Republicans face bad numbers with election 7 weeks away

September 19, 2018

MADISON Republicans warned by party standard-bearer Gov. Scott Walker for months about a possible blue wave this November received more bad news Tuesday with a poll showing growing signs of support for Democrats.

The Marquette University Law School poll landed as Walker and his allies have outspent Democratic challenger Tony Evers by millions of dollars, and as Republican Leah Vukmir, a state senator, is trying to knock off Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin.

The poll showed that 75 percent of Democrats were very enthused about voting compared with 64 percent for Republicans. But pollster Charles Franklin cautioned about reading too much into the numbers with the election seven weeks away.

"Who knows where we will be in October," Franklin said.

Both Republicans and Democrats were quick to point out the same poll two years ago at this point showed GOP Sen. Ron Johnson and then-candidate Donald Trump trailing in Wisconsin. Both went on to win.

"This poll is a snapshot of a very competitive race," said Jess Ward, campaign manager for Vukmir. The poll showed Vukmir trailing Baldwin by 11 points after the race had been about even in August.

The disappointing news for Republicans in Tuesday's poll showed:

Walker's approval and favorability ratings were both under water, with more likely voters having a negative view than positive.

Walker trailed Evers, 49 percent to 44 percent, an uptick for the Democrat after last month's poll showed them even.

Evers held a 20-point lead over independent likely voters the key demographic who tend to determine elections in a state where support among Republicans and Democrats is almost evenly split.

Baldwin's approval rating was at 48 percent compared with just 26 percent for Vukmir. Forty percent had an unfavorable view of Baldwin, compared with 38 percent for Vukmir.

The best news for Republicans was that Attorney General Brad Schimel had a 48 percent to 41 percent lead over Democratic challenger Josh Kaul. Ten percent were undecided.

The poll of 614 likely voters was conducted between Sept. 12 and Sunday. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points.

Evers campaigned Tuesday in Milwaukee with former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. A group Holder leads has been active in Wisconsin, spending $225,000 in the first six months of the year to help liberal candidates win in special elections for the Legislature and the state Supreme Court race , victories Democrats have pointed to as evidence of a blue wave and that fed Walker's warnings .

Also Tuesday, Walker was in Wausau to witness the signing of an agreement with Foxconn to jointly develop the state's ginseng industry and grow the Taiwan-based company's newly-established, Wisconsin-based brand.

Foxconn, a global electronics giant, is building a flat-screen manufacturing plant and campus in southeast Wisconsin, but it's been announcing smaller ventures across the state.

In the Senate race, Baldwin allies have been attacking Vukmir over votes she's taken as a member of the state Senate. Democrats on Monday faulted Vukmir's vote in 2009, as a member of the state Assembly, against a bill requiring health insurance companies to cover hearing aids and cochlear implants.

Vukmir has consistently voted against insurance mandates, saying they can lead to increased costs for consumers.

Vukmir, meanwhile, has been attacking Baldwin's reaction to the over-prescription of opioids at the Tomah Veterans Affairs Medical Center. Vukmir has accused Baldwin of not reacting quickly enough to the problem at Tomah in 2015, which resulted in a veteran who was a patient there dying.

Baldwin disciplined aides in her office for mishandling complaints about Tomah and sitting on an inspector general's report about problems at the facility. Baldwin co-sponsored a bill signed into law that toughened guidelines for prescribing drugs at VA facilities. It was named after the veteran who died, Jason Simcakoski .

Mom wants ad pulled featuring 1 son criticizing another

MADISON, Wis.  The mother of a Wisconsin congressional candidate Randy Bryce doesn't like to see her sons fight.

Nancy Bryce, in an open letter Wednesday, called for an attack ad featuring Randy's brother James to be taken off the air.

"My family deserves better than this," she wrote. "All families deserve better than this."

Randy Bryce, known by the colorful nickname "Iron Stache," is a Democrat running to replace House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is leaving Congress. Bryan Steil, a former Ryan aide, is the Republican running in the southeastern Wisconsin district.

Bryce burst onto the national scene with a slick campaign launch video last year where he wipes away tears as his mother talks about the pain she is in and drugs she's taking for multiple sclerosis.

Her son James Bryce is a police officer and a Republican who has given money to Ryan and Steil and even contemplated running against his brother for the seat.

In an ad released Tuesday that was paid for by the Ryan-aligned super PAC the Congressional Leadership Fund, James Bryce endorses Steil and says he can't vote for his brother because he has "shown contempt for those in law enforcement."

Randy Bryce has been arrested nine times, first for drunken driving in 1998 and more recently for protesting the policies of Ryan and Republicans. The campaign ad shows an image of his mug shot and video of police taking him away in handcuffs at a protest.

In her letter, Nancy Bryce doesn't criticize her son James for cutting the ad, but she blames Ryan, the Republican Party and the super PAC running the spot as part of a $1.5 million buy in the Milwaukee television market.

"I'm used to my sons getting into disagreements with each other -- every mom is," she wrote. "And I understand that my boys see the world differently when it comes to politics. ... Unfortunately, some political operatives see it as a chance to exploit those differences for their own benefit."

She said those behind the ad aren't considering "a mother's pain at seeing her children used as tools in a political fight," and she called on Steil to denounce the ad and to ask the Congressional Leadership Fund to pull it.

Steil's campaign manager, Andrew Iverson, declined to comment but the super PAC stood by the ad.

"This ad explains everything Wisconsin voters need to know about the race. Randy Bryce is unfit to serve in Congress," said CLF spokesman Michael Byerly.

James Bryce has an unlisted phone number and Byerly did not respond to a request to speak with Bryce.



Associated Press