September 21, 2014


This time around Scott Walker less dominant in rural Wisconsin (Craig Gilbert, 9/20/14, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

One big reason this race for governor is closer than the last one is that Walker has lost ground in the Green Bay, Wausau and La Crosse media markets, according to an analysis of 2014 polling data.

For example, the governor won the Green Bay media market by 23 points in the 2012 recall election. But this year he is leading the region by 14 points in the combined polling that Marquette University Law School has done from May through September of this year.

In 2012, Walker won the Wausau/Rhinelander market by 18 points. But he is leading by only 1 point in the 2014 polling.

And two years ago, Walker won the La Crosse/Eau Claire markets by 9 points. But he is trailing Democrat Mary Burke by 3 points in the 2014 polling.

Why the drop-off?

Much of the answer lies in the fact that the governor over-performed in these areas in 2012 compared to how Republicans typically do in big statewide races, and even compared to his earlier 2010 victory.

That performance was always going to be hard to duplicate. Strategists on both sides believe it was boosted by at least two factors that aren't present today.

One was running against the mayor of Milwaukee, Tom Barrett. Walker highlighted Milwaukee's crime and joblessness in his campaign ads, and that message may have resonated in many rural and suburban areas far from the state's biggest city. Republicans also attacked Barrett over his support for gun control.

But perhaps a bigger factor involved voter attitudes about the recall itself. Many voters throughout the state had reservations about the recall process. Those concerns were especially strong among rural voters, the 2012 exit poll shows. Walker ended up winning the rural and small-town vote by 28 points -- the biggest margin in any race for governor or president in Wisconsin since the 1990s.

Reservations about the recall were especially sharp in northeastern Wisconsin, home to a mix of mostly suburban and rural voters from the Fox Valley north. In the 2012 exit poll, 76% of voters in northeastern Wisconsin said recalls should only be used for "misconduct" or "never" -- the highest number of any region in the state.

Posted by at September 21, 2014 5:31 PM

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