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GOP veterans Tommy Thomspon and John Mica survive primary, but Fla. tea partier steals the show

While some GOP strongholds have held in the primaries, Florida tea party member Ted Yoho is on the verge of upsetting a 12-term Republican representative.

By Andrew MigaAssociated Press / August 15, 2012

Lida Bonilla casts her vote during the Florida Primary elections in Hialeah, Fla., Tuesday.

Alan Diaz/AP

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Washington

While two veteran Republicans, former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson and Rep. John Mica of Florida, survived conservative challenges in Tuesday's primaries, a veterinarian and political novice named Ted Yoho stole much of the spotlight.

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Florida tea party challenger Yoho was on the verge of a major upset against 12-term GOP Rep. Cliff Stearns as four states held primaries, including Connecticut and Minnesota. Yoho was ahead of Stearns by less than 900 votes, complete but unofficial primary results showed.

Yoho's anti-incumbent campaign was boosted by a television ad with actors dressed as politicians in suits eating from a trough alongside pigs and throwing mud at each other.

Stearns, who is chairman of an investigations subcommittee for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has led high-profile probes of Planned Parenthood and the failed California solar energy company Solyndra.

In Wisconsin, Thompson turned back a trio of challengers to win the Republican Senate primary, setting up a general election race against Democratic Rep. Tammy Baldwin for retiring Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl's seat, which the GOP hasn't held since 1957.

Thompson's win, as an establishment Republican derided by rivals as not conservative enough, was a disappointment for tea party forces and other conservative activists hoping to add to big wins earlier this year in the Indiana and Texas GOP Senate primaries. Tea party candidates scored major gains in the 2010 congressional races, but they've had mixed success since then.

The win marked the first step in a political comeback for Thompson, 70, a former Cabinet secretary who hasn't been on the ballot since 1998.

He beat former U.S. Rep. Mark Neumann; businessman and political newcomer Eric Hovde, who spent at least $4 million on the race; and state Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald. Neumann had support from tea party forces as well as the anti-tax group Club for Growth.

Thompson's challengers cast themselves as closer to today's more conservative GOP than him.

Wisconsin Republicans hope they can build momentum from GOP Gov. Scott Walker's recall win in June and Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's decision to tap native son Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate.

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