Walker focuses on economy as race remains tight

Mary Burke (D), left, and Scott Walker (R)
Mary Burke (D), left, and Scott Walker (R)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker this week launched a pair of television advertisements defending his record on the economy and directly addressing his promise to create 250,000 private sector jobs, while a third poll in four months showed the race to be a dead heat.

Walker’s record on the economy, and whether his Democratic opponent Mary Burke would do any better, is one of the central issues in the race that a Marquette University Law School poll released Wednesday showed to be essentially tied. Polls in May and July showed similar results.

The race is one of the most watched in the country, as Walker seeks a second term after becoming the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election. Walker, who rose to national prominence after effectively ending collective bargaining for most public workers, is also eyeing a run for president in 2016.

Walker released a pair of new television advertisements this week in which he cites positive economic data to bolster his arguments and counter attacks by Burke. They come after the liberal Greater Wisconsin Committee launched an ad last week attacking Walker’s record on jobs, the first by an outside group on her behalf.

Burke and Walker opponents have hammered him for promising in the 2010 campaign to create 250,000 private-sector jobs by the end of this year. Only about 103,000 jobs have been created with just five months left in his term.

“We set a big goal of creating 250,000 jobs because I know Wisconsin can do great things,” Walker says in one spot, looking directly at the camera and addressing his jobs promise for the first time in a campaign ad this year. “Today, even Lambeau Field couldn’t hold the more than 100,000 people who have gotten a job since we took office. … We set big goals. We met most of them. And we’re not done yet.”

Walker also cites monthly statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics showing Wisconsin ranked third in the Midwest for job creation between July 2013 and July 2014. Walker previously dismissed the monthly data as unreliable when it was less flattering, saying his jobs promise should be measured by the quarterly numbers that are based on a survey of nearly every employer in the state.

“Governor Walker’s refusal to accept accountability for his failure to create the jobs he promised is disappointing, but not surprising,” Burke said in a statement. “This is what career politicians do – cherry pick numbers as they see fit, even if they directly contradict past commitments to use the numbers they’ve called ‘the gold standard.'”

The most recent jobs figures based on the quarterly numbers, which were released in June, showed Wisconsin was ranked 37th nationwide in job creation. Over the first three years of Walker’s term, Wisconsin ranked last among Midwest states in private-sector job growth.

The next round of quarterly numbers, showing performance through the first three months of this year, is scheduled to be released on Sept. 18.

In another sign of how close the race is, when asked in the poll released Wednesday who would be better at creating jobs, 45 percent of respondents said Burke and 45 percent said Walker.

Overall, the poll showed Burke leading Walker among likely voters, 48.6 percent to 46.5 percent. Among registered voters, Walker had a lead of 47.5 percent to 44.1 percent.

Both results are within the poll’s margin of error, leaving the race a dead heat with less than 10 weeks until Election Day.

Pollster Charles Franklin described the race as “remarkably flat,” saying neither candidate has a statistically significant advantage among likely or registered voters.

The poll of 815 registered voters and 609 likely voters was done between Aug. 21 and Sunday. Among likely voters, the margin of error was 4.1 percentage points, while it was 3.5 percentage points among registered voters.

The poll also showed the Democrat Susan Happ led Republican Brad Schimel in the race for attorney general. Happ had 42 percent support among likely voters, while Schimel had 32 percent and 23 percent of respondents were undecided.

Happ is the Jefferson County district attorney who won a three-way Democratic primary on Aug. 12. Schimel, the Waukesha County district attorney, ran unopposed in the primary.

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