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It was a long time coming, but Wisconsin seems to have finally regained its “key battleground state” status in this year’s presidential election. At least for the moment, anyway.  For much of this election cycle, we’ve been missing out on the action, a second tier state that Democrats believed would be theirs on Election Day, never seriously in jeopardy.

If it takes two to tango, Wisconsin has been missing a dance partner.  While Republican nominee Donald Trump has been to Wisconsin five times, Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton hasn’t been here once. It might be argued that given Clinton’s struggles in Wisconsin—a crushing primary loss in 2008 to then-Sen. Barack Obama and a 2016 April primary defeat which saw her lose 71 of 72 counties to Sen. Bernie Sanders—surrogates like Sanders and Chelsea Clinton might be more effective campaigners than the nominee herself. Whatever the reason, Clinton has focused her personal attention on other states. Her campaign only recently began running ads in Wisconsin, a true indicator of a state’s relative importance in the election.

But if you believe recent public opinion surveys in the first tier battleground states of North Carolina, Florida, and Ohio, the race has tightened considerably.  Wednesday, Real Clear Politics released its latest Electoral College “No Toss Ups” Map. Using the latest state-by-state polling, Clinton would squeeze out the narrowest of victories in the Electoral College, 273 votes for her, 265 for Trump. 

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Finally, a Little Good News for Governor Walker


We’ll leave it to others to analyze the results of the latest Marquette Law School Poll and what they tell us about the April 5 presidential primary.  Instead, let’s focus for a few moments on the other favorite political pastime in Wisconsin: Debating the fortunes of Governor Scott Walker.

His job approval rating remains well under water. But is it possible that the governor could be smiling, even just a little, after today’s release of the Law School survey?

At first glance, it’s yet another poll where Walker fares poorly.  Fifty-three percent of registered Wisconsin voters disapprove of Walker’s job performance.   Only 43 percent approve.  But the numbers are finally showing signs of improvement for Walker.  He hit a low of 37 percent job approval last fall, shortly after his presidential campaign flamed out.  Since then, his job approval number has hovered around 38 or 39 percent in Law School polling.  But the new survey shows Walker back in the low 40’s.   Nothing to shout about, but progress in what most observers see as a long, hard slog back to more solid political ground.

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Here’s What We Don’t Know About Election Day

By now, we’ve seen the ads.  We’ve heard the talking points. We have at least some idea of which policy positions Scott Walker and Mary Burke favor or oppose.  But with only hours remaining before the votes are counted, there is still plenty we don’t know about the 2014 gubernatorial election in Wisconsin.

Some of it has been hashed over pretty thoroughly.  Turnout, for instance.  Simply put, the Burke campaign needs less-likely Democratic voters to go to the polls in numbers that more closely resemble a presidential election, or at the very least, the 2012 recall election for governor.  Three million people in Wisconsin voted in the November 2012 presidential contest.  Two-point-five million voted in the June recall election.  If turnout looks more like the governor’s race of 2010, when 2.1 million people went to the polls, the Burke campaign will face enormous odds, given historically strong turnout by Republican voters in the state.  But turnout is hardly the only “great unknown” Tuesday.  Here are a handful of others to consider.

1) Do Democrats return to the fold?  Exit polling data from the June 2012 recall election suggests a number of Democrats voted for Governor Walker because they didn’t agree with the recall. Even AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka told me recently that some of his members supported Walker in 2012 because of their discomfort with the recall.  And Trumka is hardly a fan of the governor.  Walker acknowledges that those voters exist.  The question is will they stick with him in this election, or return to their Democratic-voting ways. 

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