Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos. U.S. Senate. 9/18-9/19. Likely Voters. MoE 3.8% (6/27 results)
Ron Johnson (R) 52 (43)
Sen. Russ Feingold (D) 41 (45)
An enormous enthusiasm gap, coupled with a Republican nominee fresh from a decisive primary win and unsullied by the primary process, has catapulted Republican nominee Ron Johnson to a double-digit advantage over incumbent Democrat Russ Feingold, according to PPP's poll of the state on behalf of Daily Kos.
In November of 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama swept through the Midwest, winning many states (including Wisconsin) by double digits. Today, the President's numbers are nearly reversed in the Badger State: whereas Obama carried the state 56-42 in 2008, his job approval now is 41%, with 54% expressing disapproval. This is a tendency that has been mimicked throughout the Midwest, and may well explain why this region seems to be the one vexing Democrats the most this cycle.
The malaise with Democratic voters in the state is unmistakable, and is having a material impact on the races here. As our polling partner at PPP, Tom Jensen, noted:
Wisconsin is seeing one of the most severe enthusiasm gaps in the country. If turnout matched 2008 Johnson would be leading Feingold only 47-46 and Barrett would be ahead of Walker 46-44. Right now these races look very difficult but if Democrats wake up between now and November they have the potential to become toss ups.
Johnson has pretty decent favorability marks (46% positive, 32% negative), in part due to the fact that his opponents lacked the resources to lay a glove on him in the recently completed GOP primary. That won't be the case in the general, and the neophyte candidate has given Feingold plenty of ammunition with the lack of symmetry between his anti-goverment rhetoric and his personal history of having his hand out to the government with astonishing frequency.
If Feingold can make the election about Johnson, he has a chance of resurrecting this race. Clearly, he needs to find some formula for bringing the Democratic base to the polls in order to win. Perhaps Johnson will prove himself to be the kind of villain to motivate Democrats into action.
Meanwhile, in the battle to replace Democratic Governor Jim Doyle, the results are only incrementally better:
Public Policy Polling for Daily Kos. Governor. 9/18-9/19. Likely Voters. MoE 3.8% (6/27 results)
Scott Walker (R) 50 (45)
Tom Barrett (D) 41 (38)
One thing to bear in mind in this race, however, is the fact that Walker is less than one week removed from a high-profile primary in which he defeated former Congressman Mark Neumann. Barrett, meanwhile, was essentially unopposed, and had to expend little-to-no energy thus far. Democrats in the state are, without a doubt, hoping that some of the gap here is owed to a post-primary bounce, which will recede in the next week or two.