Donald Trump’s “Make America Great Again Rally” in Dubuque attracted an estimated 4,000 people. But not everyone who came to see the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination was an Iowan.
Dubuque is just across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin’s Grant County, and both national and regional media outlets noted that there were quite a few Wisconsinites in the crowd.
But, wait, aren’t Wisconsin Republicans and Republican-leaning independents entirely on board for Gov. Scott Walker’s presidential run?
Reporters ran into a number of folks like Dave Padula, from Cassville in Grant County, who told the La Crosse Tribune he had switched from Walker to Trump.
“I thought Scott Walker had good ideas and then he went too far,” explained Padula.
Trump was delighted to encourage such sentiments.
Noting Walker’s sinking poll numbers in Iowa and nationally, the billionaire offered an explanation: “People have looked seriously at what is going on in Wisconsin.”
And, said Trump, what they have seen is that, under Walker, “Wisconsin has a lot of problems.”
Walker gripes that the front-runner is using “Democratic talking points” to criticize him. But the fact is that Trump is right when he points out that the governor’s economic promises have not been met and that Walker’s policies have created deep divisions. "His growth is terrible in terms of the state," Trump says of Walker. "There's tremendous dissension all over the state."
Walker's presidential stump speech notes that he's won three statewide elections. And, even if the governor conveniently fails to mention that his actual vote total and percentage of the vote declined from 2012 to 2014, it has generally been assumed that the governor would sweep Wisconsin’s 2016 primary.
That may no longer be a safe bet.
Unlike in other states and nationally, Walker maintains a poll lead in Wisconsin. But it is not impressive.
While Walker is supported by 25 percent of Wisconsinites who are likely to participate in next year’s Republican primary, according to the Aug. 20 Marquette Law School Poll, that means 75 percent of likely primary voters have not made up their mind to back Walker. Notably, 64 percent of those polled expressed enthusiasm for a candidate other than Walker, with Dr. Ben Carson and Trump attracting the highest levels of support. Among Republicans, 28 percent now say they do not like that Walker is running for president; among independent voters who lean Republican, 53 percent say they do not approve of the governor’s candidacy.
What those numbers add up to is a problem for Walker, whose overall approval rating has fallen to 39 percent. While his numbers are declining nationally and in early caucus and primary states, there are signs that he could be vulnerable in his home state. That won’t make all the other contenders decide to compete in next year's primary, but it might just draw Trump across the Mississippi from Iowa to Wisconsin.
John Nichols is associate editor of The Capital Times. email@example.com and @NicholsUprising
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