Political Observer: John Doe Documents Won't Move Needle Much in Wisconsin Governors Race

Aug 26, 2014

Most Wisconsin voters have solidified opinions of Gov. Walker, according to Christopher Murray, a political science lecturer in Washington D.C.

So Murray says the fact that a court clerk mistakenly published documents shedding light on a halted John Doe probe into Walker's 2012 recall campaign, won't change most voters' stances, heading toward the November race between the incumbent and Democratic challenger Mary Burke.

The John Doe was examining whether Walker’s recall campaign illegally coordinated with third party groups. The published documents indicated there was coordination, but the federal judge who halted the probe this summer, decided the coordination was allowable.

"I don't think what the latest batch of documents says is going to change a whole lot of minds on either side, and with seemingly so few people in the middle or undecided, that doesn't result in a whole lot of movement, one way or the other, in terms of how the election is likely to play out," Murray says.

Who are the Wisconsin voters who remain undecided in the governor's race? Murray says, generally, they're "voters who don't pay a lot of attention to politics, in the first place.  And not only does that make them undecided, but it also tends to make them less likely to show up and vote, at the end of the day."

"Ultimately, I think what decides some of these races is not so much the undecided (voters) but, which side's supporters show up in bigger numbers," Murray says.

As for how political interests outside Wisconsin view the governor's race and reports surrounding the John Doe, Murray says, people are paying attention, "because going into 2016, they are trying to figure out, especially on the Republican side, who is somebody who can win in states that have been voting Democratic lately. Wisconsin hasn't voted for a Republican candidate (for president) since Ronald Reagan."

Murray says, nonpolitical types outside the state also "know that there has been something going on in Wisconsin for quite a while, and they know generally, the competitiveness of the race, given what the polling has been."

Regarding the halted John Doe probe in Wisconsin, Murray says the questions swirling around it need clarification - on the state and federal levels. "The key point of contention that we're seeing is this idea of, what does coordination mean between donors and campaigns and outside group. While the law is seemingly pretty clear about what coordination means, when you actually start to look at what is going on, it really does get murky,” Murray says.

Murray is a lecturer at Marquette University’s Les Aspin Center for Government in Washington D.C.