Six days before the Nov. 6 election Gov. Scott Walker and his Democratic challenger, Tony Evers, are locked in the deadest of dead heats in the latest Marquette Law School poll, in figures released Wednesday afternoon.
Charles Franklin, a Marquette professor who has run the poll since 2012, said the two candidates had an identical 47 percent in the poll of likely voters – and even tied exactly among those respondents, 547-547. The results continued a trend established earlier this month; Walker led Evers by just 1 percent in a poll released Oct. 10.
Meanwhile, Sen. Tammy Baldwin had a 54-43 lead over her Republican challenger, Leah Vukmir, one point better than the last round of polling, when Baldwin led 53-43.
And the race for attorney general has tightened since Oct. 10, with the Republican incumbent, Brad Schimel, leading challenger Josh Kaul by just 2 points, 47-45, within the poll’s margin of error. The previous results had Schimel up by 4, 47-43, and in a September poll he led 48-41.
The new polling, conducted Oct. 24-28, had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.2 percent for likely voters.
So what lies ahead? “The real question is which way does it tilt off this,” Franklin said as the poll was released at the law school. “This race could really tip in either direction, based on our data.
“What’s very important next Tuesday is not the overall turnout, but whose voters turn out.”
That’s certainly a lesson from the results in the last Marquette poll before Election Day 2016.
On Nov. 2 that year, the Marquette Law School Poll, taken Oct. 26-31, showed Hillary Clinton ahead of Donald Trump in Wisconsin, 46 percent to 40 percent among likely voters, with a margin of error of +/- 3.5 percentage points. The Senate race between Sen. Ron Johnson, a Republican, and former Sen. Russ Feingold, a Democrat, was even closer, 45-44 percent, with Feingold leading.
The results the next week, of course, ended up to the right of those numbers, with Trump beating Clinton in Wisconsin by about 22,000 votes, or 0.7 percentage point; and Johnson scoring a comfortable victory of nearly 100,000 votes and 3.3 percentage points. Trump’s Wisconsin victory was a huge surprise for many – and the state’s electoral votes, along with those of Michigan and Pennsylvania, sealed the Republican’s victory.
The political landscape was extremely fluid in those last days before the election. During the time the calls in that final poll were being made, then-FBI Director James Comey announced the reopening of his agency’s investigation into Hillary Clinton’s misuse of email during her time as secretary of state. (He announced before the election that the probe was closed again, but many thought the damage had been done by the first announcement, especially because some of her emails turned up on the computer of disgraced ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner, then the husband of a top Clinton aide.)
Finally, nobody can say how much targeted Facebook posts by Russian trolls influenced the voting.
The big question this election season is whether the Democrats can gain control of either house of Congress. The general consensus is that the Democrats will win a majority in the House of Representatives, but the Republicans will retain theirs in the Senate. The FiveThirtyEight website, which maintains a running tally of polling in all House, Senate and gubernatorial races, on Wednesday morning had Democrats with an 85.3 percent chance of taking control of the House, but only a 14.5 percent chance of capturing the Senate. (FiveThirtyEight also predicted a Clinton victory in 2016.)
That site didn’t see much chance of any seats flipping to a different party in Wisconsin. Rep. Glenn Grothman, R-Glenbeulah, was seen as the most likely to lose his seat to his challenger, Dan Kohl, but that 6th District seat was still listed as “likely Republican” by FiveThirtyEight, with Grothman having a 5 in 7 chance of winning re-election. Republican Bryan Steil was a little better off in his race against Democrat Randy Bryce for Paul Ryan’s District 1 seat in southern Wisconsin, with a 7 in 9 chance of winning. Other incumbent House members looked like shoo-ins in the FiveThirtyEight numbers. As for the Senate, Vukmir was seen as having only a 1 in 50 chance of beating Baldwin.
FiveThirtyEight also had the Wisconsin governor’s race as a virtual tossup, with Evers having a 3 in 5 chance of beating Walker.