Wisconsin voters are headed to the polls on Tuesday, to choose the Democratic nominee to go up against Republican Gov. Scott Walker in the state’s big recall election. But Walker is already up on the air today with an attack against the Democratic frontrunner, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett — using some of the same lingo recently adopted nationally, on the other side, by the Obama campaign.
Barrett is leading in the polls for the Democratic primary, followed by former Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk. The new Walker ad alternates between a female announcer extolling Walker’s jobs record, and a male announcer castigating Barrett’s.
“Thanks to Governor Walker’s policies, Wisconsin businesses are creating jobs;” “Tom Barrett? He’s promised to raise taxes on employers.” “Wisconsin’s unemployment rate is the lowest it’s been since 2008;” “Milwaukee’s unemployment rate has gone up 29 percent under Barrett.” “Walker’s reforms have saved Wisconsin taxpayers over $1 billion;” “Barrett wants to undo those reforms, and raise your taxes to pay for it”
“Forward — Walker;” “Backwards — Barrett.”
TPM asked Walker campaign spokeswoman Ciara Matthews: When the ad says that unemployment in Milwaukee has gone up 29% under Barrett, is that measured starting from when he first became mayor in 2004? If so, is it fair to use such a measurement, dating to well before the global financial crisis, and compare it to Walker’s tenure as governor since only January 2011?
Matthews confirmed that the ad uses Barrett’s whole tenure as mayor for its comparison: “The ad highlights the drastic differences in Governor Walker and Mayor Barrett’s leadership. In just 15 short months, because of Governor Walker’s bold leadership, unemployment in Wisconsin has fallen to 6.8% the lowest it has been since 2008. Mayor Barrett has had eight years as Milwaukee’s mayor to turn the city around, and yet, unemployment has gone up 28% in that time.”
A quick fact check of the ad finds that the trend lines for Milwaukee’s unemployment and statewide unemployment have been very similar for many years, starting in 1990, with the caveat that Milwaukee’s unemployment has consistently been slightly higher than the statewide norm. As such, both have unemployment rates that are down since the height of the global financial crisis, but still above where they were before the crash ever happened.
Ed. note: Reporter Eric Kleefeld was a volunteer in 2002 for Tom Barrett’s gubernatorial campaign in the Democratic primary that year, in which Kathleen Falk was also a candidate. He has not had any additional political involvement with Barrett since that time.