Who Has A Chance Against Walker? | Wisconsin Public Television

Who Has A Chance Against Walker?

Home » Here & Now » Who Has A Chance Against Walker?
Premiere Date: 
December 29, 2017

Who Has A Chance Against Walker?

Panelists Bill McCoshen of Capitol Consultants and Scot Ross of One Wisconsin Now give their thoughts on the race for governor and the long slate of Democrats hoping to unseat Scott Walker. McCoshen says Walker has a strong resume as a "proven winner," while Ross says enthusiasm on the Democrats' side could make for a long election night for Walker.

Episode Transcript

Frederica Freyberg:

First up tonight, forecasting the 2018 race for governor, a race where incumbent Scott Walker will face third party opponents as well as the winner of a crowded Democratic primary. The Democratic primary that promises to get even more crowded in the new year.

Scott Walker:

Rebecca and I are asking for four more years to serve as your governor and lieutenant governor, to move Wisconsin forward!

[cheers and applause]

Frederica Freyberg:

With that announcement earlier this month, the race is on.

Scott Walker:

Four more years. Four more years to keep moving this state forward. And looking ahead. We want a state where everyone shares, everyone shares in our economic prosperity, whether you live in a big city or a small town.

Frederica Freyberg:

And the incumbent figures to power through.

Mordecai Lee:

Scott Walker had a near-death experience as a result of his run for president.

Frederica Freyberg:

UW-Milwaukee Political Scientist Mordecai Lee says the bottom dropped out for Scott Walker at that time, his polling in the mid-30s.

Scott Walker:

Today, I believe that I’m being called to lead by helping to clear the field in this race so that a positive, conservative message can rise to the top of the field. With this in mind, I will suspend my campaign.

Frederica Freyberg:

But he's back, his numbers in a position to win. Lee calls him a political Ever-Ready battery.

Mordecai Lee:

I think we should recognize that the way he clawed his way back to political viability is an indication of his political skills. Notwithstanding all the criticisms that Democrats will make of him, one has to respect what an adaptable and fleet-footed politician he is.

Frederica Freyberg:

And there's no shortage of Democrats jumping on board. At least 15 so far. Walker says they're all the same. Not so say the candidates we've interviewed, when asked what sets them apart from each other, starting with Tony Evers, who has won three statewide races for superintendent of public schools.

Tony Evers:

The last time I won with 70% of the vote. I won 70 of 72 counties.

Andy Gronik:

Someone who's helped companies solve problems and access billions of dollars a year so they could grow and create jobs. It's a very different skill set.

Mike McCabe:

They all have at least one thing in common. They seem very, very comfortable operating within the political system as it currently functions. And I’m not.

Dana Wachs:

I think being an advocate for the middle class, I think I’m best-suited to take our case into that building and make sure that the middle class is being heard.

Kathleen Vinehout:

I come to politics later in my career. I worked in health care. I spent ten years as a university professor.

Matt Flynn:

I was the chair of this party for four years, for two terms, retired our debt. We elected a Democratic governor and we elected Democratic majorities in the legislature.

Bob Harlow:

We all have a vision for a prosperous Wisconsin. And as governor, I will lead our state forward toward that vision.

Mahlon Mitchell:

I’ve been a firefighter for 20 years giving back to my community. As firefighters, we lead. We don't divide. We unite each other. We have one common goal and that is to help others.

Martha Laning:

The Republicans have spent all their time doing what's right for the wealthy and for giving handouts to corporations. It's time we bring politics back to the grass roots, to the people. That's what we're going to stand for. We're going to be out there talking about those issues. We already are. Our candidates are doing exactly that.

Mark Morgan:

I think the confidence that we derive is from the strength of our candidate and the strength of our message. You know, we're very confident in the fact that Governor Walker when he has the chance to lay out his reforms and lay out his message for the voters, it's a compelling message. When you get to talk about how the state has come back from where we were in 2010 and what his plan is to keep us moving forward. So that I think we're very confident in.

Frederica Freyberg:

Mordecai Lee says after his first term of shock and awe, campaign watchers should expect a continued play to the middle from Scott Walker.

Mordecai Lee:

I think his last budget was the least ideological budget in the sense of, yeah, he refused to increase the gas tax and it was a sop to the ideological purist, I'll never increase taxes. On the other hand, the main feature of that budget was he increased funding for public education, which is a very popular thing to do. I think what we're going to be seeing this time around is a governor running for reelection as a moderate Republican as opposed to as an ideological Tea Party Republican.

Martha Laning:

His agenda doesn't work. He was big and bold and made all kinds of promises. The job creation that he claimed he was going to make, he still hasn't delivered on that. It's seven years later.

Frederica Freyberg:

Though not making it a centerpiece of his campaign, Walker did sign the $3 billion deal on a potential 13,000 jobs with Foxconn, something Democrats call a reckless giveaway. Aside from the issues, Lee says personality plays a role.

Mordecai Lee:

What the Democrats need is somebody who's good on their feet, who's good verbally and who's got the discipline to only say what should be said and not start improvising or saying things on an ad hoc basis.

Mark Morgan:

Collectively, the biggest flaw all of them have is that they’re going to have to find some way to actually articulate a reason that people should vote for them.

Frederica Freyberg:

Articulating messages on both sides will be aided by a change in Wisconsin law that now means candidates of all stripes can coordinate with independent spending groups. And Mordecai Lee says with, “money being the mother's milk of politics, this change will open up the floodgates.”

