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Groups spend millions, influence few in WI recall race

By   /   March 27, 2012  /   No Comments


By Kirsten Adshead | Wisconsin Reporter

MADISON — Television ads probably won’t have much affect in the recall election of Gov. Scott Walker.

But that doesn’t mean interest groups, political parties and candidates won’t try to sway voters, experts said Tuesday. http://ballotpedia.com/wiki/index.php/Doug_La_Follette

“I think we’re going to see tens of millions of dollars spent, and I think quite a few of those millions of dollars are going to be wasted,” said Mike McCabe, director of the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, or WDC, which tracks election-related spending in the state.

McCabe said most people have decided.

“People have been thinking about this for a year. It’s been hard to escape. It’s been all over the media. But it’s also been a topic of conversation, among friends, coworkers, neighbors,” he said.

A new poll out Tuesday indicates Wisconsinites are, as they have been for months, highly opinionated and deeply divided. In head-to-head matchups in a recall election:

  • Walker beats Democratic candidate Kathleen Falk, 49 percent to 45 percent, with 3 percent undecided.
  • Walker beats potential Democratic candidate — and 2010 opponent — Tom Barrett, 47 percent to 45 percent, with 3 percent undecided.
  • Walker beats Democratic state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout 49 percent to 41 percent, with 3 percent undecided.
  • Walker beats Democratic Secretary of State Doug La Follette, 49 percent to 42 percent, with 3 percent undecided.

Walker’s lead over Falk and Barrett, though, has narrowed since the same question was asked in January, which was before Vinehout and La Follette entered the race.

“There’s not a lot of room for motion here, but with races this close that final 5 (percent) or 6 percent (who said they were undecided or didn’t know who to vote for) is certainly going to be the thing that both candidates, both parties, fight over,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Charles Franklin. He administers the poll and discussed the results with Marquette law students Tuesday.

“I don’t think any of us will lack for advertising exposure in the next few months,” Franklin said to the students, who laughed. “So set your TiVos. I know you’ll want to save them for future review.”

The Government Accountability Board, or GAB, which oversees the state’s elections, is scheduled to decide Friday whether recall elections against Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch should proceed.

If recalls are ordered, as they are expected to be, a primary is planned May 8, with the general recall election against Walker, Kleefisch and four GOP state senators June 5.

The ad war began months ago.

Walker, who can accept an unlimited amount of money from supporters until an election officially is called, has been running TV spots since November.

“We can’t go back to the days of billion-dollar budget deficits and double-digit tax increases. Help me oppose the recall,” the governor says in his latest ad titled “Promises Kept.”

More recently, other groups have been buying up TV ad time.

Wisconsin for Falk, a labor union-backed group supporting Falk, spent $1.6 million this month on ad buys around the state, according to the WDC, which has union members on its board of directors.

“Kathleen Falk has the right priorities. She believes it’s more important to give children the health care they need than give tax breaks to corporate donors,” an unnamed teacher says in a recent Wisconsin for Falk ad.

Asked to comment on the poll and the effectiveness of the campaign ads, Walker’s campaign responded with an email statement touting the governor’s reforms.

Wisconsin for Falk did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Franklin said campaigns face a dilemma: National data about the effectiveness of campaigns indicate that, as long as both campaigns continue to run ads, their effect is nominal.

But if one side stops, the other side can gain a 2- to 4-point advantage, he said.

In a close election, that could be the difference.

The Marquette poll also indicated that:

  • Leading up to Wisconsin’s April 3 presidential primary, voters said they would choose GOP candidate Mitt Romney over Rick Santorum, 39 percent to 31 percent, a switch from February when Santorum led Romney in Wisconsin, 20 percent to 11 percent.
  • Barrett, who hasn’t even entered the Democratic race to replace Walker, nevertheless beats Falk, 36 percent to 29 percent, among would-be Democratic primary voters. Barrett said he would announce whether he’ll run after the GAB decides on a recall election.
  • People are evenly split over whether the president of the United States can affect gas prices, with 46 percent saying yes, 46 percent saying no, and 7 percent undecided.

The poll of 707 registered voters and those who said they would register by election day was conducted March 22-25.

General questions have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.8 percent, but it’s greater for questions only asked of GOP primary voters in the presidential race, 5.4 percent, and Democratic primary voters in the gubernatorial recall, 5.2 percent.