Tom Barrett (D): 47 (45)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 48 (47)
Kathleen Falk (D): 43 (45)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 49 (49)
Tom Barrett (D): 38 (36)The Wisconsin gubernatorial recall will be upon us sooner than you think: the main event is on June 5. Before that, though, the Democrats have to pick a candidate who'll go up against GOP Gov. Scott Walker, and that special recall primary is only a week away, on May 8. So today's poll from Marquette Univ. Law School may be the last poll we see before we have a nominee and the truncated run up to the June recall begins.
Kathleen Falk (D): 20 (29)
Doug La Follette (D): 8 (8)
Kathleen Vinehout (D): 7 (8)
Undecided: 27 (17)
The nomination is looking quite likely that it'll go to Tom Barrett, a former U.S. representative who is now Milwaukee's mayor and also narrowly lost the regularly scheduled 2010 election to Walker. In polls where he's been included (he got something of a late start to the race), he's always led over his closest rival, former Dane Co. Executive Kathleen Falk, though not always by as large a margin as the 18 points seen here. The puzzle here may be why the share of undecideds in the primary went up so much in the last month. Bear in mind that, since their last poll, they've switched from a registered voter model to a likely voter model, seeing as how the election is so close. That still doesn't explain, though, why likely voters are much more undecided than registered voters (among registered voters, with leaners pushed, it's 45 Barrett, 23 Falk, 8 La Follette, 8 Vinehout, and 19 undecided), as people who are more committed to voting are often more committed to a particular candidate.
As for the June election, it's still a paper-thin lead for Walker over Barrett, with a slightly larger lead for Walker over Falk. Again, the switch to a likely voter model makes a difference here: not a big one, but in a game of inches, an important one. Among RVs, Barrett actually leads Walker, 47-46. (Falk trails Walker 49-42.) That falloff between likely and registered voters show that the Republicans still have a small edge on the enthusiasm gap here, or at least better follow-through on getting their partisans to commit to turning out. If Barrett is going to pull this out, it'll be through closing that small gap and finding and converting Democratic unlikely voters into actual voters. In other words, Democratic GOTV efforts will be absolutely critical.
If you just went by fundraising reports, you might be surprised to see the race as close as it is: Scott Walker's campaign reported yesterday that they've raised $13.5 million since January and are still sitting on $4.9 million cash on hand (meaning he's burned through $8.6 million trying to stay alive). That compares with $832K raised by Barrett and $977K raised by Falk (although there's been considerable anti-Walker spending by unions as well). That huge spending on Walker's side doesn't seem to have moved the needle much over the months, though; for the most part, people have had their minds made up about this race for the last year, and the race to the finish line is going to be less about persuading what few swing voters remain and more about maximizing turnout among the two parties' bases.