March 30, 2016
Prepare for more conversation about Wisconsin polls than you may prefer. We think it’s the most important contest of the year on the GOP side. The Feingold-Johnson race may determine who controls the Senate.
The newish Speaker of the House is now facing a primary challenge in his home district. Donald Trump called him out at a rally in his hometown of Janesville, WI yesterday. Oh, and it’s a borderline swing state in November too.
The incumbent governor, an ex-candidate for president, just endorsed Ted Cruz. Talking much about any other state before we see what happens here is useless. I’m as curious about New York, Pennsylvania, and contests beyond as the next person, but we need to deal with the Land of the Cheeseheads first.
Marquette University has graced us with their March poll. It was taken entirely after the last round of GOP votes on March 22, and partially before and after Democrats last weighed in on the 26th.
The survey was post-WifeWars. Unless you are placing a ton of importance on the Scott Walker endorsement, all major events are accounted for. It should give us a current reading of the electorate.
Here are a few things worthy of mention:
Bernie is ahead 49/45. He’s very likely to win, but this is bad for his overall progress.
We haven’t bought in to the idea this state is a toss-up as the Real Clear Politics average indicates. Emerson had Clinton ahead by 6 last week. That just doesn’t square with our read of the demographics. Sanders isn’t going to do worse here than he did in Illinois.
By that same logic, this is an easier target than New York or any of the April 26 states. Whatever adjustment you’re making, it’s Wisconsin minus x, not plus. We don’t know how accurate Marquette is until people vote, but we can compare current numbers to previous.
Bernie was +1 in February, -1 in January, -9 in November. It’s progress. This is his best result. He needs an improvement of 10 to 15 points from February to accomplish his goals in future contests. This indicates 3 points of improvement. Enough to assure a Wisconsin win, but not much else.
Hillary is extremely unpopular.
All things being equal, a Democratic candidate should score decently well in Wisconsin. President Obama is 52% favorable, 44% unfavorable. He’s noticeably more popular than GOP Governor Walker, who has exactly the reverse numbers.
Incumbent GOP Senator Ron Johnson is +1 (32 favorable, 31 unfavorable.) He’s preparing for a rematch with Russ Feingold, who he defeated in 2010. The once and possibly future Senator is +6 (41/35).
Bernie Sanders is +6 too (46/40.) There’s zero evidence the electorate is hostile to Democrats. This isn’t Massachusetts, but safely light blue territory. Each Democrat listed above is in the black. Both Republicans are in the red.
Hillary is MINUS 24. It’s in line with where she registers in national polls, but still jarring. This is a state which has negative feelings about the Tea Party by a 2 to 1 ratio. It’s a state where Ted Cruz has a 30% favorability number.
Marquette asked respondents how comfortable they are with each candidate actually serving as president. Twice as many were very uncomfortable with Hillary as very comfortable (42/21).
Cruz isn’t popular here. He’s to the right of the semi-unpopular governor. Again, only 30% of Wisconsinites like him (49% don’t.) Yet he tied Hillary in a head-to-head matchup (44/44.)
If the election were today, he would likely get the majority of undecided voters. Only 32% of the electorate is very uncomfortable with a President Cruz, 10 points less than President Clinton 2.0.
Reading too much into a matchup this far away from November is dangerous, but Democrats shouldn’t feel comfortable with Hillary being tied at best with Cruz in Wisconsin. Sanders leads him by 12 points.
We have no clue how many voters would continue to feel the Bern after repeated GOP attacks, but for now, he’s strongly preferred to Clinton among the general electorate.
Trump is absurdly unpopular.
Wisconsin isn’t Republican turf, but it’s not completely hostile either. The GOP has held the governor’s mansion for most of the past 30 years. Speaker Ryan is from Wisconsin. It’s fallen within a couple points of the national margin in the past several presidential elections.
We already know Hillary is slightly more popular than a deadly contagious disease. Trump trails her by 11 points in a head-to-head match. He’s 19 points shy of Bernie. That’s bad, but it might actually understate his problems.
His favorability rating is an unimaginable NEGATIVE FORTY EIGHT. That’s 22% positive, 70% negative.
Five times as many voters are very uncomfortable with President Trump as very comfortable (56 to 11.) Plenty can happen between now and November. Hillary is already poorly thought of. With only 20% of Wisconsinites looking very forward to a Clinton presidency, months of Trump attacks could make her equally rancid in their view.
Still, this appears without precedent for a national front runner in a borderline swing state that has a sitting Republican governor and sitting Republican senator.
Republicans don’t care about Kasich’s poll numbers yet.
Either that or they just aren’t aware of them. According to Marquette, and every pollster except Optimus Consulting, he’s a distant third among GOP primary voters. In this case, he has half the support Cruz does.
Yet he does the best against Hillary and Bernie. Where Cruz is even with Clinton and Trump trails by 11, Kasich leads by 9. This is no guarantee he would hold up under consistent attacks, but for now, he scores best.
He trails Bernie by 2, instead of 12 like Ted and 19 like The Donald. Looking deeper, voters are more open to Kasich than any other option. Here is how each ranks in terms of respondents being very uncomfortable with them as president:
He’s the only candidate who hasn’t managed to scare off a third of voters. That doesn’t mean he would win a general election, but it’s a notable distinction. Here’s how they are on the positive side, either very or somewhat comfortable:
Sanders 53% (25 very comfortable/28 somewhat)
Kasich 52% (14/38)
Clinton 44% (21/23)
Cruz 42% (16/26)
Trump 29% (11/18)
While Kasich hasn’t offended many yet, he hasn’t won very many completely over either. His very comfortable percentage is the second lowest. It’s why he’s not a contender yet (or ever if he doesn’t pull a miracle in Wisconsin.)
Every candidate still has plenty of work to do. Trump most of all. Kasich most urgently.