Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is making many lists as a potential Republican candidate for president in 2016, but first, he's got a tough fight ahead in his November re-election bid against Democratic challenger Mary Burke, a former state Commerce secretary and businesswoman.
"This is one of the premier races in the United States," Joe Heim, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse, told USA Today.
"It's got ramifications in terms of the 2016 election. If Governor Walker pulls off an impressive victory ... that's a real positive sign for his potential candidacy."
Walker was ahead by 47.5 percent to 44.1 percent among voters polled in a Marquette Law School poll in late August. However, overall, the race is a tossup, with RealClearPolitics
giving Burke a slight lead of just 0.3 percent.
Walker told USA Today that he has known all along he would have a tough fight against any "credible Democrat," and after he helped usher in Act 10, ending collective bargaining for most state employees, he's been a polarizing figure who spurred a recall effort.
"I have thought that any credible Democrat would have about 47%, 48% of the vote," Walker said. "Some people — even some of my supporters — misread into the results of the recall. Remember, two years ago there were a fair number of people who voted against the recall just based on principle."
Burke is an executive with the Trek Bicycle Corp., which is owned by her family. She is also the state's first major-party female gubernatorial candidate, and has slammed Walker for falling short on campaign promises to add a quarter-million jobs in the state by his first term's end.
Walker has also been accused of illegal campaign spending. While a federal judge stopped a probe in May, an appeals court is considering a prosecutor's request to allow them to open the investigation. But that issue has taken a back seat to his fight with Burke over his jobs promise.
Republicans, though, say Burke will serve as a third-term in office of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who left office in 2010. Further, Walker accuses her of being a "Madison liberal who is completely beholden to the big government unions," for her support of a property tax hike as she sat on the Madison school board.
Walker also says that as Doyle's Commerce secretary from 2005 to 2007, Burke helped implement policies that left the state with 133,000 fewer jobs in Doyle's second term of office.
Republicans have also sought to frame a potential Burke administration as a third term of Democratic Gov. Jim Doyle, who left office in 2010. And the governor has criticized Burke for supporting a hike property taxes in Madison, where she sits on the school board.
Walker has argued that Burke, who served as Doyle's Commerce secretary from 2005 to 2007, helped implement policies that resulted in the state losing 133,000 jobs during Doyle's second term.
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