Election 2020

Dozen Democrats – and Counting – Ready to Go Against Scott Walker

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Matt Flynn, a former chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said he’s the Democrat with the best chance of beating Gov. Scott Walker (R) in 2018.

But there are at least 11 other Wisconsin Democrats who disagree. Flynn is only one of a dozen Democrats who have declared their candidacies in the party’s 2018 gubernatorial primary.

Another seven Democrats have yet to declare their intention to run, but they have the paperwork in place to make that happen.

Only Ryan Cason has filed to run in the GOP gubernatorial primary against Walker.

Walker declared his candidacy a week ago and promised voters, that if elected, he will finish out the four-year term. In other words, he won’t be running for the GOP 2020 presidential nomination.

Walker told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel the day before his re-election campaign announcement he intends to stay in the Wisconsin governor’s office through January 2023.

“Absolutely,” Walker said of his intent to serve the entire term. “I just think there’s more work to be done, and one of the great joys I have is traveling the state and seeing how proud people are of their … communities and I want to be part of that for the next four years.”

The morning after Walker announced he’d run for a third term in office, Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairwoman Martha Laning blasted his record and lampooned the idea of a “new” Scott Walker.

“Kicking off another campaign today, Scott Walker said that after seven years, he now wants to begin to focus on the rest of us in Wisconsin,” Laning said.

“The greatest evidence that Scott Walker has failed Wisconsin is his own admission that in order to stand a chance at re-election, he must pretend to be the kind of public servant he has never actually been in his entire 25 years in Wisconsin government,” Laning added.

Could it happen? Could the Democrats unseat Walker?

An Oct. 26 Public Policy Polling survey showed Walker is vulnerable. The poll showed Walker losing to a generic Democrat 48-43 percent. However, Dean Debnam, president of PPP, pointed out voters never vote for a “generic candidate.”

Still, Debnam said the PPP numbers show the race for Wisconsin governor is, at this point, a toss-up.

“Scott Walker’s been a political survivor in the past,” said Debnam. “But 2018 is shaping up to be a completely different political landscape for Republicans from either 2010 or 2014, and he’s had sustained low approval numbers the last few years.”

Debnam said the Foxconn deal didn’t do Walker any good. On top of that, he said, Wisconsin voters also believe the quality of public schools, along with that of roads and highways, has slipped while Walker has been in office.

However, a Marquette Law School poll in June showed 53 percent of Wisconsin voters felt like the state was moving in the right direction under Walker. And while the survey did not broach the question of which candidate voters might cast their ballots for a year from now, it did show Walker’s approval/disapproval ratings split at 48 percent to 48 percent.

But then there is Donald Trump.

Wisconsin might have been one of the key states that put Trump in the White House, but Debnam said the president is still unpopular enough to drag down Walker.

The Oct. 26 PPP survey showed only 40 percent of Wisconsin voters approve of the job Trump is doing. And 44 percent of voters in the state think Walker has been too supportive of Trump.

The June Marquette Law School Poll showed only 41 percent of Wisconsin voters gave the Trump administration a passing grade.

One of the dozen Democrats who have declared their gubernatorial primary candidacy, Tony Evers, said Walker is vulnerable if only because of his support for Trump.

“Wisconsinites are sick and tired of Walker’s broken promises, divisive politics and unquestioning support of Donald Trump’s agenda,” Evers said in a statement following Walker’s re-election announcement. “I’m running for governor to put an end to Trump and Walker’s relentless attacks on our families and values.”

Martha Laning also said Walker is especially vulnerable because “the things Donald Trump is doing and saying are appalling, yet Gov. Walker cozies right up to toxic Trump.”

But Bill McCoshen, a Wisconsin GOP strategist, told Real Clear Politics no matter how Wisconsin voters might feel about Trump, Walker’s support is strong enough to defeat anything Democrats try to throw at him.

“Governor Walker’s supporters are so committed to him, I don’t think they’ll sit one out or take it for granted, and nor will he,” said McCoshen. “I don’t think there’s that big of a threat of apathy on the Republican side in 2018.”

Christian Schneider, a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnist and blogger, wrote that any antipathy Wisconsin voters feel for Trump might work out to Walker’s advantage.

“Trump will soak up media coverage like a biscuit soaks up the gravy,” Schneider opined. “If Trump continues to hog the spotlight, it will be impossible for Walker challengers to get any traction through state and local media.”

“In the upcoming months, you may be hearing pundits wonder how Scott Walker can overcome the Trump Effect in Wisconsin,” Schneider concluded. “Actually, they should be asking Democrats that question.”