Wisconsin State Capitol

Pollsters and pundits alike are talking about impeachment and how it’s playing in battleground Wisconsin 2020.

A recent Marquette University Law School Poll is stirring attention and comment in national circles.

“…(T)he latest survey from Marquette University’s law school of attitudes in Wisconsin highlights one of the challenges Democrats face as they move steadily toward impeaching President Trump,’’ writes Dan Balz of The Washington Post. “What makes the Wisconsin poll important is that it is a snapshot of a state that, more than any other in the country, could decide the 2020 election.’’

Voter support for impeaching and removing President Trump slipped among Wisconsin voters in the latest Marquette poll.

Meanwhile, the head-to-head matchups in the presidential race shifted in the president’s favor compared to Marquette’s October polling.

Poll director Charles Franklin attributed the movement to Republicans rallying around Trump on both questions, while Democrats were less unified about their nominees when paired with the president.

For example, GOP opposition to impeachment went up to 94% from 92% in October. For Democrats, 81% favor impeachment and removal, down from 88% in October.

Franklin added the numbers don’t show any differences in the enthusiasm or motivation by Democrats or Republicans.

“But we do see this difference in polarization and devotion to President Trump,” Franklin said.

Forty percent of registered voters in the most recent poll supported impeaching Trump and removing him from office, while 53% were opposed. Last month, that split was 44-51.

Fifty-two percent of registered voters surveyed said they believe Trump asked the Ukrainian president to investigate his political rivals, while 29% said they didn’t, and 18% didn’t know.

Forty-one percent believe Trump withheld military aid to pressure Ukraine’s president to investigate the president’s rivals, while 38% don’t, and 21% don’t know.

Also, 42% believe the president did something seriously wrong, while 9% said his actions were wrong, but it wasn’t serious. Meanwhile, 38% said he didn’t do anything wrong and 11% weren’t sure.

The poll went into the field just as public testimony began before a House committee in the impeachment proceedings.

The poll also found the president’s numbers improving in head-to-head matchups with potential Democratic rivals.

This month, 47% backed the president when paired with Joe Biden, who was at 44%. Last month, that was 50-44 in Biden’s favor, and he was up 9 points in August.

In October, 97% of Democrats favored Biden over Trump, but that was down to 88% this month.

Against others:

• Trump was backed by 48% against Bernie Sanders, who was supported by 45%. Last month, it was 48-46 for Sanders after it was 48-44 for Sanders in August.

• Trump was backed by 48% when paired with Elizabeth Warren, who was backed by 43%. In October, it was 47-46 for Warren and in August it was 45-45.

• Trump was backed by 47% against Pete Buttigieg, who was at 39%. Last month, it was 45-43 for Trump.

In the race for the Democratic nomination, Biden was the first choice among 30% of those who intend to vote in the party primary. That was largely unchanged from 31% in October.

Sanders was next at 17%, unchanged from the month before; Warren was at 15% after being at 24% in October, and Buttigieg was at 13% after being back by 7% in October.

Ten percent weren’t sure.

The poll of 801 registered voters was in the field Nov. 13-17 and had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.1 percentage points. In the Democratic primary question, the margin of error was plus or minus 6.4 percentage points.

Meanwhile, two former top legislative leaders say House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry in D.C. doesn’t help Democrats in Wisconsin.

“Impeachment is bad for Democrats,” said Scott Jensen, the former GOP Assembly speaker who helps promote school choice around the country. Jensen noted that anytime things focus on President Trump, “he seems to do well.”

As to the hearings, Jensen said: “They’re not going to move any people.”

Chuck Chvala, the former Democratic Senate majority leader, said Trump “will win in the Senate.” “It will not go well,” said Chvala, suggesting House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will stop just short of voting on impeachment. “I think she will figure that out and pull out.”

The two are featured in a weekly WisPolitics.com web show called “The Insiders.” They appeared at a Nov. 19 WisPolitics.com luncheon at Spectrum offices in Milwaukee.

Chvala and Jensen also agreed the suburbs are a weak spot for Republicans next year. Jensen, however, said he thought the impeachment drive could further unite Republicans, while Chvala was emphatic that Trump’s tweet against the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, would lead moderate Republican women to vote against Trump or not vote.

They also both suggested Trump could lose the state and Republicans could hold the Legislature.

“In terms of competitive races, we could easily — not easily — but we could very well have a situation where Trump were to lose the presidency in Wisconsin and yet have a positive impact on Republicans statewide,” Chvala said. “That’s not absolute — there’s a lot of water to go under the bridge.”

“[W]e saw that in some of the other states,” Jensen added. “You mentioned Kentucky where the news headline [was] that the Republican governor was defeated by 5,000 votes.

Underneath that, for the first time in the history of the state, every other office statewide [went] to a Republican and the Republicans’ margins in both chambers are strong.”

The Capitol Report is written by editorial staff at WisPolitics.com, a nonpartisan, Madison-based news service that specializes in coverage of government and politics, and is distributed for publication by members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association.

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