Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker is being hyped as a leading Republican presidential contender, but there is a more pressing concern for the first-term governor. Walker's 2014 reelection is no guarantee, and faces a serious challenge from one of the Democrats' stronger gubernatorial recruits this year.
Two straight Marquette Law School polls have shown Walker with 47 percent of the vote — high enough to be the favorite, but low enough that he's vulnerable in a Democratic-friendly state. Democrats have tapped Mary Burke, a wealthy business executive without much of a political record, to run against the governor, whose aggressive battles against labor made him a polarizing figure in the state. Burke has already attracted the attention of the Republican Governors Association, which is spending six figures on attack ads. Republicans hope they'll be able to define Burke negatively before she gets the chance to pose a threat to Walker.
It would still count as an upset if he lost this November. But while most leading presidential contenders don't have to worry about their reelection, Walker will be a leading target for Democrats, who hope to at least wound him before he prepares for any presidential run. Emails released this month as part of a probe into improper campaign practices by Walker's staff in 2010 contained troves of information Democrats hope will damage the governor. Burke criticized Walker on Monday for setting "a low bar for campaign ethics." (Walker was never charged with anything, and Republicans recently pointed out that Burke is employing a staffer convicted of campaigning on state time.)