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MEMO: Scott Walker Limping Into General Election

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TO: Interested Parties
FROM: DGA Executive Director Elisabeth Pearson
DATE: August 13, 2018
RE: Scott Walker Limping Into General Election

How the mighty have fallen. One-time “rising star” Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is now limping into his own general reelection campaign, down in the polls and with the political winds in his face.

After 8 years of Scott Walker putting his own political career ahead of the people of Wisconsin, Badger State voters have had enough. While he pursued national stardom, Walker left Wisconsin’s schools and roads to crumble.

Despite Walker’s frantic election-year attempts to rewrite this record—to the tune of more than $2 million spent on the airwaves already, recent polling shows it’s not enough. Wisconsin voters are ready for change.


An NBC/Marist poll last month found only 34% of registered Wisconsin voters want Walker to win reelection, while 61 percent want to “give a new person a chance.” Only 5 percent of voters said they were unsure, leaving Walker little room to grow. In a head to head with one of his potential Democratic opponents, this poll found Walker down a whopping 13 points.

Another poll from Emerson released last month showed Walker’s approval rating dramatically underwater with only 40% approving of the job he’s done and 46% disapproving. The numbers are even worse for him among independents—47% of them disapprove and only 36% approve.



After eight years of Walker slashing the budget for public schools, the UW system, and technical colleges, education is shaping up to be one of the major campaign issues in Wisconsin this year. His historic cuts have left schools receiving less state funding now than they did nearly a decade ago, causing massive teacher shortages and shifting the tax burden onto local communities.

Wisconsin voters know this. One poll found that nearly half of Wisconsin voters say the state’s public schools have gotten worse during Walker’s tenure.

So it’s no wonder Scott Walker is desperate to cover up his real record of hurting teachers and students. But it’s not working. A recent editorial bore the headline “Scott Walker is the most anti-education governor ever in Wisconsin.” And now a local community whose school was featured in a Walker campaign ad is demanding that he retract it and apologize.


Walker’s neglect of Wisconsin’s infrastructure during the last eight years has also created a major political vulnerability that will play out over this general election campaign.

Wisconsin’s roads are the second worst nationwide, costing the average driver there $640 annually in car repairs. Walker’s own Republican transportation secretary resigned in protest of Walker’s mishandling of transportation funding.

A recent Marquette Law School Poll found that nearly 60% of voters say the roads and highways where they live in Wisconsin are only fair or poor. And another poll found that a huge majority of voters do not believe that the state’s roads and highways have improved during Walker’s tenure.


Walker has also been working overtime to cover up his record of kicking thousands of Wisconsinites off of their health care coverage while costing the state more. It’s estimated that Walker’s refusal to expand BadgerCare has cost the state over a billion dollars and 10,500 jobs.

Walker backed Trumpcare bills in Congress and authorized a lawsuit seeking to overturn the Affordable Care Act that would lead to people with pre-existing conditions losing coverage and paying higher premiums.

And this fall, premiums in Wisconsin are projected to go up by another $1,461 because of Scott Walker-supported actions to undermine health care nationwide.


In addition to the above problems of his own making, Walker also has to contend with a hostile national political climate as well as Democratic trends in Wisconsin specifically. Walker’s overhyped Wisconsin political machine has managed to lose multiple special elections this year on turf that should have been highly favorable to Republicans.

Just earlier this summer, Democrats won a State Senate seat that President Trump carried by a whopping 18 points in 2016 and Governor Walker won by 23 two years earlier. And in April, a Democratic-backed candidate won a seat on the Supreme Court, even after Walker and his operation went all-in for her opponent.

Walker has acknowledged these losses by sounding the alarm for his own campaign, famously tweeting this spring “we are at risk of a #BlueWave in WI.” But for all of his panic button pushing and frantic retooling of his campaign operations, Walker still doesn’t appear to have found a path to overcoming the political winds in his face.

NBC News Political Director Chuck Todd pointed this out during a Wisconsin tv appearance earlier this year, saying “Look, I think for Governor Walker, this is the first time he’ll be running for governor with the political climate and the political winds in the face of the Republicans. He’s running uphill, and he’s trying to run for a third term.”

And more recently, CNN’s Harry Enten wrote “Walker’s try for a third term is in trouble.”

The next three months of the general election will be brutal ones for Governor Walker. It’s clear Wisconsin voters have had enough and are ready for change. Walker won’t be able to outrun his own record of putting himself and his political allies ahead of Wisconsin’s businesses and families.