The vultures are circling in Wisconsin. A new poll from Democrat-affiliated Public Policy Polling has Republican Ron Johnson leading Sen. Russ Feingold (D) by nine points — 53 to 44 percent — among likely voters, with three percent undecided (full results here). This is what the Associated Press might call a “slight lead.” PPP writes that Johnson is headed for a “comfortable win” because of two key factors:
1) Wisconsin has one of the largest enthusiasm gaps of any state in the country. Although it appears Democrats will have turnout issues pretty much everywhere the problem is unusually severe in Wisconsin. Those saying they’re likely to vote this fall report having voted for Barack Obama by only 3 points in 2008. He actually won the state by 14 points.
2) Barack Obama’s popularity in Wisconsin has declined at a rate much faster than the rest of the country and the state’s Democratic Governor is one of the most unpopular people holding his position anywhere in the country as well. Obama’s approval with likely voters is only 37%, with 54% of voters disapproving of him. Those bad numbers are partly a function of the state’s more conservative electorate this year but worrisome for the President is that only 70% of voters in the state who supported him in 2008 still approve of the job that he’s doing. Meanwhile 93% of McCain voters disapprove of his performance.
Voters aren’t just frustrated with Feingold — 44 percent approve, 48 percent disapprove of his job performance — they like his Republican opponent. Johnson has a 51 percent favorability rating (including 10 percent of Democrats, 16 percent of “liberals,” and 19 percent of Obama voters). Just 35 percent said they have an unfavorable view of Johnson. Indeed, as PPP writes: “Johnson has proven to be on of the strongest Republican Senate hopefuls anywhere in the country.”
A few points:
• Of the polls respondents, 53 percent were women. Feingold has been leading among women throughout the race, and is clearly trying to court female voters in this new ad. Johnson is way ahead of Feingold among men, 59 to 39 percent, but according to the poll, is also winning 48 percent of women (Feingold, 49 percent).
• It appears that Feingold’s efforts to rouse the college-age liberal base was somewhat successful — he leads Johnson 52 to 40 percent among voters aged 18-29 (an improvement from previous polls). However, Johnson leads in every other age group. Among voters 30-45, he is crushing Feingold, 64 to 33 percent.
• Johnson continues to lead among independents, 52 to 41 percent.
• Of the 13 percent who said they have already cast their votes, Johnson leads 54 to 44 percent.
Sure, anything can happen. But at this point all the money in George Soros’ bank account couldn’t save the “maverick” from Middleton. Even the White House seems to have written Feingold off. The Washington Post reports that President Obama opted against a last minute trip to Wisconsin after “the Senate seat began to slip from [Feingold’s] grasp.” Truth is, it’s been slipping for a while.
Former Senator Russ Feingold (D., Wis.). Has a nice ring to it.