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Kathleen Falk
Kathleen Falk surges against Scott Walker
Public Policy Polling (PDF). 2/23-26. Wisconsin voters. MoE: ±3.3% (10/20-23 results):

PPP once again asked about a ton of different potential Democratic candidates in a hypothetical recall election of Gov. Scott Walker, so let's start with the folks who have actually declared first:

Kathleen Falk (D): 48 (41)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 47 (49)
Undecided: 5 (10)

Kathleen Vinehout (D): 44
Scott Walker (R-inc): 46
Undecided: 10

Doug LaFollette (D): 45
Scott Walker (R-inc): 46
Undecided: 9

And here are all the potential candidates, in my very rough guesstimation of "likelihood of entering the race":
Tom Barrett (D): 49 (46)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 46 (48)
Undecided: 5 (6)

David Obey (D): 45 (42)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 47 (47)
Undecided: 7 (10)

Peter Barca (D): 46 (42)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 48 (48)
Undecided: 7 (10)

Jon Erpenbach (D): 44 (40)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 47 (47)
Undecided: 9 (13)

Ron Kind (D): 46 (41)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 45 (47)
Undecided: 9 (12)

Russ Feingold (D): 52 (49)
Scott Walker (R-inc): 45 (46)
Undecided: 4 (5)

First things first: These numbers are quite a bit better than what we saw last October, when everyone except Russ Feingold trailed Walker. Feingold, of course, has said that he won't run, which is why I placed him last on the list just above. But as Tom Jensen notes, Feingold's favorability numbers are now the best they've been in quite some time, at 55-36, so perhaps he might be persuaded to change his mind. (His job approvals were under water (PDF) by the end of last cycle.) What's interesting is that Walker's own approvals have barely budged, from 47-51 last time to 47-52 now, which means the movement here has taken place on the Dem side.

The biggest jump for Team Blue has been for former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk, who's climbed a net of nine points since October despite maintaining a negative favorability rating. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett also moved up (albeit not as much) turning in the next-best performance after Feingold. (Signs in recent weeks suggest Barrett is leaning toward a run.) But what jumps out at me is that pretty much every Democrat—regardless of name recognition or favorability—is at least competitive with Walker on paper. Indeed, no one trails by more than three points. I think this is similar to how "partisan-ized" last summer's Senate recalls became, where party label mattered more than almost any other consideration.

Well, any other consideration but one. Tom Jensen cautions:

Those are tenuous leads for the Democratic hopefuls. In the State Senate recall elections last summer we generally found that sentiment moved away from recalling the incumbents as the election came closer. And Wisconsin voters aren't exactly dying to remove Walker from office—49% generally support a recall and 49% generally oppose one... it's going to take a very strong Democratic campaign to knock Walker out. [...]

Recalling Scott Walker is still not going to be easy for Democrats. Based on what we saw last summer I'd say that a tie in the polls probably ultimately means a win for the incumbent.

If you followed last year's Senate races closely, you'll recall that Tom concluded that a certain percentage of voters (maybe 10%, maybe less, but not insignificant) are just opposed to the idea of recalls in general. That means this group will either sit out or vote against their natural inclinations because their feelings about recalls trump their feelings about the candidates. That means any recall challenger starts off in the hole and likely has to do better than tie in polling in order to prevail. The good news, though, is that Walker and his allies have been spending lots of money trying to fluff his image on the airwaves, but apparently those efforts haven't had much if any impact. So this contest is still very much a tossup.

Finally, PPP also tested two hypothetical Democratic primary scenarios, one with just the declared candidates, and one including Barrett (MoE: ±4.8%):

Kathleen Falk (D): 41
Doug LaFollette (D):  23
Kathleen Vinehout (D): 13
Undecided: 22

Tom Barrett (D): 45
Kathleen Falk (D): 18
Doug LaFollette (D): 14
Kathleen Vinehout (D): 6
Undecided: 17

As you can see, Falk is the favorite among the existing field, but she (and everyone else) get swamped if Barrett enters. Barrett ran against Walker in 2010 and, apart from Feingold, is the only Democrat viewed more favorably than unfavorably by voters (41-33). If he gets in, I wouldn't expect him to clear the field, since a number of labor unions strongly support Falk (and don't feel that warmly toward Barrett). But Vinehout, a relatively state senator, and LaFollette, the incredibly long-serving Secretary of State, may not want to stick around if Barrett enters.

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