Realistically, Walker’s the best chance conservatives have at a nominee who’s both acceptable to them and capable of stopping the RINO dynamic duo of Jeb Bush and Chris Christie in the primaries. Two months ago, that scenario was right on track: Walker led Democrat Mary Burke 48/41 in his race for a second term as Wisconsin governor. Two months later, the lead is up in smoke. It’s 46/46 among registered voters with Burke’s name-recognition rising.
Granted, Walker leads by three here among likely voters, but nothing’s going to stop me when I’m in an eeyore spiral. Dude, I’m nervous:
In May the gender gap finds Walker leading among men by 52 percent to 42 percent while Burke leads among women by 49 percent to 41 percent. In March, Walker won men by 52 to 37 percent while Burke and Walker tied among women with 44 percent each.
Voters age 18 through 44 support Burke over Walker by 51 percent to 41 percent, reversing a 49 percent to 38 percent Walker advantage in March. Among voters 45 and older, support has been more stable, with Walker receiving 49 percent to Burke’s 42 percent, as compared to Walker’s 47-43 margin over Burke in March…
Approval of Walker’s handing of his job as governor has risen slightly in May to 49 percent, with 46 percent disapproving. In March, 47 percent approved and 47 percent disapproved.
Fifty-two percent of voters say Wisconsin is headed in the right direction, while 42 percent say it is off on the wrong track, little changed from 54 percent right direction and 42 percent wrong track in March. Forty-eight percent of voters see the state budget as being in better shape now than a few years ago, while 22 percent see it about the same and 25 percent say it is in worse shape now.
I’m tempted to dismiss this as nothing more than a byproduct of a bad sample. In March, when he led by seven among registered voters, the sample was 27D/25R. Today, with the race tied, it’s 32D/24R. Independents favor Walker, so the smaller the margin between Democratic and Republican turnout this fall, the greater the likelihood of a Walker win. And Republicans are capable of beating Dems in turnout even in a blue state like Wisconsin. The exit polls for Walker’s 2012 recall win showed 35R/34D at the polls that day. It’s a truism because it’s true: In this case, it really does come down to turnout. And if I’m a member of the national Democratic leadership, eyeing the inevitability of a Walker presidential run if he wins this race, I’d work very, very hard to turn out Wisconsin Democrats to pull this upset. Walker’s arguably the most formidable candidate in the Republican field — executive experience, midwestern, not prone to easily exploited verbal gaffes, and someone whom both wings of the GOP would line up for. If you want to take this guy out, blowing him up on the launchpad in Wisconsin may be your only chance.
On the other hand, it’s possible that a generally Democratic electorate has reverted to form lately, which would make the sample more legit. The gender split also suggests growth by Burke as the public gets to know her better. Two months ago, her favorable rating was 19/22 with 59 percent saying they don’t know her well enough to have an opinion. Two months later, 51 percent say they don’t know her well enough and her favorable rating stands at 27/22. And before you say “that’s only because there are more Democrats in this poll,” know that this isn’t the only survey out there showing the race tied. A Republican poll taken a month ago also had it tied, as did a Rasmussen poll taken in March. And although the right track/wrong track numbers here look good for Walker, Obama’s job approval in Wisconsin is working against him. Nationally, The One is stuck at a dismal 42/52; in Walker’s state, O’s at 48/45. If that holds, expect to see a bunch of big-name Democrats, including Obama himself, campaigning in Madison this fall.
One other tidbit: Wisconsinites don’t like the idea of Walker running for president (27/67) and don’t think he can do his job as governor properly if he’s running nationally at the same time (31/65). I remember Christie’s opponent in New Jersey trying to make that an issue in his reelection run, pointing out that he was using the election as a stepping stone, but his lead was too big for that to matter. Walker’s isn’t. The more attention he gets as a potential GOP nominee, the more of a jam he’ll be in before fall.