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Poll: Trump pick Michels tied with Kleefisch in GOP primary race for Wisconsin governor

A new survey finds three of four leading Dems beating U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson in head-to-head matchups

Tim Michels
Tim Michels. Photo courtesy of Tim Michels campaign

Construction executive Tim Michels is virtually tied with Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in the Republican primary race for governor, a new poll found.

The Marquette University Law School Poll released Wednesday marked the first time the survey asked about Michels, who entered the governor’s race in April, and it comes just weeks after he gained the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. Twenty-seven percent of those planning to vote in the GOP gubernatorial primary said they would support Michels.

Kleefisch, who declared her candidacy in September 2021, was the first Republican to announce a bid to challenge Democratic Gov. Tony Evers in November. Of the GOP likely voters surveyed, 26 percent said they would vote for her.

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Kevin Nicholson, who ran an unsuccessful bid for U.S. Senate in 2018, garnered 10 percent in the latest polling data. State Rep. Timothy Ramthun, who has called for Wisconsin’s 2020 presidential election results to be decertified, received 3 percent.

In April, the Marquette poll found 32 percent of Republicans supported Kleefisch, 10 percent supported Nicholson and 4 percent supported Ramthun. That poll was conducted prior to Michels entering the crowded GOP primary. At the time, 54 percent of Republican voters hadn’t made up their minds about a favorite to challenge Evers.

Marquette Poll Director Charles Franklin said much of the support for Michels appears to have come from voters who said they were undecided in April, though Kleefisch’s numbers also dropped by 6 percentage points.

Still, 32 percent of respondents asked about how they will vote in the August GOP primary said they haven’t made up their mind yet.

Evers’ favorability was basically unchanged since April. Wednesday’s poll found that 48 percent of voters viewed the first-term Democrat favorably with 45 percent holding an unfavorable view.

The previous Marquette poll found 49 percent of Wisconsin Voters approved of Evers and 43 percent disapproved.

Respondents were asked who they would support in multiple head-to-head matchups if the election were held today. In the race for governor, Evers held slight advantages over all Republicans vying in the GOP primary.

The smallest spread came between a matchup of Evers and Kleefisch, with 47 percent of respondents saying they’d support Evers and 43 percent saying they’d support the former lieutenant governor. Seven percent of respondents said they didn’t know who they would support.

The largest spread in the head-to-head gubernatorial matchups were between Evers and Representative Ramthun with 51 percent of respondents choosing Evers and 34 percent choosing Ramthun.

Barnes leads tight Democratic Senate primary

Democrats have their own crowded primary election in August, with current Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes, Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry, Wisconsin State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson leading the charge to unseat U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Oshkosh, in November.

The Marquette poll found Barnes is leading the Democratic field, with 25 percent of Democratic respondents saying they’d vote for the current lieutenant governor in the Senate race. Lasry came in second with 21 percent, Godlewski was third with 9 percent of those surveyed saying they’d vote for her and 7 percent saying they’d vote for Nelson.

The number of voters undecided about who they would vote for in the Democratic Senate primary was higher than it was in the GOP gubernatorial primary, with 36 percent saying they’re undecided.

In April, the Marquette poll found a majority of voters, 48 percent, hadn’t made up their minds about the Democratic Senate candidates. Of those who had, Barnes led with 19 percent support, Lasry was second with 16 percent, Godlewski came in third with 7 percent of voters saying they’d vote for her and 5 percent saying they’d vote for Nelson.

Johnson, the Republican incumbent, has seen his favorability ratings decline since 2019. The latest Marquette poll found that 37 percent of voters viewed him favorably and 46 had an unfavorable opinion of him.

The poll was conducted before the Jan. 6 committee hearings on Tuesday spotlighted text messages from Johnson’s chief of staff indicating the senator wanted to hand-deliver a slate of fake presidential electors from Wisconsin and Michigan to former Vice President Mike Pence the day Trump supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to block the certification of President Joe Biden’s 2020 victory.

Marquette’s April survey found 36 percent viewed Johnson favorably and 46 percent viewed him unfavorably.

In head-to-head matchups with Democrats, respondents said they’d support challengers to Johnson in all but one case. Lasry trailed Johnson 42 percent to 45 percent.

Godlewski received 45 percent support versus Johnson’s 43 percent, Barnes received 46 percent compared to Johnson’s 44 percent and Nelson received 44 percent while 43 percent said they’d choose Johnson.

A majority of Wisconsinites support legal abortion

Voters were asked about concerns on a variety of issues in June. The biggest concern was inflation with 75 percent of respondents saying they’re very concerned about rising costs.

The June survey was also the first to gauge opinions on abortion since a draft U.S. Supreme Court opinion was leaked indicating justices may be poised to strike down the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.

Of all respondents, 58 percent said they believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases while 35 percent said it should be illegal in most or all cases.

Marquette interviewed 803 Wisconsin registered voters from June 14-20. The margin of error for the full sample was plus or minus 4.3 percent.