Poll: Barrett Leads Potential Democratic Primary In Walker Recall

With Wisconsin Democrats set to turn in a mountain of petitions to trigger a recall against Gov. Scott Walker, a new survey from Public Policy Polling (D) shows that Walker’s Democratic opponent in the 2010 election, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, would start out as the favorite in the Democratic primary if he were to seek a rematch.

In a two way-race, Barrett leads former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk by 46%-27%, and he would also lead former Congressman David Obey by 42%-30%. Obey leads Falk by 43%-28%. In a more wide-open race, Barrett has 26%, Falk 22%, Obey 21%, and state Sen. Tim Cullen (who has already said he will run, but is less known) has 11%.

Recalls in Wisconsin do not feature any direct up-or-down vote on the incumbent, but instead effectively take the form of a special election with the incumbent and a challenger fighting it out to serve the rest of the term. In the 2010 Republican wave, Walker defeated Barrett by a 52%-47% margin.

The survey of likely Democratic primary voters was conducted on Monday, January 16, and has a ±4.3% margin of error.Interestingly, among likely voters in a Democratic primary, only 59% were self-identified Democrats – 30% were independents, and 11% Republicans.

We asked PPP spokesman Tom Jensen whether there was a chance for any “Operation Chaos” mischief in the Democratic primary — as with the fake candidates in the state Senate primaries last year — or is it more a matter of individual voters being interested in good faith about the primary?

“I definitely think there’s a potential for Operation Chaos in the recall primary,” Jensen wrote back. “If there’s a Democratic candidate who would clearly be weaker in the general election, I would not be surprised to see a concerted effort among Republicans to go and vote for that person. It’s interesting to note that Falk leads Barrett among Republicans on this poll…and she also did 6 points worse than Barrett against Walker when we last polled the general in October. There may already be a perception among GOP voters that Falk’s a weaker candidate and thus the one they want to run against.”

Soon after the state Senate recall elections were triggered, Republicans declared a strategy to plant fake candidates in the Democratic primaries — which they called “protest candidates” — in order to delay the general elections from July to August, while the GOP incumbents ran unopposed. The candidates included a GOP activist in his 20s, and an octogenarian former GOP state representative, among others. As it turned out, the scheme cost local governments throughout the state over $400,000.