By M.D. Kittle
MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers is vulnerable, and not in the sensitive Alan Alda way.
The Wisconsin gubernatorial contest — Evers’ bid for a second term — ranks among the more competitive of the nearly three-dozen governor’s races on the 2022 ballot, according to many election watchers.
That should come as little surprise in politically divided Wisconsin, but Evers landing on U.S. News & World Report’s list of the gubernatorial seats most vulnerable to flipping party control should cost the first-term Democrat some sleepless naps.
Evers’ polling numbers, too, have plummeted since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, when he rode a favorability wave of 65 percent. A poll last week conducted by Scott Rasmussen for the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty found Evers’ approval rating at 48 percent, while 47 percent of Wisconsin registered voters disapprove of the governor’s performance.
Evers’ numbers have slipped since last month, when a Marquette Law School poll showed the governor’s approval rating at 50 percent, with disapproval at 43 percent. Another political thermometer from pollster Cygnal, found 52 percent oppose a second term for Evers, who in June announced his re-election bid.
The latest numbers underscore U.S. News’ analysis earlier this summer that put Evers squarely among the six most vulnerable governors.
“Democratic Gov. Tony Evers has mostly played defense against the GOP’s majorities in Wisconsin’s legislature, and he’s faced a barrage of lawsuits from Republican legislators and conservative groups over stay-at-home orders, mask mandates, school policy and election matters,” the analysis notes.
In what may be the political understatement of the year, the liberal publication writes that Evers was caught “somewhat off guard by the unrest that followed the police shooting of Jacob Blake” a black man in Kenosha.
First of all, the term “unrest” doesn’t come anywhere near the viciousness of the riots that ravaged the southeast Wisconsin city for several days last August. Said riots were made all the more destructive and violent thanks to Evers’ incendiary comments and his utter failure to protect Kenosha. If he was indeed “caught off guard” he repeatedly failed to provide adequate state resources after Kenosha began to burn.
U.S. News at the time noted the mostly unformed Republican primary field. That changed last week when former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch announced her campaign and long-time Republican Party stalwart Bill McCoshen said he would not pursue the nomination. Kevin Nicholson, a Marine and former U.S. Senate candidate is considering a run. His 501(c4) on Thursday launched a $1.5 million ad campaign promoting his No Better Friend Corp. and showcasing Nicholson.
“The narrowly divided and volatile nature of Wisconsin politics means that any benefit of incumbency for Evers will be small. The race promises to be competitive,” the U.S. News analysis asserts.
Republican National Committee spokeswoman Preya Samsundar says one of Evers’ biggest problems is he is so tied at the liberal hip of Democratic President Joe Biden, who has seen his poll numbers sink over a string of domestic and foreign policy gaffes.
“It’s a combination of poor policies being promoted by the Evers administration, but it’s also the fact that he continues to kowtow to the Biden administration,” she told Empower Wisconsin this week on the Vicki McKenna show.
Samsundar says GOP internal polling shows Evers’ is taking a hit on everything from radical climate change policies to the rapidly rising cost of goods and services. Democrat leadership nationally pushing more spending and more U.S. debt has had a negative trickle effect on liberal policymakers, particularly in states with contested races featuring Dem governors.
And Evers is having a hard time appeasing the radical left base he desperately needs if he has any chance of winning a second term.
A recent Politico hit piece on Assembly Speaker Robin Vos unwittingly exposes Evers’ weakness in the face of strong Republican legislative leadership. The story points out that Evers gave into the Republican majority on the two budgets he’s signed, in both cases doing so after the GOP tossed out most of his far left policies and rewrote the document. Evers’ capitulation certainly can’t sit well with the screaming radicals that now control the Democratic Party.
The Cook Political Report ranks Wisconsin in the competitive but Leans Democrat category. Still, the political tracker’s namesake and founder Charlie Cook in an unrelated piece on how the Democratic Party has turned its back on rural and small town America put his finger on arguably Evers’ and the party’s biggest problem in 2022.
“…Democrats will need to learn how to deal with the kind of people who do not live in cities or closer-in suburbs…,” Cook wrote.
Evers’ reliance on Dem-heavy vote centers, mostly Milwaukee and Madison, may not be enough to save the governor at the polls next year.