Reading the Latest MU Poll Tea Leaves

The latest Marquette University Law School Poll came out yesterday. All those numbers. Let me tell you what they mean. Because, of course, I know.

Who should be elated? Gov. Tony Evers. In the MU poll that came out in April, Evers was the most popular pol in the state, albeit with a modest 49% approval rating. Now, he beats his two main GOP rivals in a head-to-head matchup by a comfortable, if not spectacular, margin. He bests former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch 47%-43% and construction company exec, New York millionaire, and all-around jerk Tim Michels 48%-41%. And moreover, because Evers is such a known entity, that 47% or 48% is pretty solid and is close to his approval rating. It’s fair to say that he starts there and needs to only nail down another couple of points to win in November.

Who should be frustrated? Rebecca Kleefisch. What do you get for beating the hustings for three years? Eclipsed by Michels in a flash. The New Yorker shows up, dumps a bunch of his endless wealth on TV and, bango, you’re number two and falling. She led the GOP primary easily in April before Michels announced. Now she trails him, only by a point 27% to 26%, but still the trend is not promising, especially when you couple this with her failure to get the official party endorsement at their convention a few weeks ago.

This is a tea leaf. I’ll read it for you.

Who should be depressed? Anybody who wants to beat Sen. Ron Johnson. How is this possible? RoJo has a 37% approval rating. But when lined up head-to-head against each of his four main Democratic rivals he’s essentially in a dead heat. And worse, he’s in a dead heat even after the Dems have spent a year or so beating the bejesus out of him on TV ads and while each of the four main Democrats have mostly focussed on running him down. Also, RoJo has done one crazy, dumb, outrageous thing after another to no apparent effect. And finally, as if all that weren’t enough, it’s going to be a bad year for Democrats just generally. The poll also found that 67% of Republicans were enthusiastic about voting in the fall compared to 58% of Democrats. Right now, I’d say the embarrassing Senior Senator from Wisconsin wins a third term, something I might not have said a month ago. I had thought that if Evers wins, Johnson loses. Maybe not.

Who should be apologizing to dad? Alex Lasry. New York rich kid Lasry has as much money as his billionaire hedge fund operator father, Marc Lasry, will let him spend. And yet, he’s still behind Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes 25% – 21%, with Barnes having spent a fraction of what Lasry has poured into the race. And it gets worse. Lasry is the only Democrat who loses to Johnson in a head-to-head contest. Now, in fairness, all the head-to-head matchups are well within the margin of error, but Lasry performs the worst of his fellow Democrats even among voters in his own party. Maybe, given a choice, they’d rather not send yet another millionaire to Congress and, maybe, they see Lasry as the least likely Dem to beat the dreaded Johnson.

Who needs a miracle? Tom Nelson. The Outagamie County Executive’s father is a Lutheran Minister. Divine intervention may be the only thing that wins him the nomination now. The gulf is widening between the top two candidates, Barnes at 25% and Lasry at 21%, and the bottom two, State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski at 9% and Nelson at 7%. I think Nelson is the candidate best positioned to beat Johnson in the general election, but I’ve had doubts that his underdog, underfunded candidacy could win him the nomination. Nothing I’m seeing in this latest poll gives me much hope. I don’t see how he closes a gap this big in only six weeks with less money than the others.

The primaries are August 9th. It looks right now like we’ll see Evers v. Michels and Johnson v. Barnes with both incumbents prevailing in November. But that’s a pretty shaky prediction this far out. Ya know what they say. A week is a lifetime in politics. And the first Tuesday in November is 20 weeks away.


Published by dave cieslewicz

Madison/Upper Peninsula based writer. Mayor of Madison, WI from 2003 to 2011.

3 thoughts on “Reading the Latest MU Poll Tea Leaves

  1. I’m glad Nelson is a non factor, he’s a left wing operative who doesn’t belong in the US Senate. I don’t trust these matchup numbers yet for anybody, until there is a nominee they are pointless. Incumbents are hard to dislodge and election where Evers, Kaul and Johnson get through is incredibly likely. Barnes is going to get beat up by ads in the general taxes, Working Families Party and BLOC are going to be all over the airwaves nonstop for months. Hopefully Dems come to their senses.


  2. Who should believe polls? Nobody.
    *See the 2016 & 2020 elections. According to the MU polls, Russ Feingold was going to win. He lost by 3.4%. Hillary Clinton was going to beat Trump in Wisconsin, +6%. She lost Wisconsin. And, Joe was going to beat Trump, +5%. Joe won +.6%. And, MU is one of the better polls out there!!


    1. I agree, especially for primaries. Some of it comes down to other factors and some of it is just a gut feeling about where things are at. Right now it feels like Michels and Barnes and then Evers and Johnson. Based on my record I’d be very encouraged if I were anybody else.


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