Mordecai Lee:

This is so revolutionary in terms of its impact on Wisconsin politics, I think we're going to see the first $100 million campaign in Wisconsin. We're going to see wall-to-wall TV advertising. We're going to experience things we've never experienced before.

Frederica Freyberg:

So what can voters look for in this expansive list of challengers and the well-heeled incumbent? For that we turn to our 2018 political special panel, Republican lobbyist Bill McCoshen and Democratic activist Scot Ross. And thank you guys for being here.

Bill McCoshen and Scot Ross:

Thanks.

Frederica Freyberg:

So Bill, first to you: In keeping with what Mordecai Lee left us with, I guess we brace ourselves for this kind of wall-to-wall advertising, but do you suspect that will be negative advertising? Or will the incumbent, Scott Walker, kind of go kinder, gentler in keeping with his moderating tone and leave it to the outside groups to do the dirty work?

Bill McCoshen:

Depends on the time period. I think the governor's campaign will lay the case for why he should be re-elected between now and the Democratic primary in August, and after the primary, if he needs to draw a contrast with whomever comes out of that, I don't think he'll be bashful about doing that. He's got a history of campaigning to win. You can say a lot of things about Scott Walker. This guy's a proven winner, whether it's winning three times in Milwaukee County, heavily democrat Milwaukee County for county executive, or winning in 2010 or winning -- he's the only governor in the country to survive a recall. I mean, this guy wins.

Frederica Freyberg:

And so how does anybody who is challenging him go up against that?

Scot Ross:

Elections are snapshots in time. And where will the electorate be when it comes to November 2018, that's a big question. Scott Walker's had the benefit of two of his gubernatorial runs in 2010 and 2014, those were both wave elections for Republicans. Now Scott Walker does have a lot of tools at his disposal. He will have how much money he wants. It's as simple as that. He has unity amongst the Republican Party. They think he's doing a good job. The problem is that he still is in the mid-40s. On election day, he's been able to come across the finish line ahead, but we'll have to see, is the enthusiasm on the Democrat side? If the enthusiasm is actually on the Democrat side, it could be a long night for Scott Walker.

Frederica Freyberg:

What do you guys think about these projections of a $100 million election?

Bill McCoshen:

I think total between the gubernatorial and the U.S. Senate, it will be in excess of a hundred million.

Frederica Freyberg:

People are saying for the governor's race.

Bill McCoshen:

I don't know if there'll be that much just in the governor's race because I don't know that national Democrats view Walker as being that vulnerable yet, maybe they will at some point in time, but combined those two races will easily spend more than a hundred million.

Scot Ross:

Yeah, I think the Democratic side will have enough to compete. You don't have to have the most amount of money to win, but you have to have enough to compete all around the state in every single media market. I think we saw in 2016 when you don't compete statewide in every media market with television advertising, you sometimes don't win those elections.

Bill McCoshen:

Right.

Frederica Freyberg:

Scot, what do you think the unprecedented number of Democrats who want to be governor says about whether there is a clear frontrunner?

Scot Ross:

I don't think that there is a clear frontrunner. Not with that many candidates. What I will say is that the advantage that Scott Walker has in being an incumbent where he can go anywhere around the state and hold a press conference, not an interview, but he can hold a press conference and get wonderful coverage, you now have, what, 15 Democrats who are traveling around the state doing that, so all these areas of the state of Wisconsin where, you know, there's not a lot of Democratic members of the state legislature to articulate the problems with the Walker agenda. You're having these candidates who can go around and do that, and a lot of this, you know, earned media is something you can do every single day from now until the election.

Frederica Freyberg:

So you feel like there'll be trickle-down to legislative races in that way?

Scot Ross:

Well, I would be the last person to ever say trickle-down in terms of being a positive thing. I would say that synergy and having people talking about the issues is really, really important to organize people.

Frederica Freyberg:

To both of you, who could've been or would've been a clear frontrunner where you didn't have to have this entire body of primary people?

Bill McCoshen:

I think an outsider, a self-funder, you know, with business background would have been the Democrats' best hope, but I think there's probably three of them that have a path to get through this primary. I agree with Scot; I don't know that there's a particular person that's in the lead at this point in time. I mean, with 12 or 15 people in the race, you can win the primary with 15 percent. Tony Evers probably has a shot to get through this primary, Dana Wachs probably has a shot to get through this primary, and I would say that Mahlon Mitchell does too with the union support.

Frederica Freyberg:

You think?

Scot Ross:

What I think is that I've written enough primary election night concession speeches that in a 15-person race I'm not going to necessarily predict, but I do think that what the difference is, what the Democrats will have coming out of this is their all talking about essentially the same things when it comes to the visions that they see the direction Wisconsin needs to go, so there is going to be that sort of current going.

Frederica Freyberg:

We only have about a half a minute left in this segment where we're talking about the governor's race, but what do you think the Wisconsin voter wants to see in their next governor and in state government?

Bill McCoshen:

They want to see results. And that's why Walker has the distinct advantage in this. Promises made, promises kept. He's got a long list of them, the state's moving in the right direction.

Scot Ross:

They are tired of the division and he is the poster child for division in politics currently in Wisconsin.

Share this page

Have questions, comments, or story ideas?


WisContext

WisContext serves the residents of Wisconsin, providing information and insight into issues as they affect the state.