After some controversy, the Democratic National Committee has agreed to help efforts with the Wisconsin recall. However, this will not include any of the DNC’s war chest of funds, which they are husbanding for the general election.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz, the DNC chair, committed to come to Wisconsin to attend a fundraiser and to recruit volunteers for Tom Barrett’s campaign to recall Scott Walker. In addition, DNC members have been encouraged to contribute to the recall effort. However, the DNC did not pledge funds that they plan to use to support the general election campaign of President Obama and other Democrats in the fall. They certainly have plenty; the President and the DNC just announced that they raised $44 million just in April.
Perhaps the reticence to put money into the recall effort in Wisconsin can be understood from new polling showing that Barrett got no bounce from winning the Democratic primary for the recall, and that Walker remains around 5 points ahead, at 50-45. Moreover, the polling found a slight enthusiasm gap for Republicans in Wisconsin, dragging down the rest of the ticket there:
There does appear to be an enthusiasm gap that’s favoring the GOP right now. Among registered voters (as opposed to likely voters), the race was a point tighter, with Walker up 49-45.
That said, we had a devil of a time trying to get a separate read on registered voters—98 percent of the people who responded to our poll said they’re likely to vote in the June recall. It just seems like if you’re picking up the phone to answer a poll in Wisconsin these days, you are keyed in to the local political scene.
As a consequence, the numbers in the presidential race are far, far closer than anyone expects to see this fall, with Barack Obama leading Mitt Romney just 47-46 among RVs (and the same spread among LVs). But that further buttresses the notion of an enthusiasm gap for the recall, because the June electorate is definitely looking more Republican-friendly than the November one.
Similarly, the Senate matchups all look worse than they probably are, with Democrat Tammy Baldwin down 4-5 points against all comers (45-41 vs. Eric Hovde, 46-42 vs. Mark Neumann, and 47-42 vs. Tommy Thompson).
Dave Weigel, who was just in Wisconsin, witnessed this enthusiasm gap first-hand. “When I journeyed to Wisconsin last week, I saw a surge of public support for Walker — signs, bumper stickers, little tokens like those — unlike anything I’ve ever seen in a non-presidential race,” Weigel said. And the internals of the polling, which show a 13-point swing in party ID of those likely to vote to Republicans over 2008, bear this out.
The enthusiasm gap probably has a lot to do with the disproportionate fundraising, however. Scott Walker is outspending recall supporters on the ground by anywhere between 5:1 and 20:1. He has even picked up the support of Gingrich SuperPAC benefactor Sheldon Adelson. Most of Walker’s money has come from out of state. And it’s battering the ability of recall supporters to fight back.
With so few persuadables, I’m not certain this is driving the enthusiasm gap. I think it has more to do with the muddled message from the recall supporters, who have largely jettisoned Walker’s assault on public workers for a warm mush of themes.
The question becomes whether a recall failure would have consequences for the fall election. The DNC is clearly making the choice to sit out the recall financially, wait for everything to blow over, and come back in the fall. But there could be a ripple effect here, in a key swing state as well as a state with an open Senate seat and a hot contest there. The failure to keep up the recall energy and dispose of Walker could definitely have repercussions. And there are only three weeks to turn it around.