The Washington Post

National Republican group to air early ads in Wisconsin

Democrat Mary Burke is the target of a new ad from the Republican Governors Association. (M.P. King/Wisconsin State Journal via AP)

The Republican Governors Association will go to bat for one of its all-stars with an early advertisement aimed at bolstering Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s campaign.

The advertisement, set to begin running February 19, will attack Madison School Board member Mary Burke, Walker’s likely Democratic opponent, for her tenure as state Commerce Secretary under Walker’s predecessor, Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle.

An RGA official said the committee would spend six figures running the advertisement on broadcast and cable television.

The RGA didn’t provide a copy of the ad, but spokeswoman Gail Gitcho previewed its message in an email: “Burke’s campaign for governor has been based on her experience as a senior member of a job-killing, budget-busting, big government administration,” Gitcho said.

The difference between Doyle’s tenure and Walker’s first term will be a cornerstone of the Republican’s campaign for a second term. The state’s unemployment rate stood at 7.7 percent in January 2011, when Walker took office; today, it stands at 6.5 percent. Walker’s campaign will point to the budget deficit he inherited, about $3 billion, which is now a surplus of about $480 million, and the tens of thousands of jobs the state has added while Walker was in office.

(As we wrote last month, governors don’t have a huge amount of control over the state’s economy. The unemployment rate in Wisconsin peaked at 9.2 percent in January 2010, a year before Walker took office, meaning the rate fell farther in that year than in the three years Walker has served.)

The RGA raised about $52 million in 2013 (part of that from several Wisconsin tribes fighting over a casino), far outpacing the Democratic Governors Association, which brought in about $28 million last year. Republicans are taking advantage of that edge early; the Wisconsin ads are the second major investment the RGA has launched this week. On Tuesday, the committee began running ads hitting former Rep. Mike Ross, the Democrat running for governor in Arkansas.

Walker begins the race with a small but significant lead. In a survey conducted January 20-23 by Marquette University Law School, Walker led Burke by a 47 percent to 41 percent margin among the 802 registered voters tested. The poll showed just 31 percent of voters have an opinion of Burke — 17 percent see her favorably, while 14 percent view her unfavorably.

Walker is seen in a favorable light by 49 percent of Wisconsin voters, while 44 percent said they view him unfavorably.

Reid Wilson covers national politics and Congress for The Washington Post. He is the author of Read In, The Post’s morning tip sheet on politics.

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