2006.04.02: April 2, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Tunisia: Politics: State Government: Duluth News Tribune: Doyle faces tough re-election fight, observers say

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Tunisia: Special Report: RPCV Jim Doyle, Governor of Wisconsin: Jim Doyle: Newest Stories: 2006.04.02: April 2, 2006: Headlines: Figures: COS - Tunisia: Politics: State Government: Duluth News Tribune: Doyle faces tough re-election fight, observers say

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Doyle faces tough re-election fight, observers say

Doyle faces tough re-election fight, observers say

But even before Walker's announcement, analysts who track governors' races had predicted Doyle would have his hands full becoming the first Democratic governor in Wisconsin to win re-election in 32 years. They point to several polls that show Doyle's approval ratings in the low to mid-40 percent range. Doyle has faced hostility from a Republican-controlled Legislature, questions about his fundraising tactics and a liberal base that has been disappointed by many of his decisions, they note. Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle and his wife served as Peace Corps Volunteers in Tunisia in the 1960's.

Doyle faces tough re-election fight, observers say

Doyle faces tough re-election fight, observers say
RYAN J. FOLEY
Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. - Republicans, independent observers and even Gov. Jim Doyle's own pollster are warning that the Democratic governor faces a tough road to re-election in November.

Milwaukee County Executive Scott Walker's recent decision to drop out of the running for the Republican nomination sets up a showdown between Doyle, a Democrat, and U.S. Rep. Mark Green, R-Green Bay.

Political observers say Walker's move gives a boost to Green, who avoids a bruising battle for the Republican nomination in the September primary and can save his resources to duel Doyle.

But even before Walker's announcement, analysts who track governors' races had predicted Doyle would have his hands full becoming the first Democratic governor in Wisconsin to win re-election in 32 years.

They point to several polls that show Doyle's approval ratings in the low to mid-40 percent range. Doyle has faced hostility from a Republican-controlled Legislature, questions about his fundraising tactics and a liberal base that has been disappointed by many of his decisions, they note.

"We already regarded this as a very competitive race and one of the Democratic problem governorships," said Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan analyst who runs The Rothenberg Political Report. "Walker's exit from the race only confirms that."

Jennifer Duffy, a political analyst at The Cook Political Report in Washington, said Doyle's poll numbers were unusually low and should be of concern. She said Democrats are generally in a better position than Republicans across the country and that Green has just started campaigning.

Questions about whether donors to Doyle's campaign have received state contracts are particularly harmful, Duffy said, since the governor cannot benefit from the national Democratic campaign against the GOP "culture of corruption." Doyle has strongly denied any link but a state-federal investigation that has led to the indictment of one state employee continues.

Doyle campaign spokesman Anson Kaye dismissed the notion that Doyle is vulnerable.

"Political pundits pay the bills by pontificating in March but elections are run in September," he said. "This is a governor with a strong record who is talking with Wisconsin's middle-class and working families about the challenges they face every day. I think that puts him in a strong position."

But Mark Mellman, Doyle's Washington-based pollster, recently warned in a column in The Hill newspaper that Democrats are in the "greatest danger of losing" the Wisconsin governorship than any other battleground state.

He noted that Doyle was the first Democrat to be Wisconsin governor in 16 years, that Republicans dominate the state Legislature and that Democrat John Kerry narrowly defeated President Bush in the 2004 election.

Democrats should target the race now because having one of their own as governor will help the party win in the 2008 presidential race, he argued, just as Doyle helped deliver the state for Kerry.

In an interview, Mellman said Wisconsin's even division between Democrats and Republicans is a political reality for any statewide candidate. But he said Doyle's plans to make life more affordable for the middle-class would appeal to the swing voters he needs.

Ken Mehlman, chairman of the Republican National Committee, agreed during a stop in Madison in March that Wisconsin was a key state and said it would be one of the most competitive governor's races in the country.

"There's not an incumbent governor of either party that is more vulnerable than your governor is this year," he said. "If you look at the governor's numbers ... it indicates a governor who the public has recognized they'd like to replace."

To be sure, Doyle has some key advantages. Doyle, 60, has won all four statewide elections he has competed in and can use the power of the governor's office to make news between now and the Nov. 7 election.

As of January, he had twice as much money in the bank as Green, and outside groups such as the Democratic Governors Association, where Doyle recently assumed a leadership post, are planning to pour resources into the race.

Bill Christofferson, a consultant who ran Doyle's campaign in 2002 and all three of his successful races for attorney general, said Doyle will start looking better to voters when he begins contrasting himself with Green.

"It will go down to the wire," he said. "My money is on Doyle."

Ever since Doyle defeated Republican Gov. Scott McCallum and Libertarian candidate Ed Thompson in 2002 with 45 percent of the vote after a bitter campaign, it was clear the governor would have a close re-election bid, Christofferson said.

But he said Doyle solved the budget mess he inherited without raising taxes while protecting schools and has vetoed "extreme" bills from the Legislature such as restrictions on stem cell research.

Rep. Spencer Black, D-Madison, said voters in his Democratic-leaning district give Doyle credit for his vetoes of GOP bills such as one allowing people to carry concealed weapons but are lukewarm about his overall record. Doyle has failed to deliver campaign finance reform he promised in 2002, for instance, Black said.

Bruce Pfaff, who was Walker's campaign manager and worked on McCallum's campaign in 2002, said Doyle's problems with his base spell trouble.

"If you look at Doyle's poll numbers," he said, "they are as frightening as Scott McCallum's were at this point."

Kaye said Doyle has strong support from Democrats and has been able to expand his base to include more fiscally conservative voters by balancing the budget.

Black, who considered mounting a progressive challenge against Doyle but now says he'll run for re-election to the Assembly, said he expected an intense and negative campaign.

"I'd say it's 50-50 right now," he said. "This is an election where the campaign slogan of both candidates is going to be: 'Vote for me, I'm not as bad as the other guy.' It's not going to be an uplifting campaign."





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Story Source: Duluth News Tribune

This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Figures; COS - Tunisia; Politics; State Government

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