Many Washington pundits have declared the battle to recall Scott Walker all but over, and at least one public poll has shown Walker with a five point lead. This has created a problem for labor and Dems, who worry that impressions that the race can't be won could depress enthusiasm among Dems in a battle that will likely be decided by who turns out to vote.
But make no mistake: Dems and labor still think the race is a dead heat. They are supplying their own polling data to make the case, and to energize the base in the home stretch.
A new poll taken by pollster Celinda Lake — who is a Democrat but is well respected by polling professionals — has found that the battle between Scott Walker and challenger Tom Barrett is now deadlocked, at 49 percent each.
The poll — which will be released later today and was comissioned by the pro-labor Greater Wisconsin Committee’s political fund — also finds that independents are breaking towards Barrett, 49-44.
The poll is an automated one (which means it doesn’t include cell phones) that surveyed 600 likely Wisconsin voters from May 24-28, which means it was in the field until Monday of this week. Its sample: 43 percent Democrats and Dem-leaners; 43 percent Republican and GOP-leaners; and 13 percent non-leaning independents.
Today’s poll is reinforced by another internal survey released last week by the labor-backed group We Are Wisconsin, which also found a dead heat.
A public poll taken from May 17-22 by Saint Norbert College found Walker ahead 50-45, though that remained in the poll’s margin of error. Union officials questioned its sampling, and a pollster for Barrett argued to Chris Cillizza that some of the public polling had been taken before Barrett mounted his TV ad offensive against Walker.
Also: Keep an eye out for the release this afternoon of another public poll from Marquette Law School, which will be closely scrutinized by both sides.
Today’s poll — like polling released by the other side — should be evaluated as part of the ongoing spin war over the course of the recall campaign, which is designed to help influence the outcome, or at least to prevent public polling from creating premature impressions that the race is over.
Indeed, even neutral Wisconsin political observers believe that public polling of this race may not be predictive, since turnout in a mid-year gubernatorial recall election is impossible to anticipate. What’s more, in this case turnout is expected to be far higher than in the 2010 election that installed Walker in power in the first place.
UPDATE: The Marquette Law School poll has now been released, and it finds Walker leading Barrett by seven points, 52-45, which is just inside the margin of error.
TPM’s poll tracker has Walker leading by a much narrower margin, 49.4 to 48.6.