There is a lot of variance in the slew of recent polls covering the Badger state, the first since the party conventions. However, all of the polls show a Wisconsin electorate trending toward Democrats with less than 50 days until the November 6th elections.
Seven straight polls have shown U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin with a lead over former Gov. Tommy Thompson in the race for U.S. Senate. The September Marquette Law School Poll has Baldwin taking the lead over Thompson by a 50 percent to 41 percent margin among likely voters, flipping the race on its head. In the August Marquette poll, the lead was reversed, with Thompson ahead by a 50 percent to 41 percent margin, an 18 point swing.
In the presidential race, the September Marquette Poll has President Barack Obama up on former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, 54 percent to 40 percent. In August, Obama held a 49 percent to 46 percent lead.
The director of the Marquette Law School Poll, visiting professor Charles Franklin, offered his analysis of the September poll to the Marquette Law School’s Mike Gousha in an On the Issues event.
The Marquette poll was the poll closest to predicting the outcome of the attempted Walker recall, which earned it credibility comparable to more well-known national polling companies. However, in its summary of the September polling data, the Marquette pollsters warned “that there was also movement in the makeup of partisanship in the poll. In September Republicans made up 27 percent of the likely voter sample, down from an average of 30 percent across all eleven Marquette Law School polls conducted since January. Democrats made up 34 percent, up from an average of 32 percent. Independents were 37 percent of the September sample, the same as their average for the year.”
This methodological switch combined with the magnitude of the swing has led some to question the veracity of this month’s numbers. The variance in the polls is one reason why looking at an aggregate of all polls rather than each individual poll is a better way of seeing trends over time and potentially a better way of forecasting outcomes. Real Clear Politics has Wisconsin aggregate polling data for both the Presidential and Senate races.
The Real Clear Politics average in the Senate race has Baldwin leading Thompson 49.2 to 44.2 respectively. This is a flip from their previous average which had Thompson in the lead and a status of “leans GOP” rather than “tossup.”
Since the recent polls were released, Thompson ads have once again appeared on television, indicating the numbers were a wake-up call for a campaign that had been largely silent since the primaries. While Thompson was silent, the Baldwin campaign and third party supporters have been running aggressive attacks on Thompson as the person who went to Washington and “sold out,” and this message seems to be resonating.
All this should leave us with a frenetic, increasingly negative campaign for the U.S. Senate seat. Control of the U.S. Senate is a priority for both parties, so an influx of out of state money and ads would not be a surprise.
As for the presidential race, Obama has solidified his numbers in Wisconsin, but they do not appear comfortable yet. Real Clear Politics has Obama up 51.5 to 43.7 over Romney in Wisconsin.
The Marquette poll giving Obama a 14 point lead is an outlier, but Romney’s trend has been downward in many polls over the last couple of weeks. There is not going to be another Paul Ryan bounce or convention bounce, so any changes in the coming polls will come from solidifying opinions or an October surprise.
If Obama maintains an edge of 8 points or higher in the weeks to come, it may change Wisconsin’s status as a swing state, much like 2008.