Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker visits with workers at Endres Manufacturing… (John Hart / Wisconsin State…)
Three weeks away from the state’s hotly contested recall election, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has taken a lead over his Democratic challenger among likely voters, a new poll shows.
Walker had a 50-44 lead over his Democratic challenger, Tom Barrett, among likely voters. In the late April poll, Walker had only a one-point lead.
Looking ahead to November, President Obama and Republican Mitt Romney have moved into a dead heat, 46%-46%, among likely voters in a state that is crucial to Democratic hopes, the poll by Marquette University Law School showed. Obama led Romney, 49%-45%, in the university’s previous poll, taken at the end of April. Among all registered voters, Obama had a 46%-44% edge, essentially a tie given the poll’s margin of error.
The biggest reason behind the shift in the recall election is that Republicans appear to be more mobilized for the June 5 vote. Walker’s supporters “appear to hold an advantage in likely turnout,” said Charles Franklin, who directs the Marquette poll. Because almost no undecided voters remain in the state -- only 3% in the most recent poll -- the Republican advantage in turnout could be decisive.
The recall has been carefully watched both for its own sake -- a huge battle sparked by Walker’s decision to push a law through the state legislature that ended most collective bargaining rights for public employees -- and for what it might indicate about the November election. Wisconsin has often been among the most closely contested states in presidential elections although Obama won by a large margin in 2008. Democrats would have difficulty getting a majority in the electoral college without the state’s votes.
Romney has gained in part by consolidating support among Republicans -- picking up conservatives who in previous polls had still said they were undecided, Franklin noted. As the hangover from the Republican primaries has faded, voters have a more favorable image of Romney. In the most recent poll, 40% had a favorable image of him, compared with 44% unfavorable, compared with 33%-46% in April and 27%-50% in February.
In addition, Franklin said, the poll also indicates a small, but potentially important, shift in overall partisan identification in the state. In January, the Marquette poll showed Democrats with a two point edge over Republicans in the state. That Democratic margin rose to eight points in February and has declined steadily ever since. It stood at just one point in the latest poll.
Wisconsin does not have voter registration by political party, so self-identification is the only measure of the state’s partisan balance.
A second poll, done by Public Policy Polling for the liberal website Daily Kos showed similar results. That poll showed Walker with a 49%-45% lead over Barrett and Obama with a one-point lead, 47%-46% over Romney. The Marquette poll is a traditional telephone poll, using live interviewers calling land lines and cell phones. The PPP poll, which uses automated interviews, calls only landlines.
The poll interviewed 704 registered Wisconsin voters May 9-12, 2012. The margin of error is plus-minus 3.8 percentage points for the full sample and plus-minus 4.1 percentage points for the 600 likely voters -- those who said they were certain to vote.