Friday, October 15, 2010

Wisconsin Governor Race

Race of the Day

Wisconsin Governor

October 15, 2010
18 Days Until Election Day

Status: Democrat Open
2008 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Republican

Beginning with the 1986 election, Republicans held the Governorship of Wisconsin through four consecutive terms, with Tommy Thompson winning those elections and serving as his state's chief executive for almost all of those years, before joining the Cabinet of President George W. Bush. In 2002, the state voted for a change and narrowly elected Democrat Jim Doyle, who would go on to win a competitive reelection in 2006. Since then, Doyle's approval in the state has suffered greatly, and he decided not to seek a third term. While former Governor Thompson flirted with the possibility of making a comeback, he decided to not seek any office this year. Nonetheless, the latest Republican nominee seems poised to deliver a comeback win to his party in Madison.

With Doyle appearing vulnerable in a potential 2010 reelection campaign, there was much talk that the Governor would do what Thompson had done, and move to Washington D.C. to join the Administration of a new President. That would have elevated Lt. Governor Barbara Lawton, making her the Democrat frontrunner with the advantage of incumbency. However, the Obama people never called, and Doyle has remained as Governor, likely harming his party's chances of keeping the office. Lawton would launch a campaign for Governor, but did not stay in the race long for what she would say were "personal reasons."

Instead, the Democrats would turn to the man who came close to defeating Doyle in the Democrat primary of 2002. Since that loss, Tom Barrett had been elected Mayor of Milwaukee and received a lot of positive press in the summer of 2009, when he was seriously injured coming to the aid of a woman at the Wisconsin State Fair. Many Democrats considered Barrett's personal favorability, along with the generally pro-Democrat recent voting history of the state to be good news for the party.

Like Barrett, the GOP nominee for Governor is a candidate who finished second in a party primary in his previous run for the job, in this case back in 2006. They also come from the same area, as Republican Scott Walker is the Milwaukee County Executive, a jurisdiction that includes both the city of which Barrett is Mayor and it's suburbs. Being elected countywide is an impressive achievement for a Republican. Before advancing to the general election though, Walker had to deal with a competitive GOP primary against main opponent Mark Neumann, a former Congressman, who ran statewide in 1998 as the Republican candidate for U.S. Senate. While the race looked like it could be close at times, Walker prevailed in the September voting by nearly 20 points.

From the beginning of 2010, Walker has had a continuous lead in polling over Barrett, and while it may not have been by an overwhelming margin, it does seem as if the desire for change this year is working to the Republican's advantage. While both candidates have been critical of each other's records, Walker has also worked to tie Barrett to the unpopular Doyle, and the specter of a "third term."

Surveys from Public Policy Polling, Rasmussen Reports, and CNN/Time have all recently shown Walker with a healthy lead between 6-11 points. The Barrett campaign is claiming their internal polling shows the race as even, but with the non-affiliated polls all leaning in one direction, it seems as though Walker has the edge. If he is elected Governor, Walker could perhaps position himself to be a national figure one day. A victory would also be pleasing for the Badger State's Republican Packers fans, who may wind up otherwise disappointed this fall.

Walker campaign link:

2010 Governor races predicted thus far: 7 D, 28 R, 1 I
Predicted Gubernatorial totals thus far: 14 D, 34 R, 1 I