One of the best things that has happened in Wisconsin over the last several years is the advent of the Marquette University Law School Poll. The detailed poll, run by Charles Franklin, never fails to provide interesting data, mostly on politics but also on the state of the state more broadly. For a political columnist, Franklin is Santa Claus, except that he delivers more than once a year.
This month’s poll was no exception, so let’s dive right in.
Good news for Tony Evers. The Governor’s approval rating is 49%, which is not great, but not bad either. His number is +6 because 43% have a negative view of him. For comparison Sen. Ron Johnson and Pres. Joe are both under water with a -10 rating and Speaker Robin Vos is at a well-earned -17. That last number could explain why Evers is relatively popular while only 36% think the state is headed in the right direction. It could be that voters blame Vos and the Legislature, which is at -9.
Bad news for RoJo. It should be a wave year for Republicans, but Johnson could find himself swimming against the current. His anemic 36% approval rating has now been matched in two successive Marquette polls. And if Evers runs well in November that should help whoever turns out to be the Democratic Senate nominee. And don’t discount Johnson’s going back on his pledge not to seek a third term. Voters don’t like that, especially when you’ve already worn your welcome thin after 12 years in office. The “outsider” act starts to lose credibility.
Uncertain news for Dem Senate candidates. The race for the chance to take on RoJo is no clearer. The most predictable result in the poll was that Alex Lasry, after spending $4.4 million of his dad’s money, has now tightened the race with frontrunner Mandela Barnes. But I wouldn’t read too much into that because Barnes hasn’t spent any real money yet himself. Meanwhile, Sarah Godlewski moved up to 7% by spending a million dollars of her own fortune. Tom Nelson, with no personal wealth and less money raised than the others, hangs in there at 5% without spending a dime. And once he does start his ads, he’ll have a good story to tell. He got some very positive Russ Feingold-like buzz last week from the Washington Post (headline: Wisconsin’s Tom Nelson Reminds Democrats How Populists Should Sound). If he can start to get that same kind of story in more prestigious papers like the Stevens Point Journal, he’ll have a shot. More good news for Nelson: the leader in this race continues to be “undecided” at 48%. (To my knowledge, “undecided” has raised no money and has not inherited or married into a personal fortune.) It’s still wide open.
Cautionary news for Democrats. While the Dems can feel encouraged by the prospects to retain the Governor’s office and defeat Johnson, the issue landscape isn’t so favorable. Voters’ top concerns are inflation, public education, illegal immigration, crime and COVID. Those are all issues on which the Republicans have an advantage.
Confusing news for democracy. Here’s a depressing number: one in four Wisconsinites still doesn’t trust the results of the November, 2020 election to the extent that they want those results “decertified.” And of the Republicans who don’t trust it, 69% are enthusiastic about voting this November. So, wait, folks. You don’t think elections are on the up and up and yet you can’t wait to vote. This making sense to anybody?
Heartening news for society. Have you noticed how even the Republican culture warriors don’t make a sound about gay marriage anymore? That could be because 72% of Wisconsinites now support it, up from 55% in 2014.
Want to learn how to, oh I don’t know, save American democracy? Pick up a copy of Light Blue: How center-left moderates can build an enduring Democratic majority.