Falk’s Drop in Polls an Ominous Sign for WI Unions

Yesterday, I wrote about the Democrat civil war that has broken out in Wisconsin ahead of Tuesday's primary election. The party's leading candidate in its effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, is facing a robust, union-fueled challenge from former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. Public sector unions have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into Falk's campaign coffers. They have even established their own political committee, "Wisconsin for Falk", which has spent nearly $5 million on her behalf. All told, Falk has probably outspent Barrett by something like 5-1. 

And, yet, Falk is sinking fast in the polls. 

Yesterday, Marquette University Law School released its latest poll on the Democrat primary, showing Barrett opening up a 17-point lead over Falk. Barrett led with 38% of the vote with Falk fading with 21%. (Two other lesser known candidates trailed with just single-digit support.) 

This is a sharp drop from the school's March poll, where Falk trailed by just 7 points, 36-29%. Keep in mind that much of the union spending in support of Falk came between these two polls. Spending millions of dollars in support of a candidate who subsequently falls behind another 10 points isn't a good sign for the unions. 

Falk has been the most ardent in support of the public sector unions, vowing to veto any budget that doesn't repeal Walker's budget reforms. Barrett has refused to make such a promise, drawing the ire of the state's unions. Worse for the unions, he used Walker's budget reforms to plug a whole in Milwaukee's city budget, avoiding tax increases. That a leading Democrat politicians would utilize these exact reforms is a powerful sign that the reforms are working. 

So, for those keeping score at home, Falk has made the most overt appeal to public sector unions and restoring collective bargaining rights. In return, her campaign has been blessed with millions of dollars of union member dues...and she is losing badly among Democrat voters. I mean, if the union positions were popular, wouldn't Falk be polling much better? That ought to keep the union bosses up at night. 

Polling a special primary election is notoriously tricky, as it is very difficult to correctly estimate the actual turnout. Unions have significant advantages in mobilizing their voters in low-turnout elections and will likely make the final results much closer. Still, Falk's precipitous drop in the polls, despite her huge financial advantage, is a very bad sign for Wisconsin's unions.