By M.D. Kittle | Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON – Candidate Walker is looking pretty good in 2014, according to the latest numbers from a liberal-leaning polling firm.
Public Policy Polling calls its new polling data a “mixed bag” for Gov. Scott Walker, but the Republican incumbent leads every Democratic challenger in next year’s race for governor. Here’s the score, according to PPP:
Walker is up 47 percent to 43 percent in a hypothetical head-to-head against Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca of Kenosha. The governor leads former Trek executive Mary Burke of Madison 48 percent to 42 percent. And he’s up by 7 percentage points on state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout of Alma. Walker outpaces Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson 47 percent to 40 percent.
The governor leads by 5-10 points with independents in all four match-ups, and takes an average of 12 percent of the Democratic vote while losing only 7 percent of Republicans, PPP notes.
Name recognition is a problem for the would-be challengers, none of whom has officially declared their candidacy some 13 and a half months before the November 2014 election.
Barca, Burke and Vinehout all post about 40 percent name recognition, with 23 percent for Nelson. PPP asserts there is reason to believe the race could get closer.
“(A)n average of 14 percent of Democrats are undecided, compared to just 4 percent of Republicans. That means the eventual Democratic nominee should have more room to grow as they become better known,” the poll states.
But Democrats have lamented the lack of a powerhouse candidate to challenge the governor, as well as reluctance by Democratic candidates to declare and begin what promises to be an uphill campaign against an extremely well-funded and recognized incumbent.
“Sad to say but most of us don’t even know who the (Democrats) are going to run against” Walker, Mike Baker recently wrote on the Democratic Party of Wisconsin Facebook site.
Joe Heim, long-time political science professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, said he isn’t surprised by Walker’s lead in the poll. He said name recognition is a big problem for the would-be challengers, and the clock is ticking.
“I have to be honest, there are no immediate heavyweights on the Democratic side at this point,” Heim said.
Former U.S. Sen. Russ Feingold has said he will not run, as has Ron Kind, a La Crosse congressman with a reputation as a moderate in Wisconsin’s moderate 3rd Congressional District.
Heim wonders whether Walker’s ability to raise money, in state and nationally, has had a stifling effect on Democratic challengers. Walker brought in $3.5 million to his campaign war chest in the first half of the year.
He took in more than $37 million in fighting back last year’s recall campaign, a victory that only upped the governor’s state and national profile.
Wisconsin remains one of the most politically divided states in the land, according to the PPP poll. Walker’s approval rating was unchanged from a poll in February, with 48 percent of respondents approving of the governor’s job, and 49 percent disapproving.
The poll of 1,180 Wisconsin voters was conducted between Sept. 13-16, and has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.9 percent.
PPP also found President Barack Obama’s numbers have slipped in the Badger State. Obama’s approval rating was 47 percent, his disapproval at 49 percent. That’s down from 50/48 in February.
Contact M.D. Kittle at firstname.lastname@example.org