Paul Ryan will not take his Randian vision to the US Senate, staying in his leadership position as Chair of the House Budget Committee rather than run for the seat vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl. Ryan’s association with the deeply unpopular Medicare privatization plan would have been a very difficult hurdle for him in a statewide race and may even haunt him in his district, although he may get bailed out by the redistricting process. That is, as long as Republicans finish redistricting before Democrats take over the state Senate post-recalls, which isn’t all that likely. So it’s possible for Ryan to have a real House race on his hands next year, too.

As for the Senate seat, it looks like Tommy Thompson will take a run at it.

Tommy Thompson, the Republican former Wisconsin governor and George W. Bush’s first secretary of Health and Human Services, has told friends he plans to run for the open Senate seat in Wisconsin, according to top Wisconsin sources.

Sen. Herb Kohl (D-Wis.) said Friday that he won’t seek a fifth term in 2012.

Thompson would give Republicans a popular former two-term governor to seriously challenge for this toss-up seat, which could prove the difference as Senate Democrats struggle to defend their majority with now eight retirements.

I think the apex of Thompson’s poll numbers, like Charlie Crist, will be the day he gets into the race. In 2008, Thompson ran the worst Presidential campaign I’ve ever seen, actually blaming a poor debate performance on the fact that he had to go to the bathroom. And the biggest protege of Tommy Thompson was Scott Walker. When I was in Madison, Walker would talk up Thompson every chance he got. Maybe he was trying to draft off of Thompson’s popularity, but with him running for a high-profile Senate seat – in a race where Walker could also be on the ballot in a recall – the opposite effect could take hold. Finally, Thompson’s most recent job is as a high-powered corporate lobbyist, which sets up perfectly for Russ Feingold if he decides to run.

This is not the same Wisconsin that elected Thompson as Governor. They’ve been angered by the assault on workers. Thompson will make the race interesting, but I still think Democrats have an institutional edge here.

UPDATE: The fact that Thompson disagrees with the Ryan plan to end Medicare and even endorsed Obamacare suggests that he may not make it all the way through a Republican primary in Wisconsin, incidentally.