Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is still expected to be reelected in 2014, but not by much. The most recent statewide poll from Marquette University Law School puts the governor two points ahead likely Democratic challenger Mary Burke, 47-45.
As Prof. Charles Franklin, the poll's director, pointed out on Twitter, Walker's approval number has hardly budged in the 20 months since Marquette began its public opinion survey at the height of the recall election campaign in 2012. The most recent poll shows 49 percent of registered voters approve of the job he's doing and 47 percent disapprove, evidence that few in the Badger State haven't formed an opinion about the governor, whose aggressive conservatism has elevated the profile of state politics since his election in 2010.
The good news for Democrats is that their likely nominee, Madison school board member Mary Burke, is running neck-and-neck with Walker, even though she is still largely unknown.
Another relatively unknown candidate, state Sen. Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, also picks up 45 percent of the vote to Walker’s 48 percent in a potential match-up, adding to the perception that Democratic-leaning voters are likely to vote for anybody over Walker. That has not been the case in past elections, including the three landslide reelection victories by former Gov. Tommy Thompson, in which he picked up a large share of Democratic voters.
“Close race,” is how Democratic pollster Paul Maslin reads the Marquette poll. “Incumbent under 50 (percent) is never good.”
Former Republican strategist, Brandon Scholz, instead describes the poll as evidence of Walker’s durability.
“For all the governor has been bashed, sitting there at 47 percent (disapproval) is pretty good,” he suggested. “Does he have the ability to improve these numbers? Yes he does. Burke has an uphill climb."
While the poll results seem to indicate that voters are stubbornly clinging to one party, 60 percent of respondents reported having voted for more than one party "over the last few years," including a majority of both self-described Democrats and Republicans.
Traditionally midterm elections favor the GOP, whose base typically turns out at a higher rate than the Democratic base in non-presidential years. However, the Marquette poll shows three percent more Democrats (80 percent) than Republicans (77 percent) reporting that they will definitely vote in next year's election.
The poll also demonstrated why it made sense politically for Walker to push through a modest property tax relief bill recently. Like most tax cuts, that bill earns solid majority support from Wisconsinites (56 percent), which is not the case for many other policies that Walker has championed.
Only 36 percent favor Walker’s decision to reject an expansion of federal Medicaid dollars offered to the state under the Affordable Care Act. 56 percent are opposed.
Only 38 percent favor a bill requiring women seeking abortions to receive ultrasounds. Again, 56 percent are opposed.
Heartening to Republicans, perhaps, is the fact that state voters narrowly support an expansion of school vouchers, 50 percent to 44 percent.