baldwin. Despite an effort to rehabilitate her image after the Tomah VA scandal, Baldwin had an unfavorable rating of 39 percent and a favorable rating of 37 percent, well below the numbers expected for an incumbent. The poll also shows a slight drop in support from the same time last year when Baldwin had a 40 percent favorable rating and a 35 percent unfavorable rating.

Our instant reaction to the poll results concerning Governor Scott Walker was in Monday’s RightWisconsin Daily Update newsletter. Click here to read what you missed.