Friday, October 10, 2014

Race of the Day- Wisconsin Governor

25 Days Until Election Day

Status: Republican Incumbent
2012 Presidential Result: Blue State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Republican

To many, it must feel like Republican Scott Walker has been Governor of Wisconsin for more than just under four years. Since his 2010 election, he and his state have been major parts of the national political conversation. Upon taking over as Governor, Walker and legislative Republicans fought successfully to enact various reform measures which weakened the power of state public employee unions. Other Governors have also run afoul of those unions in recent years, but Walker was enemy number one and Wisconsin became Ground Zero for lawsuits, back and forth court decisions, and unorthodox maneuvering by legislative Democrats in order to try to delay bills being passed, including hiding out from the state itself.

Recall elections have also played a large role in the battleground of politically competitive Wisconsin. Democrats and their allies collected enough signatures to place a recall attempt against Walker on the 2012 ballot, and they put forth the candidate whom Walker had beaten in 2010.  Much to the disappointment of many on the left, Walker prevailed in the recall election though, by a slightly larger margin than he was originally elected by, less than two years earlier. He became the first Governor in American history to survive a recall vote and many believed that Walker's political enemies seriously miscalculated. While Democrats were able to win the state's Electoral Votes in 2012, as well as a key Senate race, the effort against Walker was seen as counterproductive to the effort to try to deny Walker a second term in 2014.

Democrats were left looking for a new candidate after Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, who lost twice to Walker declined to run, as did former Senator Russ Feingold once again. He is a favorite of liberals who had lost his Senate seat in a 2010 upset. Entering the contest as an underdog against Walker was Democrat businesswoman Mary Burke, a former state Secretary of Commerce, and current school board member in the capital city of Madison. She was not well known to much of the state but easily in an August primary over liberal State Representative Brett Hulsey.  During the primary, he passed out white hoods to symbolize what he said were similarities between Republicans and the Ku Klux Klan. Even his primary opponent Burke, denounced that move.

Nominated by primary voters to run alongside Burke for Lt. Governor is State Senator John Lehman, who was returned to that job in a 2012 recall election, successfully beating the Republican who unseated him in 2010. Walker's running-mate, like her boss, also survived a separate recall challenge. Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch, a former television news anchor was just 35 when she first took office in 2011, and is the wife of a Republican State Assemblyman. The second ranking Republican in state government is a particular favorite of Evangelical voters.

With the players all set,, even before the formal primary, the general election was supposed to be competitive, but with an edge going to the incumbent. There have been some major back and forth though in regards to momentum in the race over the past few months, and that has been reflected in polls. Burke began to rise in the polls after headlines surfaced  this summer which said that Walker was at the center of a criminal investigation over alleged campaign coordination improprieties during the recall saga. Walker's ethics during his time as the Milwaukee County Executive had also been a topic in his previous bids. What was left out was that the chargers against Walker were basically found lacking by a judge, despite the investigations, but many on the left and in the media offered speculation that Walker could be facing possible indictment. In the meantime, the Governor remains a favorite of many GOP activists across the country who admire his record in office and his political wins against determined enemies. Many believe that Walker could be a major GOP Presidential contender if he decided to run in 2016, and it is also possible that the speculation, which has not been shot down by Walker, might have cost him some support at home in his reelection bid.

More recently, momentum has seemed to shift back to Walker, who now seems ahead by at least a few points, and approaching or above 50 percent in most polls. There are not a whole lot of undecided voters left in this race, and turnout and enthusiasm is going to play a very big part. It has been said that Burke has not always appeared as well-versed on some issues publicly as she could be, and she also received negative publicity when she (like some other candidates in other states this year) was accused of plagiarizing the jobs plan of previous candidates on her website. The candidates are about to face off in their first debate in about a half hour and I am going to try to catch it on C-SPAN.

My hunch is that Walker has the edge going into Election Day, but there is every reason to expect the race will be close. Those who voted against the recall and for Walker in early 2012 included some who may not have even liked the Governor, but were opposing the effort to boot him out of office for political reasons, simply out of principle. There is much speculation about how Election Day turnout could make the difference in the race, and the fact that the U.S. Supreme Court just yesterday blocked the state's voter ID law, which could lead to a larger turnout in November among Democrats. If Burke is to win, she will certainly need a large number of minorities and of the state's sizable population of young college voters, who have shown up during Presidential years, but might be less willing during this midterm. A nasty personal campaign between the two candidates might also depress turnout.

It is clear that so many on the left across the country hold a special contempt for Walker, even more so than for the run of the mill conservative GOP Governor. They have already failed once to deny him the job he holds at the ballot box, and are trying very now to do so once again. A week ago, I probably would have called this race a "Tossup", but unless there is a huge unexpected turnout against Walker, I think his political experience as well as that of his campaign organization have helped him retake the momentum. It is very possible that I will have to re-assess my call of "Leans Republican" before it is over, but that is how I see it as of today.

A narrow victory probably is in the cards for Governor Walker, which will be talked about by political activists on both sides of the aisle across the country. After that race, Walker is going to perhaps be talked about a lot more as someone to watch nationally in a second term.

Walker campaign link:

Gubernatorial races predicted thus far: 15 D (2 Safe, 5 Likely, 4 Leans, 4 Tossup) , 20 R (6 Safe, 7 Likely, 7 Leans)
Overall totals predicted thus far: 22 D, 27 R (Democrat net gain of 1)


At 8:41 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

Walker wins by DOUBLE DIGITS: 55%-43%.

WI Democrats will never win the governorship ever again!


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