The latest Marquette poll removes any doubt that the race for Governor is not only close but perhaps favors Democratic challenger Mary Burke.
I’ll admit to being among those who misread this campaign.  At the start of this year I expected Governor Walker to win by at least the margin of the June 2012 recall.   I figured no one with his record of reforming state and local finance could lose, especially against a weak candidate such as Burke.
Why did I (and many others) get things wrong?  The answer falls into two categories:  (1) factors within Governor Walker’s control; and (2) things beyond his control.  
The Governor’s biggest mistake was to spend so much time exploring a presidential run.  In my opinion his chances never were more than a long-shot.  All that time spent out-of-state was wasted.  He should have been at home.
Next, while hindsight is 20-20, it’s clear Trek-related attacks on Burke have not worked.  Trek’s popular.  Further, Trek conducts its business — like a multitude of other companies — in a way that reflects international economic reality.  The Walker attacks have dispirited some in the GOP base.  Tying Burke to Jim Doyle and Barack Obama would have been better way to define her.   Still time for that — see below.
Governor Walker said Friday on Charlie Sykes’ show that he’s about to present ideas for a second term.  He implied that this has not occurred already because campaigns don’t seriously begin until Labor Day.  An alternative view is that this campaign has been underway for months and the Governor is behind the curve in presenting a clear reason for his re-election and an agenda for a second term.  
Things Beyond Walker’s Control
The media doesn’t like Governor Walker.  This is most evident in two arenas.
First, the media is reluctant to stress his fiscal achievements, which are nothing short of phenomenal.  
  • The state’s multi-billion dollar structural budget deficit briefly was eliminated and has been reduced greatly.  When Jim Doyle ran for a second term in 2006 the media reported ad nauseum that he had eliminated the deficit.  He had not.  When Mark Green pointed out the facts, the media said “Mark Green claims…..”
  • Act 10 (as virtually every local official will privately admit) has been a gift from heaven (Madison, actually) for local government and schools.  The magnitude of fiscal savings is in the billions.  They will grow every year.  All the “end of the world” talk has proven baseless.
Second, nowhere is the media’s dislike of Walker more evident than in its coverage of the John Doe investigations.  No elected official in Wisconsin history has been subjected to the scrutiny that Walker has.  The Journal Sentinel in particular has abandoned any pretense of journalistic ethics, printing thousands of words in front page stories about activity that has survived the independent scrutiny of two judges.  
The Next Two Months
While Trek might be popular, Jim Doyle and Barack Obama are not.  In the remaining two months Burke needs to own Doyle and Obama.  This should let Governor Walker highlight the 180-degree contrast between his fiscal record and that of Doyle.  It also enables him to link Burke with ObamaCare and a President who is under water in the MU poll.   There’s a reason Burke thought it was “inappropriate” to meet with Obama on his Labor Day visit.
Apart from whatever agenda the Governor presents, he must find a better way to highlight the stunning fiscal accomplishments of his administration.  Yes, it’s easy to say that from the sidelines.  But it’s still true.  Mary Burke was part of an administration that hobbled the Wisconsin treasury.  Walker has largely fixed that and, for good measure, put local government on a sounder fiscal footing.  He has to find a better way to get the word out.