Former President Bill Clinton energized fellow Democrats on Oct. 24 in Milwaukee, where strong turnout could be a deciding factor in a close governor’s race between Mary Burke and Republican incumbent Scott Walker.
Recent polls show Burke and Walker in a dead heat, and both parties have been seeking star power to help get voters to the polls. First lady Michelle Obama has made two trips to Wisconsin for Burke, and President Barack Obama will campaign with her Tuesday in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is expected to make a second visit to the state next week to back Walker.
Clinton, who remains a major draw and powerful fundraiser nearly 15 years after leaving office, joked that he’s like a retired racehorse pulled out of the barn during tough elections “to see if I can get around that track one more time.” But it’s not clear whether even he can give Burke the edge she needs in a race with few undecided voters. Most of those in attendance Friday described themselves as strong Democrats who already planned to vote for Burke.
“I can’t imagine anybody whose mind is not made up,” said Beth Kutka, 61, of Eagle, who came with several friends. “But I think it is the turnout that is important … hopefully rallies such as this will support, will encourage people to vote.”
Burke spoke before Clinton, urging the crowd to knock on doors and make calls to get others to vote. “Eleven days, that’s it,” she said. “We have got to leave it all out on the field.”
Clinton said it shouldn’t be a hard choice for voters when they compare the state’s economic recovery to that of the U.S. as a whole. Wisconsin is one of few states with fewer jobs now than in 2008, he said.
Walker regularly notes Wisconsin has gained 110,000 jobs since he took office in January 2011, while Burke counters that it has 50,000 fewer jobs than when she led economic development efforts under former Gov. Jim Doyle.
“You want a governor who will get you more jobs, and you want a governor who will get you better paying jobs,” Clinton said.
The crowd laughed when he added, “If you look at who’s best qualified to do that, this is not a hard decision.”
Most of those in the audience were old enough to remember when Clinton was president and expressed admiration for him personally.
Kurt Genich, 64, of Racine, said he had spent several hours already going door-to-door for Burke and would do so again the weekend before the election. He said he’d encountered few people who were truly undecided but worked to shore up support among some with a “borderline” commitment. And, he urged everyone to vote.
“I’ve watched what Scott Walker has done to the state, and I don’t agree with his policies and methods of what he’s gone about doing,” he said. “We need to get him out of there.”