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Trump leads GOP primary poll in Wisconsin; Democrats Sanders, Clinton in virtual tie

Six weeks before Wisconsin's presidential primary, Wisconsin's Republican voters are leaning toward real estate mogul Donald Trump as the GOP nominee, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remain in a clo...

Six weeks before Wisconsin’s presidential primary, Wisconsin’s Republican voters are leaning toward real estate mogul Donald Trump as the GOP nominee, while Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remain in a close race on the Democratic side, according to the latest Marquette Law School Poll.
Trump has 30 percent of GOP voters’ support, while Florida Sen. Marco Rubio has 20 percent and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz has 19 percent in the poll released this week. Meanwhile, Sanders leads Clinton 44 to 43 percent, essentially tied.
“The notion that (Trump’s) support would collapse at any point certainly has not been demonstrated in any of our data,” poll director Charles Franklin said.
Wisconsin’s presidential primary is April 5, and could draw a lot of attention from both Democrats and Republicans if both races remain contested then. Wisconsin’s primary takes place in a stretch of the calendar with few other contests. It also comes after a majority of delegates are parceled out, so Wisconsin’s role will depend on what happens in the upcoming Super Tuesday elections and other key primaries on March 15.
According to the latest poll,
46 percent of Republicans said Trump is most likely to win the GOP nomination. Twenty-five percent said they expect Cruz to win the nomination, while 11 percent said Rubio would be the nominee. Among Democrats, 60 percent said Clinton would be the nominee while 33 percent picked Sanders.
Overall, Sanders fared better against the top GOP candidates in a head-to-head race, according to the poll results.
Franklin said the poll was conducted between Feb. 18-21, by phone with 802 registered voters, with a margin of error of 4.5 percentage points. The partisan makeup of the poll leans Democratic, Franklin said, with
40 percent of respondents considering themselves Republican and 49 percent considering themselves Democrats. Ten percent identify as independents.
Trump has won the lion’s share of delegates in the Republican field at 82, while Cruz has 17 and Rubio has 16; 1,237 are needed to win the nomination.
Clinton has 505 delegates - with the lion’s share so far coming from committed superdelegates - while Sanders has 71. To win the nomination, a Democratic candidate needs 2,383 delegates.
In January, the poll found the race between Clinton and Sanders tightening in the state, while Trump was on top of the GOP field.
Feingold maintains solid lead
In the U.S. Senate race in Wisconsin, the Marquette poll shows that Democratic challenger Russ Feingold retains a solid lead over Republican incumbent Sen. Ron Johnson.
The new poll also shows a majority of respondents, 51 percent, think the U.S. Senate should hold hearings and vote on President Barack Obama’s forthcoming nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court - a position at odds with the stance of Johnson and his Senate GOP colleagues, who have pledged no consideration of any Obama nominee.
Feingold, D-Middleton, got
49 percent support in the statewide poll, released Thursday. Johnson, R-Oshkosh, got 37 percent.
Feingold - who held the Senate seat before being ousted by Johnson in 2010 - has maintained a consistent lead over Johnson in recent Marquette polls, leading the incumbent by between 11 and 14 percentage points in four straight polls dating back to September.
The results suggest that, while Feingold remains in an unusually strong position for a challenger in the race, many voters still haven’t tuned in.
In poll after poll, a consistently large share of voters have said they know little about Johnson, despite his incumbency. In the latest poll, 35 percent of respondents said they hadn’t heard enough to evaluate Johnson - a larger share than said they viewed him either favorably or unfavorably.
Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race has maintained a high national profile because it is expected to be among the most competitive. Democrats are optimistic they can retake control of the chamber by flipping seats in Wisconsin, Illinois and three other states.
The national profile of the contest makes it a magnet for outside campaign groups, who have spent more than $750,000 in the state so far.
Supreme Court race
The poll shows Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race is a dead heat, but many voters still don’t know either candidate.
The survey showed incumbent Justice Rebecca Bradley and state appeals court Judge JoAnne Kloppenburg tied with 30 percent each among registered voters, while another 31 percent don’t know who they’ll support.
Franklin said that will change as people start paying more attention to the race and TV ads start running. He said Wisconsin’s presidential primary, which will be held on the same day, could also be a big factor.
Competitive presidential primaries could dramatically increase turnout for all races on the April 5 ballot, including the state Supreme Court. With several big states voting between now and then, though, there’s no guarantee that the presidential field will look the same in April as it does today.
That wild card aside, the race between Bradley and Kloppenburg appears to be extremely competitive. Even when Marquette narrowed its field to people who said they’re “absolutely certain” they will vote in the April 5 election, the race remained close. Among those voters, 37 percent said they would support Bradley while 36 percent favored Kloppenburg.
While the race for Supreme Court is officially nonpartisan, Bradley is favored by conservatives and was appointed to the bench by Gov. Scott Walker. Kloppenburg is supported by liberals and narrowly lost a 2011 Supreme Court race to Justice David Prosser.
Walker approval rating
Walker’s job approval was at
39 percent with 55 percent disapproving of his performance. In January, 38 percent of voters approved of Walker’s performance while 57 percent disapproved.
By a small margin, Wisconsinites continued to be in a downbeat mood - 52 percent said the state has gotten off on the wrong track, while 44 percent said it was headed in the right direction.
Wisconsin Public Radio and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.

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