Yesterday, we asked: Does Chris Christie have Scott Walker’s back?
Our answer, based on multiple conversations with Republicans in Washington and Wisconsin, was basically “yes.”
We’re less sure today.
Among the most authoritative sources for our piece was someone we identified, upon mutual agreement, as a “GOP source with knowledge of RGA spending.” The source pushed back hard on any suggestion the RGA wasn’t supporting Walker with sufficient enthusiasm and money. We concluded that concerns about Christie tanking Walker would appear to be “unfounded” if what this source told us was true.
It turns out that it wasn’t.
The RGA had already spent $6 million overall in Wisconsin, the source said, and would spend a total of $10 million or $11 million by Election Day – up to an additional $5 million to shore up Walker in a competitive race. The majority of the money the RGA had spent – and planned to spend – would be on television ads. Those numbers, this source pointed out, compare favorably to RGA spending next door in Michigan ($10 million to date), where Governor Rick Snyder has held a small but consistent lead in public and private polling. “So when all is said and done, we’ll spend more in Wisconsin than Michigan,” the source told us.
That’s not accurate.
After our story ran, Robert Costa of the Washington Post reported that RGA officials told him “their original plan had been to spend about $900,000 on the Wisconsin airwaves in the campaign’s closing days. But after internal deliberations and tightening polls, that amount has been increased to $2 million.”
That’s pretty close to the opposite of what we were told.
Our “GOP source with knowledge of RGA spending” told us: “We have another $4-5 million in TV ad time reserved for these last two weeks.” So if the RGA is committing to just $2 million now – that’s not an increase over their original amount, as RGA officials told the Post, it would appear to be a significant reduction.
What's more, Wisconsin GOP sources dispute the RGA's claim to have spent $6 million to date, putting the figure at closer to $3 million.
We'll have more clarity on this spending after the election, when final FEC reports are published. But even if we accept the RGA's new claim to the Post at face value--that they'll spend "$8 million in total in Wisconsin" by the end of the campaign--the RGA is now conceding that they are spending more on Michigan ($10 million to date) than Wisconsin.
The obvious questions: Is the RGA reducing its planned spending in one of the highest-profile and tightest gubernatorial contests in the country? If so, why? And why would the RGA spend more on Rick Snyder than Scott Walker?
Reasonable people can disagree about whether Michigan or Wisconsin should have been a higher priority for RGA spending this cycle. Sources close to the RGA point out that Walker benefited from generous RGA help during his recall election in the summer of 2012 ($9 million). But there is no disputing the fact that the race in Michigan has long been less competitive. Of the 36 polls listed on the RealClearPolitics Michigan Governor web page, the Democrat, Mark Schauer, has led in just three. In the RealClearPolitics average of polls over the last three weeks (9/30 through 10/19) Snyder has a 5.6 point lead.
In Wisconsin, by contrast, Democrat Mary Burke has led or been tied with Walker in nearly half of the polls taken since April (7 of 16). On Thursday, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that "Burke and her allies have outspent the governor and his allies on broadcast television, $8.2 million to $7.4 million, according to data compiled by the Center for Public Integrity," but "Republicans are believed to have a spending advantage" on cable. Campaign spending is just one factor out of many that can determine the outcome of a close race, but the race in Wisconsin couldn't get any closer. Walker and Burke are now tied--47.3 percent to 47.3 percent--in the average of polls.