October will be the most important month in the race for governor in Wisconsin as both candidates will attempt their final positioning toward a victorious Election Day. Much has been made of the potential “blue wave” and whether or not it will run into a red wall in Wisconsin. While history tells us it should be a good year for Democrats, election nights always yield surprises.
Here is what we know so far:
Evers is ahead in most polling. Whether it’s the respected Marquette Law School poll or any of a number of outfits that have recently polled here in Wisconsin, Tony Evers has a consistent, small lead. Most encouraging for Evers backers is that in the latest Marquette poll he has built a substantial lead among independent voters. While some can rightly criticize polling in general based on the big miss from 2016 which showed Hillary Clinton as a virtual lock to win Wisconsin, most insiders believe the governor’s re-elect is essentially a coin flip.
Real Clear Politics, which tracks some of the publicly available polls in this race, shows Evers with an average lead of 4.7 percent.
Walker and his allies will outspend Evers and his allies. It’s hard to accurately reflect all the dollars that have been spent on both sides so far, but when you factor in third party groups, the incumbent governor has a definite edge in funding. Team Walker, as a whole, will be able to out-communicate Team Evers down the stretch, providing an advantage that could allow him to swing back momentum. The financial advantage was never really in question, it is more the ratio that has yet to be realized. Evers may be able to overcome a 2 or 3 to 1 disadvantage, but higher than that could be difficult to hold off Walker in such a close election. It should be noted, however, that some of that money differential is already baked into current polling numbers, as it has already been spent and used to communicate.
Taxes vs. Education and other battles. If voters are most concerned about taxes, then Walker has the best story to tell. If it’s education, Evers has the edge. Both candidates are leaning on those strengths as well as attacking their opponent for their perceived weakness on the issue. While those two issues provide the largest piece of the backdrop, there are other lines of attack as well.
Walker started his most aggressive attacks on Evers going after him as being soft on crime and going soft on a teacher for using porn in the classroom. Those ominous ads didn’t seem to land, but they may have been intended to soften Evers up, especially with women. The ads that followed went after Evers on taxes.
Evers has been following a few lines of attack in addition to education. Road funding, Foxconn, and Walker’s use of the state plane are among the latest.
Yet to play out… The two haven’t faced off publicly yet, and there is at least one public debate scheduled that should garner significant press attention. But the real question is: how much does the national environment affect what happens here? If there is a blue wave, you would expect current polling to hold and Evers to win. If the wave ebbs as we near Election Day and Republican turnout remains near its normal midterm levels, it should be good news for Walker. Especially given most people believe the economy is good, the state is on the “right-track,” and unemployment is at historic lows.