Gubernatorial candidates trade barbs in new campaign ads

MADISON (AP) — Gov. Scott Walker is releasing his first television ad in the governor's race, pushing back against Democratic challenger Mary Burke's message that unemployment has gone up under his watch.

The Republican incumbent launched his first ad on Friday, March 7th, the same day that Burke was running her initial spot.

Walker's ad takes aim at Burke's claim that unemployment has gone up under Walker.

Unemployment was 7.8 percent when Walker took office. It is 6.3 percent now.

However, unemployment never went higher than 4.8 percent when Burke was Wisconsin's commerce secretary between 2005 and 2007.

Burke campaign spokesman Joe Zepecki says the fact that unemployment was lower when Burke was commerce secretary than now is inconvenient for Walker.

"Here we are in March. The November election is half a year away and it's already starting and I think it's going to be a long, tough summer," said Mordecai Lee, Professor of Governmental Affairs at UWM. "I think both ads are technically true and technically wrong."

Lee says in today's political climate, it's easy to slice and dice statistics to make candidates look good. Both Burke and Walker are standing behind their ads.

"I stand by the numbers in my jobs ad. Unemployment was 4.8 percent when I was Commerce Secretary. It's now over 6 percent. We had 72,000 more jobs then than we have today," said Burke.

"Everybody knows that unemployment's down since I've taken office. In fact, it's down from where it was at the peak in Jim Doyle's last term," Walker said.

Professor Lee says there are very few undecided voters in the state and the point of the ads may not be to change voters' minds.

"But rather it's to agitate one's base, to get one's base sort of angry and eager to vote, and I'm dying to vote because the other person is sort of the demon and we've got to prevent that person from winning the election," said Lee.

Experts say voters might be amazed at just how sustainable the attack-counter attack cycle will be during this campaign cycle.