Scott Walker, the two-term Republican governor of Wisconsin, has been concerned about a possible blue wave in the midterm elections for months. As far back as April, Gov. Walker warned supporters that Democratic enthusiasm would make his 2018 campaign for a third term “tougher than any one I have been involved with, including the recall.” Now, new polling indicates that Walker’s forecast was correct.
At a campaign event last Saturday, Walker told supporters that he believes that a new Marquette poll shows him trailing Democrat Tony Evers by five points is accurate, despite that fact that the same poll in September 2016 showed Senator Ron Johnson trailing by six points. Johnson ultimately won reelection by three points as Donald Trump pulled off a surprise win in the state by less than one point when polls showed Hillary Clinton ahead by eight points. In 2016, Wisconsin was the only state where polling was significantly off.
“I want to be very clear about why Ron won,” Walker told the audience, reported by Buzzfeed. “It was not because the poll was wrong. What changed was not the poll. We changed the poll. We changed the poll.”
For Walker, it isn’t just one poll that is problematic. Real Clear Politics shows Evers with an average lead of more than four points over the last four polls. The new Marquette poll shows Walker trailing by 44-49 percent. The previous Marquette poll, taken in August, showed the race in a 46-46 tie. Walker hasn’t led in a poll since June.
Part of Walker’s difficulty is the partisan association with President Trump. Trump’s slim margin on Election Day 2016 has evaporated as his approval sank to 42 percent in the state.
Walker does have a financial advantage. The governor had more than $4 million on hand at the beginning of September, more than twice as much as Evers. Walker also benefits from spending by outside groups including the Koch network, which has backed away from some Republicans. Nevertheless, Walker’s $8.5 million in spending so far this year has not translated into a lead in the polls.
Wisconsin has been the unlikely source of victories for the past decade. Gov. Walker won two terms plus a recall election after a contentious fight with state employee unions. Ron Johnson took a Democrat Senate seat from Russ Feingold in the 2010 Tea Party wave. Paul Ryan, a congressman from the state, rose to become Speaker of the House. The state helped Donald Trump eke out an Electoral College victory in 2016.
The question now is whether Walker, who has a 42 percent approval in the state, can turn the tide and stave off a strong Democrat challenger in a year when the Democrats seem to be getting all the breaks. The only certainty is that Gov. Walker is a tough and experienced campaigner who won’t go down without a fight.
Originally published on The Resurgent