Raleigh, N.C. – It may be hard to remember that Scott Walker, having already faced voters twice in two years, is still in his first term. And looking ahead to his bid for re-election next fall, he continues to look slightly vulnerable on paper, depending on who Democrats throw at him. Voters are split down the middle on Walker’s job performance, with 48% approving and 49% disapproving, but of six challengers PPP threw at him in its first 2013 Wisconsin poll, only one tops him, and barely: former Sen. Russ Feingold.
Feingold leads Walker, 49-47. But Walker still has 46-48% of the vote against the other five, and leads them by margins of four to nine points: Ron Kind (46-42), Peter Barca (48-43), Jon Erpenbach (48-42), Steve Kagen (48-41), and Mahlon Mitchell (48-39).
Granted, Feingold is by far the best-known and best-liked option for Democrats. 53% of voters see him favorably, and only 37% unfavorably. The 11% who cannot express an opinion on Feingold pales in comparison to the 55% (Kind) to 74% (Mitchell) who are unsure about the other Democrats. So the shape of the horse races this far out tracks closely with the Democrats’ name identification. Thus, though Walker starts at nearly 50%, a close race could still develop without Feingold if the eventual Democratic nominee is able to raise enough cash and, with it, his or her profile. As it stands now, some of the candidates lead among voters who already are familiar with both them and the incumbent. But the fact that Feingold leads by only two points despite his personal image being significantly superior to that of the governor’s means this will be a tough race for whoever emerges as the challenger.