Madison, Wis.— It’s hard to analyze the Marquette Law School poll released Wednesday and not say that things are looking pretty bright for Gov. Scott Walker and the GOP, less than a week before Tuesday’s recall elections.
It’s not just that Walker’s lead over his Democratic challenger, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, has grown to 7 percent, a 52-45 percent edge among likely voters that the pollster said "falls slightly short of statistical significance."
It’s not even that a slim majority, 52 percent, think Wisconsin is on the right track.
No, the biggest problem for Democrats may be that their key criticisms of Walker don’t seem to be gaining traction with the Wisconsin electorate.
The John Doe investigation into the actions of Walker's former aides who served in his office while he was Milwaukee County executive?
That issue made it into Barrett’s opening remarks Friday night during the candidates’ first debate.
“This isn’t a rematch or a do-over because we can’t do over the fact that Scott Walker’s administration has been investigated, a criminal investigation that looks at the activities of some of his key aides while he was county executive, and his decision, his refusal to release secret emails that were on a system that was in his county executive office and his failure to tell us who is raising his (criminal defense) funds,” Barrett said.
The Marquette poll of 720 registered voters was conducted May 23-26, mostly before Barrett made those remarks.
But although the John Doe investigation has been a familiar theme in Democratic campaign ads for weeks, the poll indicates people care less about the issue now than they did in February, right after charges were filed against some of Walker’s former staff members.
Seventy-seven percent of those polled last week said they had heard or read about the John Doe investigation, up 5 percentage points from February.
“There’s an awful lot of news stories that are important news stories that don’t hit 77 percent of the public,” said University of Wisconsin-Madison political scientist Charles Franklin, who is conducting Marquette's polls.
But 47 percent of those polled said the John Doe issue is “just more politics,” compared to 46 percent who said it’s “really something serious.”
In February, fewer had heard of the investigation, and only 40 percent of those polled said it was “just more politics,” versus 50 percent who said it was a serious issue.
Walker seems to be winning on jobs perception as well.
Democrats and Republicans have been sparring over job-creation and unemployment numbers for months — no surprise, since it’s the No. 1 issue on voters’ mind.