APPLETON – Three months from Monday, Wisconsin voters will cast ballots in the race for governor. General election day is November 4.
According to polls, the presumed match-up between incumbent Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke is tied. However, Lawrence University government professor Arnold Shober said so far the race is only about one candidate.
“Mary Burke really hasn’t come out of the gates bursting with all kinds of energy as a challenger, and so unless she finds that soon it’s going to remain about what voters think about Scott Walker,” said Shober. “Rather than a choice between equals, it’s like keep Walker or replace Walker.”
Shober pointed to the latest Marquette University poll. In the July survey, 49 percent of registered voters said they either haven’t heard enough about Burke or don’t know if they have a favorable or unfavorable opinion about her. In May, the number was 51 percent.
“She isn’t really kind of a keystone in this race,” said Shober.
Going forward in the campaign, Shober expects Burke to explain more about her background with a lot of focus on her business experience.
“There’s not much more she can say about Scott Walker that hasn’t already been said by somebody,” he said.
Burke was the state’s Commerce secretary for about three years under governor Jim Doyle. She also led strategic planning at Trek Bicycle for nearly a decade.
Governor Walker has criticized Burke because Trek has outsourced jobs to China.
Meanwhile, Burke said Walker doesn’t know much about business. She said he should understand the global marketplace and how to compete worldwide.
According to Shober, Walker will keep his campaign focused on his record with the economy, specifically the state’s improving unemployment rate. Unemployment has dropped two percent since January 2011.
As far as money in the race, Walker raised more than twice as much as Burke over the first six months of the year. He also started July with three times as much cash on hand. But does that matter?
“Money rarely helps an incumbent,” said Shober. “You can raise millions and millions of dollars, and it really doesn’t move the needle if you look across all races in the United States.”
Shober said money mostly helps candidates gain name recognition among voters which incumbents like Walker already have.
Burke still has to win a primary before she can face Walker. State Rep. Brett Hulsey of Madison is also running for the Democrats’ nomination.
The primary is August 12. Shober said he would be very surprised if that race was close.