Will Doyle run again?

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Doyle, by all superficial criteria, is a perfect governor of Wisconsin. He’s cheery (at least in public), plump and he’s got just the right nasal touch to accent that reminds Wisconsinites that he’s one of them.

Unfortunately, however, the people of the Badger State are stubborn, and physical and linguistic characteristics apparently aren’t enough to guarantee Doyle their votes. Two different polls have shown Doyle to be at least relatively unpopular, with more people viewing him unfavorably than favorably in both instances.

Daily Kos/Research 2000Wisconsin poll conducted June 8-10 showed 43 percent of respondents viewed Doyle favorably while 48 percent were unfavorable. That was relatively Doyle-friendly, though, compared with a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey conducted June 9-10 that showed 60 percent of respondents disapproving of Doyle’s job performance, with only 34 saying they approved.

Moreover, the latter poll showed Doyle losing to Scott Walker in a showdown. Given this information, I was under the impression last month that Doyle would not seek re-election, and would allow Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton to declare her candidacy for the nomination. However, Doyle has continued to raise money, with the Cap Times reporting that his war chest is over $2 million – not a ton but certainly more than a lame duck governor would have. Contributors clearly believe Doyle is running again and the governor is doing nothing to dissuade these speculations. One Capitol staffer told me that people are pointing to phone calls Doyle is making to contacts in Washington D.C., to national interest groups, such as gay rights and women’s rights organizations.

Many Democrats, especially Lawton fans, are anxious for the governor to make up his mind. Three Republicans have already declared their candidacies and are out raising money, which Lawton can’t do as effectively unless she declares her governor. She’s already said she will not run for lieutenant governor again, therefore it’s hard for her to raise money without a campaign for higher office backing her up. One person told me that Doyle had better be running, because if he waits this long to drop out, “it would be a slap in the face to the Democratic Party,” as the Democrats would be caught off balance and behind the Republicans.

However, I still believe there’s a chance for Doyle to do either. Let’s say he’s weighing his options:

If he ultimately decides to run for re-election, he doesn’t have to worry about a primary. No relevant state Democrat, especially not Barbara Lawton, is going to waste time challenging him in a primary. He still has more money in the bank than any Republican opponent, and even though Walker has raised more in the last few months, he and Neumann are going to use up a lot of it in a primary contest, while Doyle will be free to raise funds for the general election.

That Doyle might wait so long to announce that he is not running leads me to believe that Lawton is the only viable candidate expected to declare for the nomination. Or at least that Doyle believes that to be the case. The longer he waits, the less likely it is for somebody else to try and challenge Lawton in the primary. Even if Lawton is behind Walker and Neumann in fundraising and campaigning, she will have the privilege of being unchallenged in the primary and not having to waste time and money in an intra-party showdown.

So there’s my analysis. What do you think? Are there other Democrats you could see running for governor?

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2 Responses to “Will Doyle run again?”

  1. Name Withheld Says:

    Falk. Not that she’d win, but she hasn’t dropped her state-wide ambitions.

  2. Zach W. Says:

    To be honest, I don’t see Lt. Gov. Lawton as the likeliest Democratic successor to Gov. Doyle, should Doyle not seek reelection.

    My bet? Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett.

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