Paul Ryan says he’s “nervous” about the upcoming recall election in his home state of Wisconsin:
Ryan told editors and reporters of The Washington Examiner that the race between Walker and Tom Barrett, the Democratic mayor of Milwaukee, will be close despite a poll released Wednesday by Marquette Law School that shows Walker leading by a comfortable 6 percentage points.
“I’m nervous about it because this is [about] execution, this is turnout, this is too close to call,” Ryan told The Examiner. “But I would rather be Scott Walker than Tom Barrett at this point.”
While it’s always good to refrain from counting one’s unhatched chickens, Congressman Ryan can calm his nerves a bit. Including Marquette Law’s, there have been four polls taken since last week’s primary, and all show Walker in the lead by between 4 and 9 points.
Last week Dave Weigel visited Wisconsin and marveled at the broad coalition of enthusiastic Walker supporters, writing that the Walker campaign “is what every Republican presidential candidate tried and failed to build. There’s a perfect link-up here between Tea Party, Republican Party, and megadonor.” Walker and his allies have a significant financial advantage, and Wisconsin Democrats are complaining that the Democratic National Committee and the Obama campaign aren’t giving them any help. (Commentary‘s Jonathan Tobin suspects that Democrats at the national level see the race as a lost cause.)
The recall fight began with a fight over the power of public sector unions, but the Democrats aren’t even trying to run on that cause anymore. As Brett Healy of the Madison-based MacIver Institute tells Weigel, “I must assume that the left has done some polling and their data shows that the public isn’t with them on those issues.” Instead, Barrett has tried to lean on a Bureau of Labor Statistics survey suggesting that Wisconsin has lost jobs during Walker’s tenure.
But the much more comprehensive Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages released this week shows that Wisconsin has actually gained jobs since Walker took office, and there’s little question the latter report is more accurate; it’s a comprehensive analysis of information from nearly every employer in the state, whereas the BLS survey captures only about 3.5% of employers (as anyone who has ever followed employment data from the BLS knows, their numbers are often revised after an initial estimates). Barrett has claimed that Walker would “cook the books” to show a rosier picture, but as John McCormack explains at the Weekly Standard, that’s an absurd charge — the chief economist at the agency that prepared the data signed a petition to recall Walker, so it seems doubtful that he’s doing the governor’s bidding.
Walker quickly cut an ad touting the new data, taunting his opponent: “Mayor Barrett, you said this election’s about jobs. I couldn’t agree more.” With the argument over jobs favoring Walker, it’s hard to see how an underfunded Barrett can mount an effective attack to close the gap; the unions’ ground organization might be worth a point or two, but not five or six. Perhaps something will change in the next three weeks, and the governor’s supporters certainly shouldn’t be complacent, but right now all signs point toward a Walker victory.