Steven Walters
The State of Politics

Voters Oppose Walker’s Run for President

That's what three straight polls show. But experts doubt it will impact governor’s race.

By - Jun 2nd, 2014 11:08 am
Gov. Scott Walker

Gov. Scott Walker

For the first time, Marquette University Law School’s pollster asked this: “Do you think any governor can run for President and still handle their duties as governor?” Translation: If he’s re-elected in November, can Republican Gov. Scott Walker still be an effective governor if he then runs for President in 2016?

By a two-to-one margin, those who answered Marquette’s May poll doubted that Walker could govern well and also run for the White House. Only 30.7 percent of them said yes; 64.7 percent said no.

For the third time, Marquette Law School pollster Charles Franklin also asked if respondents would “personally like to see Scott Walker run for President in 2016?” Their answer didn’t change. By a margin of 64 percent or 66 percent – or two out of three – those who answered Franklin’s three polls repeatedly said Walker shouldn’t run for President. Between 26 percent and 30 percent of respondents offered “run, Scott, run” cheers.

Does keeping alive the option of running for President hurt Walker’s re-election chances? After all, Franklin’s May poll included another first – a 46 percent-to- 46 perecent tie among registered voters between Walker and Democratic challenger Mary Burke, the former state Commerce Department secretary and former Trek Bicycle executive. The poll’s margin of error is 3.9 percent.

UW-Milwaukee governmental affairs professor Mordecai Lee, a Democratic state senator in the 1980s, praises Franklin for polling on the question but cautioned against “over-interpreting the results.” As he explains, “It’s one thing to say, ‘I don’t think he should run for president’ and it’s a whole other thing to tack on to the end of that sentence, ‘and if he keeps running for president, I’m gonna’ vote against re-electing him as governor, even though I was planning to do so’. I doubt there are many people who would act that way.”

And, if Walker asked him, Lee said he would tell the governor he does not need to promise to not run for President to help win re-election. “Why should he?” Lee says. “As voters, we should want ambitious politicians. An ambitious politician wants to be popular and win re-election by as large a margin as possible to then serve a platform to run for higher office.”

At least that’s how things traditionally worked. But “the odd dynamics of Tea Party politics” may have changed how Republican politicians traditionally think, Lee adds. “Perhaps he wants to be re-elected by 51 percent of the voters and then use that as a badge of honor for his race for President: ‘I didn’t compromise my conservative principles to get re-elected.’”

Franklin says that with the election still five months away, nobody can conclusively say Walker’s name on all lists of GOP presidential candidates hurts his re-election chances: “Are people who otherwise would support Walker, but don’t want him to run for president, actually going to vote for Burke instead? That is the question of whether this issue has a direct electoral impact.”

Reading the cross-tab tea leaves of Franklin’s poll on a potential Walker run for president doesn’t offer much help, since they varied according to whether respondents self-declared as Republicans, Democrats or independents, “lean” toward one of the parties, and whether they approved or disapproved of Walker’s job performance. “The effect of wanting him to run (for President) is correlated with whether or not people, even Republicans, are supportive of him more generally,” Franklin notes. “Those who don’t want him to run are also on average less approving, so which is the chicken and which is the egg?”

May’s Marquette Law School survey was also the third time pollsters asked whether Republican Congressman Paul Ryan, of Janesville, the party’s vice presidential candidate in 2012, should run for President in 2016. Those results also didn’t change: By percentages that ranged between 50 percent and 53 percent, respondents said Ryan should not run; between 37 percent and 39 percent said he should.

Franklin says it’s a pollster’s delight to have two potential presidential candidates from the same state: “We have the rare opportunity to see what home state voters think about a pair of contenders who are ‘favorite sons.’”

Two Walker campaign officials did not respond to questions about the poll results on a potential presidential bid. But Walker closely monitors public opinion polls, according to his 2013 political autobiography, “Unintimidated.”

Steven Walters is a senior producer for the nonprofit public affairs channel WisconsinEye. Email


4 thoughts on “The State of Politics: Voters Oppose Walker’s Run for President”

  1. joey says:

    walters is silent on most issues — why does he have any credibility here? wisconsineye is not open and transparent in any way and is no friend of democracy.

    If you link to a youtube that shows republicans being republican facists, walters’ underwear get caught in a knot.

    Shame on you for publishing his propaganda — this man has no real integrity on any issue.

  2. PMD says:

    He’s reporting the results of a survey conducted by a Marquette University professor. So whose propaganda is it?

  3. Bruce Thompson says:

    Yes. I cannot figure out joey’s comment. If anything Walter’s goes overboard in not including his own thoughts on what he reports.

  4. Andy says:

    Comments that include the words: fascist, underwear, and propaganda usually do not need to be taken seriously.

    As for the article itself, the quote saying “Are people who otherwise would support Walker, but don’t want him to run for president, actually going to vote for Burke instead?” sums it up… I support Walker for Gov, but not for president… this doesn’t mean I’d vote for Burke. So pretty much this whole presidential bid discussion is moot in terms of the governors race.

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