The state Senate's majority and minority leaders both say the way people feel about Gov. Scott Walker will influence their own races this November, but a leading pollster says the evidence doesn't necessarily bear that out.
A couple months ago, Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald said Gov. Scott Walker's presence on the top of the ballot this November would help Republican candidates for Senate.
“Having the top of the ticket, having a strong presence by the governor, I think helps us in those legislative races,” said Fitzgerald.
This week, in a conference call with Democratic leaders from throughout the country, Senate Minority Leader Chris Larson said Walker would not help, but instead doom Republican candidates for the Legislature.
“Governor Walker is dropping in the polls, and the coat tails that ushered in a Republican majority in the Senate have shrunk away to nothing,” said Larson.
There may be no more polarizing political figure in Wisconsin than Walker, but Marquette University pollster Charles Franklin said that with the increase in party-line voting, governors don't have as much of a “coat-tails effect.”
“It's not the personal appeal at the top that drives the vote at the bottom, but rather it's the intense partisanship of voters these days that makes it increasingly less likely for someone to split their ticket,” said Franklin.
Franklin said that intensity can be shaped by national forces. In a good year for the president, his party typically does well in state legislative races. In a bad year, the party's legislative candidates do poorly.
If the governor were to have an effect, Franklin said it's too early to say what that might be. The latest polls suggest a very tight race with Democrat Mary Burke, but Walker's job approval was in about the same range as it's always been.