Thursday, August 30, 2007


A polling memo on a survey commissioned by Progressive Majority Wisconsin pegs Milwaukee County Exec. Scott Walker's re-election support below 50 percent and suggests he is vulnerable to a challenge. But Walker’s campaign says the poll may mean little.

The poll, conducted by the Democratic polling firm Forward Strategies, showed 43 percent of likely voters support Walker for re-election, down from 64 percent in January 2004. The poll also showed that 58 percent of voters though the county is on the wrong track, compared to 23 percent who felt that way in 2004.

“Walker has fallen below the key value of 50 percent, even against an unnamed opponent, suggesting the county executive could be very vulnerable to a challenge in the next election,” the poll summary said.

The poll of 400 Milwaukee voters was conducted from Aug. 13 to Aug. 16 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

Walker campaign chair Tim Russell said that without seeing the whole poll, it’s difficult to assess whether leading questions were asked pertaining to Walker and the direction of county government. Russell said that even if the poll was conducted fairly, it followed a run of negative stories regarding a pension buyback program that could have affected people’s opinions.

“There wasn’t at the same time any positive or countervailing media that showed the great things are going on in Milwaukee County,” Russell said. “Perhaps that’s a more accurate representation of one point in time.”

Russell noted that the results were compared with a survey in 2004, when people were paying attention to the race and Walker had an identified opponent in David Riemer.

“I think in the end, if you get a real candidate out there, not some nebulous, fantasy candidate, I think you’ll see the executive’s numbers do much differently,” Russell said.

Russell said the campaign hasn’t done any of its own polling recently, but expects to do some between now and the end of the year. “I’m confident that we’ll see much different numbers than that,” he said.

But Russell said the only poll that matters will be at the ballot box, should Walker decide to run.

“In the end, the only poll that counts will be taken in April and that’s the one that I’m confident the county executive will win,” Russell said.

Although commissioned by a progressive interest group, a Democratic Party insider said the poll is a “real poll” and described the below-50 percent mark as “a really bad place to be” for Walker.

The source also said voting patterns and demographic shifts spell bad news for Walker, noting that Democrats are strong in Shorewood and Whitefish Bay and are gaining ground in the southern suburbs.

“Democrats are spreading out, and that's bad news for Scott Walker,” the source said.

Among those considering a potential bid are Sen. Lena Taylor, Rep. Jon Richards and Milwaukee Ald. Mike D'Amato. Both Richards and Taylor expressed satisfaction with their current posts in previous interviews with WisPolitics, and the Democratic source said that while both would be strong opponents, it is questionable whether they will run.

Milwaukee County Sup. John Weishan said he's also considering a bid, but is waiting to see which progressive candidates emerge that he may decide to support.

“I'm not interested in having a real ugly primary with somebody.” Weishan said. “Milwaukee County needs for us to get together on the progressive side of the issues.

“Once those people on the more progressive side kind of get together and decide what's going to happen, I'll be more than willing to work with whomever they want to put up.”

Joe Klein, who ran for the post in the 2004 election and failed to make it through the primary, said he’d file papers by Aug. 27 if no candidate emerged. Klein has yet to do that, but said today it’s likely he will file soon.

The Democratic source pegged D'Amato as a particularly strong opponent, noting that he's young, ambitious and already has a considerable campaign war chest as well as a strong base on the east side.

To run, D’Amato would have to give up his seat on the Common Council, but the source said the recent polling data could provide the extra push to influence D'Amato's decision and that he could be at a point in his political career where he'd like to “move up or out.”

Even with $146,993 in his campaign fund as of June 30, he'd have to raise considerable funds to compete with the $414,572 in Walker’s war chest.

Both Walker's campaign and the Democratic source have noted that money could be raised quickly for the race. Both pointed to David Riemer being able to raise more than $500,000 after his late start in 2003.

The Dem source said that although it's not too late, the clock is ticking.

“A month from now, it's starting to get too late,” the source said.

View the poll memo

No comments: