A new poll by Rasmussen found that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is near a statistical tie with presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. The poll, released on March 3, found that Walker trails Mrs. Clinton by only five points in a head-to-head matchup. This was the first time that Rasmussen had asked about a Walker-Clinton matchup.
Rasmussen found that 46 percent of likely voters would vote for Mrs. Clinton while 41 percent preferred Gov. Walker. Six percent were undecided and eight percent preferred some other candidate. The margin of error in the poll was three percent.
At this point, Walker does better in a potential race against Mrs. Clinton than any other likely Republican. Other Republicans trail the former First Lady and Secretary of State by double-digit margins. Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, trails Mrs. Clinton 45-36 percent, little changed from a year ago. Retired neurosurgeon and first-time candidate for public office Ben Carson trails Clinton 47-36 percent.
The Real Clear Politics average of polls reports that other Republicans also trail Mrs. Clinton. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie fairs best with an average deficit of nine percent. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) trails by an average of 10 percent. Marco Rubio (R-Fl.) trails by 11 points. Former governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee trails Clinton by an average 13 points, and Texas Senator Ted Cruz is an average 14 points behind.
Walker’s debut at a near tie is nothing short of remarkable given his lack of name recognition and Hillary Clinton’s established presence as the candidate to beat. On Feb. 21, the Washington Post noted that Walker had the “lowest name recognition of any candidate tested.” In July 2014, Gallup found that 91 percent of adults were favorable with Clinton. Fifty-five percent viewed her favorably.
Walker has generated controversy in several areas in recent weeks. He drew fire from liberals for not distancing himself from Rudy Giuliani’s comment that President Obama did not love America. The comment was made at a private dinner for Walker. He was also criticized for his statement that “the most significant foreign policy decision in my lifetime” was “in August of 1981, when Ronald Reagan fired the air traffic controllers” (as quoted by Politico).
Gov. Walker, who left college to take a job, has also started a discussion about whether a president should have a college degree. According to a Public Policy poll, 62 percent think that a degree is important, but only 38 percent say that they are less likely to vote for a candidate without a degree.
Scott Walker’s strong debut against Hillary is encouraging for Republicans, but his challenge will be to adapt from state to national politics. His strong start will undoubtedly make Walker, already a prime target of Democrats for his controversial policies in Wisconsin, the subject of even harsher attacks. It may be difficult for Walker to sustain his lead for the next year until the primaries.