With less than two weeks until primary election day, the two highest profile races are picking up steam as they turn the corner toward the final stretch.
Evers and the rest
In the Democratic primary race for governor, Department of Public Instruction Superintendent Tony Evers remains the favorite, and the last week has helped cement that status. Evers has led every poll by double digits. His share in those polls has risen to 30 percent among the eight candidates remaining, while no other candidate has exceeded 10 percent. Additionally, national polls looking at the race have shown him with a surprising lead over Gov. Scott Walker. While the methodology of those polls has come into question, they have garnered headlines across the state answering the biggest question for Democrats: which candidate is best positioned to beat Walker.
Evers, Mahlon Mitchell, Kelda Roys and Matt Flynn are all currently up with television ads statewide, and all will likely end up in the top five. Kathleen Vinehout, Paul Soglin, Mike McCabe, and Josh Pade are all still in the mix, but none of those are given a serious chance at winning at this point.
Two more signs pointing to Evers: First, Evers’s television ad buy (combining his campaign and the third party group supporting him) should match or exceed that of the other candidates, meaning he won’t be outspent. Second, at this point, none of his opponents are going negative, which is great for party unity but bad for winning a campaign when you’re trailing by 20 points. That said, it should make for an easy reconciliation between all candidates after primary day.
Evers has been knocked for being “boring,” and so far a primary that could’ve been filled with twists and turns has also been, kind of….boring. If the next 10 or so days maintain status quo and Evers wins handily, maybe boring isn’t so bad?
Given that the primary race really only picked up steam about a week ago, it is possible for a surprise candidate to emerge. Mitchell and Roys seem like the only two candidates with the narrow pathway to get there.
Vukmir vs. Nicholson
While so far candidates have played nice on the Democratic side, the Republican primary for U.S. Senate has exhibited a different tone.
All the polling available shows a neck-and-neck race between state Sen. Leah Vukmir (R-Brookfield) and Kevin Nicholson to see who will run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.
Vukmir had been trailing, slightly, for most of the contest until a July Marquette Law School poll showed her two points ahead. Many saw this as momentum and a change in the race positioning her as the front-runner, but with nearly one-third of Republican primary voters still undecided, the primary is still a coin flip.
Vukmir is seen as the party loyalist and relentlessly works the party faithful, travelling the state and attending countless party dinners and meetings. Nicholson has positioned himself as an outsider, not just to Washington, but traditional party politics as well. Third-party groups entered this race early on behalf of Nicholson to help build his name identification and help buttress against the attacks he knew would be coming: first, that he was an active Democrat as late as 2008; second, that his roots in Wisconsin are limited.
The attack line on Vukmir by these groups was to position her as a moderate Republican, and most recently as anti-Trump. The first tactic surprised everyone, as Vukmir’s voting record and actions have remained consistently, solidly, conservative. To those who follow her, those credentials can’t be questioned. But because of her low name identification, it is possible the criticism could work with some voters.
The second line of attack was unveiled this past week through conservative media unveiling video of Vukmir at an event saying that “Trump was offensive to everyone.” Vukmir has responded that she’s always stood with Trump, and she backs his platform.
While there is still time left, the prediction at this point is that the party faithful are the most consistent voters in a primary, and Vukmir’s hard work will pay off. While she isn’t known statewide, she is a known quantity to many Republicans in the Milwaukee suburban area, which produces a lot of Republican votes. One could question why this wouldn’t have had her in the lead from the outset, but Nicholson was very active early and will likely finish strong. It’s still a coin flip, but we think it comes up Vukmir.