Marquette Poll shows Ron Johnson, Tony Evers in close general election races

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GOP governor forum; Democratic convention wrap-up; Marquette Poll

When it comes to the big political races this year, Wisconsin remains one big jump ball, according to Wednesday's Marquette University Law School Poll.

Everything is close.

In the Republican primary for governor, businessman Tim Michels and ex-Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch are locked in a tight two-way battle, while the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate is also close, with Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes holding a slight lead over Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry.

Meanwhile, potential fall contests show Democratic Gov. Tony Evers with an advantage over four potential GOP challengers, while Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson slightly trails three potential Democratic challengers.

More: Here's what you should know about Ron Johnson as he seeks a third term in the U.S. Senate during the 2022 midterm elections

In the GOP primary for governor, Michels was backed by 27% while former Kleefisch received 26% support.

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Business consultant Kevin Nicholson, a 2018 GOP Senate contender, was at 10% while state Rep. Tim Ramthun was at 3%. Some 32% of Republican primary voters remained undecided.

Michels joined the race in April, poured in cash for an aggressive TV ad campaign and received an endorsement from ex-President Donald Trump. He wasn't part of the April Marquette Poll, which showed Kleefisch leading the field at 32%.

"He (Michels) steps in and fills some kind of void in the Republican primary," said Marquette Poll Director Charles Franklin.

More: GOP governor candidate Tim Michels won't say whether he would certify the next presidential election

In projected November match-ups, Evers had an advantage over all his potential Republican rivals: 47% to 43% over Kleefisch, 48% to 41% over Michels, 48% to 40% over Nicholson and 51% to 34% over Ramthun.

In the Democratic primary for U.S. Senate, Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes led with 25% support, with Milwaukee Bucks executive Alex Lasry at 21%.

State Treasurer Sarah Godlewski was at 9% and Outagamie County Executive Tom Nelson was at 7%.

More than a third of Democratic primary voters, some 36%, were undecided.

More: Sen. Ron Johnson wanted to hand-deliver fake electors' votes to Mike Pence on Jan. 6, texts reveal

"Certainly Barnes and Lasry have been pretty close with an advantage to Barnes," Franklin said. "But you see Godlewski rising a bit. You see Lasry, for that matter, rising a bit over time. But I think on that Democratic side there are still a third of the people without their minds made up."

In projected November match-ups against Johnson, Barnes (46% to 44%), Godlewski (45% to 43%) and Nelson (44% to 43%) all had edges over the sitting senator that were within the poll's margin of error.

Johnson led Lasry by 45% to 42%.

"All these numbers are very, very close," Franklin said.

The survey of 803 registered Wisconsin voters was conducted from June 14-20. The margin of error is plus or minus 4.3% points for the full sample. The margin of error for 369 Democratic primary voters is plus or minus 6.2% and for the 372 Republican primary voters is plus or minus 6.3%.

More: There are 8 House races in Wisconsin, and Democrats aren't even competing in two of them

There is an enthusiasm gap, with 67% of Republicans saying they’re enthusiastic to vote compared to 58% of Democrats.

“Turnout does matter. Enthusiasm matters,” Franklin said.

Thirty-seven percent say the state is headed in the right direction, 56% say it's on the wrong track.

"Unsurprisingly there are big party differences," Franklin said, noting 78% of Republicans say the state is headed in the wrong direction with 58% of Democrats saying the state is headed in the right direction.

Franklin said the electorate is "pretty pessimistic" about the direction of the state and the country.

More: Wisconsin voters are deeply pessimistic about the state's direction. But that doesn't mean they agree on why.

Evers had 48% job approval with 45% disapproval.

For Johnson, 37% of those surveyed had a favorable view of the Oshkosh Republican, while 46% had an unfavorable view.

President Joe Biden had 40% approval and 57% disapproval, his lowest marks in the poll since taking office. While 79% of Democrats approved of Biden's job performance, 17% disapproved.

Inflation was by far the top concern of those surveyed. Seventy-five percent said they were very concerned with inflation, 58% with abortion policy, 56% with gun violence, 47% with health care and 18% with coronavirus.

On gun policy, 81% support red-flag laws that authorize courts to issue orders allowing law enforcement officials to temporarily remove firearms from people who appear to be dangerous to themselves or others; 79% support mandatory background checks for gun purchases at gun shows or through private sales; 56% support raising the minimum age for gun purchases to 21.

Around 44% say they know someone who identifies as transgender, while 55% do not. Forty-six percent would "support laws that ban discrimination based on whether a person is transgender" while 39% are in opposition to such laws.

Twenty-two percent support "participation on sports teams that match an athlete's current gender identity," while 62% "say athletes should only be allowed to compete on teams that match their birth gender and 14% don't know," the poll found.

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This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Marquette Poll shows Tony Evers, Ron Johnson in close races