Public Policy Polling, notably not in its role as the official pollster of DailyKos, just released a poll lamenting that the chance for Democrats to seize control of Wisconsin politics via the recall process is diminishing rather badly. Before I get to the analysis, especially of the crosstabs, however, I do have to discuss the partisan split in the poll, specifically the 37% Democrat/32% independent/31% Republican split. It is the biggest D-to-R split over the series of polls dealing with a possible Walker recall, with Democrats holding a 37%-34% advantage in the mid-August poll taken immediately after the Democrats failed to seize control of the state Senate, a 37%-32% advantage in May, and a 33%-32% advantage in February. Most other pollsters not only have a far closer D-to-R split (with some recent polls having a slight R advantage), but as a nod to Wisconsin’s lack of party registration, they have the independent portion a bit higher than either party. Given the trend of the recalls against the Republican state Senators ultimately falling short, a more-reasonable split would be 36% I/32% D/32% R.
The first hurdle is finding 540,000 so so signatures on petitions to force a recall election. While the top-line 49% oppose recall/48% support recall is a bit closer than the 50% oppose/47% support in August, it is due to both the hardening of resolve among Democrats (up from 86% support-11% oppose in August to 90% support-6% oppose now) and the 3 percentage point reduction in the Republican participation in the poll. Among independents, the opposition to a Walker recall, which had already flipped from support by August to the tune of 50% oppose/46% support, jumped to 57% oppose/40% support.
Similarly, while Walker is still underwater in the approval question at an overall 47% approve/51% disapprove, it is entirely due to an overweight of Democrats in the poll as he is above water among independents for the first time this year at 52% approve/44% disapprove. The over-90% on the partisan sides (approval on Republicans, disapproval on Democrats) essentially wipe each other out when realistic weighting is used.
The other hurdle for the Democrats to a successful recall is finding a candidate who can take on Walker. The only person who, at least in the PPP weighting, can beat Walker is former Senator Russ Feingold, who holds an overall 49%-46% advantage. There’s just 2 problems – Feingold has ruled out running for anything in 2012, and the theoretical Feingold lead is due entirely to weighting. The Republican and Democrat splits are exactly opposite (89% for the party to 7% for the opposition), while independents favor Walker by a narrow 47%-45% margin.
Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett, who lost to Walker 52%-46% in last year’s gubernatorial election, would lose by a 48%-46% margin with PPP’s weighting. However, not only does Barrett not get as many Democrats (86%) as Walker gets Republicans (90%), but independents break for Walker 52%-39%.
Other Democras, including House Representative Ron Kind, former Representatives Dave Obey and Steve Kagen, former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk (last seen on the statewide stage being the only Democrat in the country to lose a “frontline” statewide or Congressional office held by Democrats in the 2006 election), Assembly minority leader Peter Barca and state Senator Jon Erpenbach, all trail Walker more significantly. Worse for them, much of the state doesn’t know enough about them to have an opinion on them. This is despite Obey being in DC longer than I’ve been alive and ending up as the House Ways and Means Committee chair (and thus responsible for the failed Stimulus and most of the appropriations bills between 2007 and 2010), and Falk running 2 statewide campaigns in the last 10 years, the second successful enough to knock off the sitting attorney general in the Democrat primary.
Even the supposed bright spot for Democrats, a 46%-43% advantage in who should control the state Senate, is illusionary upon further examination. Independents favor Republican control of the state’s upper legislative chamber 41%-35%, reflecting a growing Republican trend first noted in the wake of the August recall elections.