Walker rallies local supporters for fight ahead
JANESVILLE—During a Wednesday morning visit with local Republican Party constituents, Gov. Scott Walker wore relaxed attire—brown shoes and belt, khakis, and rolled up-shirt sleeves.
But Walker's message to about 70 local backers was less relaxed. Walker came Wednesday morning to energize local backers for grassroots support he said will be crucial as he seeks re-election in November against Democratic challenger Mary Burke.
Walker's visit, which was at the Rock County Republican Party's downtown Janesville headquarters, came as the latest Marquette University Law School poll, released Wednesday, shows Walker and Burke neck-and-neck going into the gubernatorial election in November.
According to the poll, Walker now leads Burke by a razor-thin margin—46 percent to 45 percent among registered voters.
Walker told backers Wednesday to remember how national news media hailed Barack Obama's 2012 presidential victory as being won largely in the trenches of social media.
Walker said his campaign is running “a greater digital campaign” than Obama's two years ago. But in the race against Burke, Walker stressed the importance of physical, not electronic, boots on the ground.
“The key to winning is right in this room,” Walker told. “This is a tough, tough state to win statewide as a Republican. But we can do it if we have people who are willing to go door-to-door and make that contact.”
Walker had not yet seen the Marquette poll on Wednesday morning as he addressed constituents, but he acknowledged to reporters at his appearance that it would be a tight race.
“We wanted to come out to encourage the grassroots volunteers people going door-to-door, neighbor-to-neighbor. We think that kind of contact could make a big difference,” Walker said. “People say, 'Oh, it's an area that may traditionally vote more one way or the other, but I think every vote in this state counts in a close election—even a couple percentage points.”
Walker won by a comfortable margin over Democratic candidate Tom Barrett in the 2010 gubernatorial election, and he again beat Barrett by a similar margin in the 2012 gubernatorial recall election.
Yet Walker said he's not ignoring recent history of voter activity in presidential elections. The margins have been thin.
“People forget this, but in 2000 and 2004 this was the closest blue state in America. It was literally an average of about one vote per ward between Republicans and Democratic candidates for president in both of those elections,” Walker told reporters.
Walker in his appearance Wednesday touched on his track record of job creation, touting 100,000 jobs he said his administration has created in Wisconsin.
He contrasted that against job gains under in the three years during which Burke was the state's commerce secretary. Walker in claims to constituents said Burke only created a fraction of the jobs in the private sector.
Walker on Wednesday continued to dole out jabs at Burke over corporate outsourcing. He told backers that Burke's family's company, Trek, farms out manufacturing of bicycles to China, where he says workers are paid a significantly lower wage than employees in the U.S.
“We're not attacking that company. We're just pointing out if you want to claim credit for your time at the family business, you should also take responsibility for all the things that happen at a company she (Burke) still personally profits from today,” Walker said.
In media interviews this week, Burke, her campaign, and Trek have defended the company's status as a Wisconsin taxpayer, and have called Walker's jabs unfair and "inaccurate."
Burke plans to make a campaign stop of her own in Janesville on Thursday, meeting with constituents at the Italian House.