On the Capitol: Scott Walker's presidential prospects and a tribute to Charlie Smith

2014-07-18T16:25:00Z On the Capitol: Scott Walker's presidential prospects and a tribute to Charlie SmithMARY SPICUZZA and MATTHEW DeFOUR Wisconsin State Journal madison.com

Gov. Scott Walker has received buzz as a top contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, but two polls released this week show he has a lot of work to do with the voters in two key states.

Walker was the top choice of 6 percent of New Hampshire Republicans and 5 percent of Iowa Republicans in a pair of NBC News/Marist polls. Those were respectively the seventh- and ninth-highest totals among 10 potential Republican contenders, though the field remains wide open.

U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, had 11 percent support in Iowa, one point behind top picks former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul. In New Hampshire, Ryan polled 7 percent, landing him in the middle of the pack, which was led by Paul with 14 percent support.

One in five potential GOP voters in both polls were undecided. Among Democrats, former first lady and secretary of state Hillary Clinton was the hands down favorite for nominee over Vice President Joe Biden.

Both polls asked voters whom they would pick in a hypothetical match-up between Clinton and six of the 10 Republicans — Walker, Bush, Paul, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.

The poll did not single out Ryan, the vice presidential nominee in 2012. NBC News senior political editor Mark Murray said in order to limit the number of questions, only one potential candidate from Wisconsin was selected, and Walker has positioned himself more for a run than Ryan in recent months.

In both states Walker fared the worst against Clinton among those six Republicans. Clinton was favored against Walker 50-37 in Iowa and 48-39 in New Hampshire.

Of the six Republicans, Walker had the highest percentage of registered voters who said they had never heard of him at 24 percent in New Hampshire and 27 percent in Iowa.

The states have historically held the earliest nominating contests in presidential election years and can boost, though not necessarily guarantee, a candidates’ chances heading into other primary contests.

Larry Sabato, director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia, who has included Walker among the top tier of presidential prospects, didn’t put much meaning to the poll more than two years before the election.

“Chris Christie has received literally hundreds of hours of national coverage on all networks both positive and negative for years. Jeb Bush is son of a president and brother of another president,” Sabato said. “Even if you hear incidentally, ‘The Governor of Wisconsin said … ’ You tune out. (If you live in Iowa) you care about what the governor of Iowa says.”

The New Hampshire poll asked 1,542 adults between July 7 and 13 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.5 percentage points. The Iowa poll asked 1,772 adults between July 7 and 13 and had a margin of error of +/- 2.3 percentage points. For questions directed to Republican voters, sample sizes were about one-third of the total and margins of error were +/- 4.2 and 4.1, respectively.

Treasured treasurer

The longest-serving treasurer in state history passed away last weekend. He was 88.

Charlie Smith served in the office as a Democrat from 1971 to 1991 during the tenures of five different governors from both political parties.

Former Republican Gov. Tommy Thompson described Smith as “an old-time pol who loved people and loved politics and believed in government working and was the type of individual who did good work and had a smile for everybody.”

“This state and country is worse off with the passing of Charlie Smith,” Thompson said. “He handled his office with a demeanor and personality that’s lacking today in politics.”

Smith was born in Chicago, but eventually moved to Madison where he graduated from West High School. He received the Purple Heart during service in World War II and was a Dane County Board supervisor in the early 1950s.

Smith was a founding member of the National Association of State Treasurers and instrumental in implementing the state’s program for returning unclaimed property to citizens, current state treasurer Kurt Schuller said in a statement this week.

The few, the proud

Finally, we’d like to say we’re glad to still be here after a decade that saw a 35 percent decrease in statehouse reporters across the country, according to new research from the Pew Research Center.

Wisconsin has 39 full-time, part-time and student journalists covering the Capitol, according to the study. That’s 0.68 reporters for every 100,000 residents in the state, or the 24th most among the 50 states.

Copyright 2015 madison.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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