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Wisconsinites Extremely Dour on the National Scene

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The latest in a series of biannual polls conducted by Wisconsin Public Radio and St. Norbert College over the past decade demonstrates that Wisconsinites view the state of the nation—its institutions and economy—to be of grave concern.

An incredibly low 18 percent of the 400 adults surveyed between March 25th and April 5th view the country to be headed in the right direction, while 77 percent believe it to be headed in the wrong direction. This marks a 4-point drop in those holding an optimistic view, down from 22 percent from WPR's survey last November. When George W. Bush began his second term back in early 2005, 40 percent of Badger State residents thought the country was headed in the right direction. The 77 percent citing the USA as headed in the "wrong direction" is six points higher than the previous record level—72 percent—documented in the previous two WPR surveys conducted in April and November 2007.

The new poll also shows President Bush with the lowest job approval rating to date—just 31 percent of Wisconsin adults are satisfied with his performance—down from 36 percent last fall and the previous low of 34 percent in April 2007. When Bush began his second term in early 2005, more than half of Wisconsinites (51 percent) were satisfied with his job performance; the president has thus endured a 20-point drop in three years in WPR surveys.

Economic concerns have dominated the Upper Midwest and the country in recent months, and the new WPR poll clearly indicates the economy is foremost on the minds of Wisconsinites when it comes to the 2008 presidential election. In an open-ended question, nearly one-third (32 percent) of Badger State residents cited the economy and jobs as the most important issue in the presidential race—almost more than Iraq (23 percent) and health care (12 percent) combined.

The conventional wisdom holds that such dreary national news spells doom for the party in power—notably the party in control of the presidency. This would normally spell doom for the Republican Party in the presidential race, though the poll also found just 27 percent of Wisconsin adults are satisfied with the job performance of the U.S. Congress, which is controlled by Democrats in both chambers. Though a member of the D.C. community for more than two decades, if John McCain can somehow remake his image back into the "maverick D.C. outsider," he may be able to rise above the low negative marks the Badger State is giving its national institutions—at least more than his eventual Democratic competitor.

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Remains of the Data

No Free Passes: States With 2 Major Party Candidates in Every US House Race

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Political Crumbs

Gubernatorial Highs and Lows

Two sitting governors currently hold the record for the highest gubernatorial vote ever received in their respective states by a non-incumbent: Republican Matt Mead of Wyoming (65.7 percent in 2010) and outgoing GOPer Dave Heineman of Nebraska (73.4 percent in 2006). Republican Gary Herbert of Utah had not previously won a gubernatorial contest when he notched a state record 64.1 percent for his first victory in 2010, but was an incumbent at the time after ascending to the position in 2009 after the early departure of Jon Huntsman. Meanwhile, two sitting governors hold the record in their states for the lowest mark ever recorded by a winning gubernatorial candidate (incumbent or otherwise): independent-turned-Democrat Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island (36.1 percent in 2010) and Democrat Terry McAuliffe of Virginia (47.8 percent in 2013).


An Idaho Six Pack

Two-term Idaho Republican Governor Butch Otter only polled at 39 percent in a recent PPP survey of the state's 2014 race - just four points ahead of Democratic businessman A.J. Balukoff. Otter's low numbers reflect his own struggles as a candidate (witness his weak primary win against State Senator Russ Fulcher) combined with the opportunity for disgruntled Idahoans to cast their votes for one of four third party and independent candidates, who collectively received the support of 12 percent of likely voters: Libertarian John Bujak, the Constitution Party's Steve Pankey, and independents Jill Humble and Pro-Life (aka Marvin Richardson). The six candidate options in a gubernatorial race sets an all-time record in the Gem State across the 46 elections conducted since statehood. The previous high water mark of five candidates was reached in seven previous cycles: 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914, 1966, and 2010.


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