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Numbers to watch as Walker prepares re-election bid

Gov. Scott Walker formally announced his re-election bid this week amid some potentially troubling early poll numbers.

It's a year out from the general election, and insiders caution early polls must be skeptically viewed. Plus, Walker, going after a third four-year term, is presiding over a good economy and will have the backing of tens of millions of dollars from his own campaign and allies against what critics call a mediocre group of Democratic challengers.

But poll watchers are noting a couple of big things:

* The Foxconn deal is not a slam dunk, yet.

* And state Republicans may not be able to insulate themselves from history — midterms elections often tilt against the party in power in Washington, D.C., and President Trump's poor polling numbers among independents.

To the first observation, a recent Marquette Law School Poll of metro Milwaukee adults found 48 percent of all respondents think Foxconn isn't worth the $3 billion incentive package it got from the state; 38 percent said the huge Mount Pleasant plant, which is projected to employ 13,000 people in years to come, would provide $3 billion or more in benefits to the state. And only 54 percent of those surveyed in the counties of Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee counties think it would bolster the area economy.

And statewide, the numbers appear weaker.

A new poll from the Dem firm Public Policy Polling found Walker trailing a generic Democratic opponent and his job approval numbers upside down.

Forty-three percent of voters surveyed approve of the job he's doing, while 49 percent do not.

Meanwhile, a generic Dem opponent led 48-43.

Another finding: 34 percent of voters support the Foxconn deal, while 41 percent do not; and 38 percent think Walker reached the agreement because it will be a good long-term deal for the state, while 49 percent believe he did it to help his re-election.

In addition, the statewide automated phone poll of more than 1,100 registered voters in October showed:

* 40 percent approve of the job President Trump is doing, while 52 percent disapprove; 44 percent think Walker has been too supportive of the president, while 35 percent said he's been supportive the right amount and 13 percent think he hasn't been supportive enough.

* Dems led the generic legislative ballot 44-41; also, 44 percent think the state's legislative district lines are not fairly drawn, while 25 percent think they are.

Still, Republicans say Walker has a great story to tell — a very low unemployment rate, a budget that delivers real money to education, plus continued property tax relief.

Walker touted this and other things during his Sunday kickoff at Weldall Manufacturing Inc., a welding and fabrication company in Waukesha. That kickoff will be followed by many stops around the state.

The events come on the heels of several steps Walker has taken in recent weeks to set up his re-election bid. That includes the release a 60-second digital ad.

"Our bold reforms have delivered results for Wisconsin's hard-working families, from lower taxes to record investment in our classrooms — but there's more to be done," Walker said. "I'm ready to continue the fight and keep Wisconsin moving forward."

Walker Administration Secretary Scott Neitzel predicts the Foxconn deal will grow more popular over time, saying it's likely going to be least popular when the agreement is first signed.

But Neitzel, speaking Oct. 31 at a luncheon at the Madison Club, said once suppliers across the state work out agreements with the Taiwanese technology company, the agreement's impact would only continue to grow.

"I think you will see people across the state have a connection to Foxconn, because their local plant or manufacturer is supplying something to Foxconn," he said. "Everybody's fully aware of the risk, but once they see the benefits and they start multiplying across the state, I think this thing just becomes more and more and more popular.''

Asked what the hang-up is to finalizing the deal, Neitzel cited the deal's size, saying with a pledged $10 billion investment and 13,000 jobs from Foxconn, plus the state's own tax incentive commitment, closing up the agreement while ensuring taxpayers are protected would take time.

"It's a lot of money, and we want to make sure we're doing it right. So we don't want to be driven by any artificial deadline," he said.

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. earlier this month delayed a vote on the $3 billion incentive package, although it could be taken up at the board's next meeting Wednesday.