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Poll: Walker leads as Wisconsin recall election nears

May 30, 2012|By Bob Secter
  • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who faces a recall election next week, greets Husco International workers in Waukesha. One new poll shows Walker leading his Democratic opponent, Tom Barrett, by 7 percentage points, but another survey shows the race to be in a dead heat.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who faces a recall election next week, greets… (Charles Auer / Waukesha…)

MILWAUKEE— Just ahead of Tuesday’s recall election, a new Marquette University Law School poll shows Republican Gov. Scott Walker holding a 52%-to-45%  lead over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett among likely Wisconsin voters.

The survey, conducted mostly before Walker and Barrett faced off Friday in the first of two televised debates, shows voter sentiment remarkably hardened, with just 3% of those questioned saying they were still undecided.

While that may seem tough news for Democrats and public employee unions who led the charge for the recall, another new survey released by Democratic pollster Celinda Lake tells a different story of a race that has tightened to a dead heat, with both candidates polling at 49%. The Lake poll, conducted mostly after last week’s debate, show independents turning toward Barrett.

The dueling surveys came out as national GOP chairman Reince Priebus, who is from Wisconsin, sought to play up the national significance of Tuesday’s vote, suggesting a strong turnout for Walker could carry over into November and build enthusiasm for Mitt Romney in a state President Obama easily won in 2008.

“If Walker wins next Tuesday … Obama is going to have a much tougher road in Wisconsin next fall,” declared Priebus in a message designed to counter claims from national Democrats that the recall and the presidential vote have little in common.

The Marquette survey, however, suggested something else. Wisconsin voters said they preferred Obama over Romney at this time by 51% to 43%, reinforcing the state’s image as a very purple state despite the partisan political chaos that has ensued since Walker became governor in 2011.

The poll also betrayed some ambivalence on the part of voters to some of the more strident messages they have been hearing from the governor candidates in a barrage of TV ads.

A strong majority of voters said they didn’t like education budget cuts imposed by Walker, but a strong majority also said they agreed with his attempts to curtail state spending.  Barrett’s television advertising has focused intensely on an ongoing criminal investigation into alleged illegal political activity of Walker aides while he served as Milwaukee County executive, but voters were evenly split over whether the investigation amounted to “something serious” or was “just more politics.”

bsecter@tribune.com

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