Like with Kirsten Gillibrand, there was really only one Republican lurking out there who would have given Russ Feingold a tough race. In this case it was Tommy Thompson, although with his lobbying history and past history as an awful campaigner in the 2008 Presidential election, my belief is he would have faded. I say “would have” because he, like George Pataki, has apparently decided against a run.

According to sources who have spoken with TODAY’S TMJ4 HD’s Charles Benson, former Wisconsin Governor Tommy Thompson says he will not run for Senator Russ Feingold’s seat.

This would be the second high-profile recruiting failure in two days for the GOP, and it all but assures that Feingold will be able to win re-election; the two candidates currently in the race against him are running well behind. This also allows the Democrats to breathe a little easier about retaining the majority in the Senate; there’s still a path to victory for the Republicans, but they would have to win just about everything out there.

UPDATE: Thompson has now responded to this report, denying it and saying “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” Well, there’s a bold statement.

UPDATE II: Pushed by this leak, Thompson will now make his official announcement at a tea party event in Madison tomorrow. A TV station out of Green Bay hears from a spokesman that a run is unlikely.