Hello from the great state of Wisconsin! This certainly has been an exciting and busy summer for the Dairy State. The most notable event was the announcement of Governor Scott Walker’s presidential campaign. It had long been speculated that he would run for the 2016 nomination, and he made it official on July 13th in Waukesha, WI. Since then he has been travelling the country visiting key states such as Nevada, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and campaigning extensively in Iowa, where he was proving to be the most popular candidate.
Meanwhile, the state of Wisconsin has been left to deal with contentious issues, oftentimes with an absentee Governor. The state budget was just barely passed before Walker’s announcement and proved to be a difficult battle even with a Republican controlled Senate and Assembly. Some sticking points included the new Milwaukee Bucks arena (which Walker strongly supports) as well as proposed cuts to the University of Wisconsin system. Walker touts himself as a fighter who has won three elections in the last four years in a state that is traditionally considered blue (although it is looking more purple as of late). However, it appears as if the Wisconsin public may be shifting away from high approval of Walker, especially as his campaign duties seem to draw him away more and more from his gubernatorial role and his actions seem to be pandering more and more to conservative Iowa caucus goers.
Some recent polling illustrates might illustrate a turning tide in the state. On August 20th, Marquette University Law School Poll released its latest findings about political sentiment of Wisconsin voters. It polled 802 registered voters and found Scott Walker leading the pack of 2016 GOP contenders. 25% of voters who identify as Republican or lean Republican said they would vote for him in the primary. The runners up were Ben Carson with 13%, Donald Trump with 9%, Ted Cruz with 8%, Carly Fiorina and Marco Rubio with 7% each, Jeb Bush with 6%, and all other candidates receiving 4% or less. Although this shows Walker in the lead, it is a significant drop from the 40% of voters who said they would support him in Marquette Law School’s April poll. This latest poll also saw Walker’s approval rating falling from 41% in April to 39% in August. Another statistic that could prove insightful was the 33% who said they approved of Walker’s running for president. Although this included both Democratic and Republican voters it could reveal a more disgruntled image of the Wisconsin electorate than previously thought. It is also important to note, I think, that this poll was conducted after the first GOP primary debate. Walker’s showing at the debate had mixed reviews.
When I describe my task to predict the outcome of the Wisconsin primary as the State Chair many say that I should have an easy job, who else could win but Walker? However, Walker’s poll numbers have taken a dip nationally and there is no guarantee that he will stay in the race until the April primary. Although the polling numbers from Marquette seem to give him the upper hand, it also paints a picture of an electorate who is more socially conservative as evinced by support of Carson, Trump and Cruz. In 2012 Rick Santorum, a social conservative, placed second only to Mitt Romney in Wisconsin’s primary.
People might think of Wisconsin as just another fly over state, a place filled with cows, cheese, and passionate Packers fans. However, I believe Wisconsin voters are also very passionate about who ultimately represents them as the Republican Presidential nominee. Whether they stand by Walker and give him a fourth win in his home state or decide that perhaps they don’t want to see the Governor move to the White House, Wisconsin will surely prove to be an interesting and exciting primary to watch!
Author Anna Milewski is a member of the class of 2018 and a sociology major.