Public sentiment in Wisconsin is moving against a recall of Scott Walker. Walker though remains very unpopular and if Russ Feingold chose to run against him in a recall election he would find himself in deep trouble.
50% of Wisconsin voters generally oppose a recall of Walker, compared to 47% in favor. Those numbers are flipped from our last statewide poll, in May, which found 50% generally in support of a recall and 47% in opposition. The overall switch comes because independents have moved from slightly in favor of removing Walker from office (50/47) to slightly opposed (46/50) and because 94% of Republicans now oppose recalling Walker, up from 89% on the last poll.
It's not that Walker has become popular all the sudden. His approval rating is still a pretty bad 45/53. Independents disapprove of him by a 44/53 margin. Democrats are more unified in their dislike of him (93%) than Republicans are in their support (87%). But I think there's a certain segment of voters in Wisconsin- somewhere around 10% of the population- that is generally opposed to the concept of recalls regardless of how they feel about how things are going in the state. We've seen that in the State Senate recalls so far- the polls have universally moved in the closing days in favor of the incumbents, both Democratic and Republican. When folks get off the fence they're tending to vote anti-recall.
For all that Walker could still be in pretty big trouble though. Russ Feingold would lead him 52-45 in a recall at this stage, taking independents by a 53-43 margin. Despite his defeat last year in an election marked by very low Democratic turnout, Feingold remains decently popular in the state with a 49/43 favorability rating.
Democrats may be dependent on a Feingold candidacy to win though. In May Tom Barrett led Walker 50-43 in a hypothetical rematch of their contest last fall, but now Barrett's advantage is only 48-47. Given the way sentiment has moved against recall in the closing days of these elections I don't think Barrett would beat Walker if he started with only a one point lead. And Walker already has the advantage over two other Democrats that have been mentioned as potential candidates- 47-44 over former Congressman David Obey and 46-43 over sitting Congressman Ron Kind.
A Walker recall is certainly doable, but it's not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination regardless of his continued poor polling numbers.
Nationally both Democrats and Republicans claimed victory in last week's recall elections: Republicans because they maintained control of the State Senate and Democrats because they picked up two seats they hadn't been able to win even in the wave election of 2008. When it comes to Wisconsin voters though there's a more stark contrast in reactions. Republicans are pleased with the results by a 73/13 margin. Democrats are unhappy with the results by a 17/64 spread. Clearly for Democratic voters in the state it was a majority or bust.
Full results here