There is no question that this governor’s race is as tight as they come when you look at the polls. But there’s an interesting trend in Wisconsin over the last 2 November elections that may be understating Mary Burke’s level of support.
Take a look at this page of Talking Points Memo’s Poll Tracker, which has the Walker/Burke race along with the figures from the two big statewide races in 2012- the presidential race between Obama and Romney, and the Senate race between Baldwin and Thompson. Now let’s compare what the Poll Tracker said with what the final results were in 2012.
Polls vs actual results, Wisconsin 2012
Obama-Romney Polls- Obama +5.3%
Actual Result- Obama +6.9% (Dem +1.6% vs polls)
Baldwin-Thompson Polls- Baldwin +0.1%
Actual Result-Baldwin +5.6% (Dem +5.5% vs polls)
That’s a pretty significant swing to the upside for the Dems in 2012. But that was a presidential election, which Dems tend to do better at in Wisconsin (Dems are 12-0 in Senate and Presidential elections in Wisconsin in presidential years since 1984). Let’s look at the GOP year of 2010 and see how the Dems did against the polls. In that year, we had the Governor’s race between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett, and the Senate race between Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold. We’ll use TPM’s Poll Tracker again.
Polls vs actual results, Wisconsin 2010
Walker-Barrett polls- Walker +8.7%
Actual Result- Walker +5.7% (Dems +3.0% vs polls)
Johnson-Feingold polls- Johnson +7.7%
Actual Result- Johnson +4.9% (Dems +2.8% vs polls)
Hmm, so even in a strong GOP year with Dems demoralized, the Dems still outperformed by the 2010 polls by about 3%.
That being said, the pollsters largely got the recall election of 2012 right.
Polls vs actual results, Wisconsin recall 2012
Walker-Barrett polls- Walker +6.8%
Actual Result- Walker +6.7%
But let’s be honest, a lot of Walker’s win was due to people who voted against the concept of a recall, and likely would not have voted for Walker otherwise. I think the polling in that election was a different animal, because there was a different reason to vote FOR Walker- to vote against recalls. If you think the final numbers are legitimate, there is little doubt that many late-breakers stuck with Walker solely out of fear of pulling the trigger on his governorship because his term was up. In 2010 and 2012, it's worth noting that Walker led in all polls in the final month of that race, and generally by 5 points or more.
That is definitely NOT true in 2014, as 3 polls this week all showed a 1-point race- Walker winning 2, Burke winning 1. Add in the fact that Dems have overperformed the polls in statewide Wisconsin November elections by an average of about 3 points in both 2010 and 2012, and if the "likely voter" polls continue to say it's an even race, it makes it quite likely that Burke would win on November 4.
The Capital Times has been performing a similar analysis, adjusting for Wisconsin's voting history and polling house effects, and they have Burke winning by 3 points at this time.
Gee, you wonder why Walker and WisGOP have been sounding increasingly desperate in the last week or so? All of those polls have had party IDs with electorates around D+0 or D+1, and if the Dems turn out at a more-typical midterm electorate of Dem +3 or Dem +4 on November 4, Scott Walker and the GOP can't win.
So make that happen, and GOTV.