Friday, March 23, 2012

Wisconsin May Not Be a Firewall for Santorum - Rasmussen Poll Shows Trouble for Santorum and Maybe Walker


Wisconsin is a modified "winner-take-all" presidential primary for the Republicans, and only Rick Santorum really needs a win here.  It was thought that Wisconsin could serve as a firewall for him from the pair of blowout losses he has endured since the Mississippi and Alabama primaries. 15 of the states committed delegates will be handed to the overall winner in Wisconsin based on state-wide polling, and 24 more will be apportioned so that the winner in each congressional district gets that district's three delegates.

The firewall plan for Santorum now looks improbable.

The latest polling in Wisconsin ahead of the April 3 presidential primary has shown a marked shift in voter preference.  Less than a month ago Public Policy Polling (PPP) had Santorum ahead of Romney among likely Republican voters in Wisconsin 43% to 27%, with Gingrich polling just 10% of the voters polled.  Yesterday Rasmussen released a poll showing Romney leading Santorum 46%-33%, a 29% swing in three and a half weeks.  This probably has resulted from the blow-out win by Romney in our neighbor, Illinois, which occurred the day before the polling by Rasmussen took place here in the Badger State.

Rasmussen has been on the high side in its projections for Romney support in many past.primaries and caucuses, but the new poll seems like Santorum has too high a hill to climb now.  If Santorum doesn't end up taking a majority of the Wisconsin delegates, he will be tilting at windmills to continue his campaign.  Eleven days after Wisconsin comes a five state northeast primary Saturday, where the only state he is likely to carry is Pennsylvania.  After a loss in Wisconsin, where Santorum had been well ahead so recently, look for the pressure to ramp up on his money sources and supporters to encourage him to do what is best for the party and withdraw.

Two weeks ago I had painted a picture for how Gingrich could support Santorum's chances by staying in the race until immediately before the California primary.  That analysis had been premised on the polls at the time, including Santorum walking away fro Wisconsin with almost all its delegates.  Based on the polling today, Santorum's only hope for a convention fight is for Gingrich to pull out of the race almost immediately.


The Rasmussen poll also asked the likely Wisconsin Republican voters to weigh in on how they felt Governor Walker had been doing as governor.  79% approved, 9% somewhat approved, 2% somewhat disapproved and 9% strongly disapproved.  On the face of it, this seems like a problem for the governor in June.  I suppose if a large component of the nine percent that strongly disapprove of his service feels that he has been too moderate and accommodating to state and local workers, and hasn't cut their taxes enough, he will not lose that many of their votes in June.  On the other hand, if the majority of that nine percent feel he blew up the state in February 2011, made a dumb decision on high-speed rail, and generally has had a wretched performance in job creation, the 9% number may be a big problem for him.  Regardless, the negative ads from the Kochs and Americans for Prosperity are yet to come, since there really isn't a candidate on the Democratic side yet to waste time and money pummeling.  

The telephone survey of 1,000 likely Republican primary voters was conducted March 21 with a sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

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