Republican Governors Association books $5M for Scott Walker ads

MADISON — The Republican Governors Association said Monday it has booked $5.1 million in television ad buys for the fall in Wisconsin as Gov. Scott Walker warned on conservative talk radio that winning re-election will be more difficult than when he overcame a recall effort in 2012.

News of the large ad buy comes after the Democratic Governors Association said last month it was spending $20 million in Wisconsin and three other battleground states that have Republican governors — Michigan, Nevada and Ohio.

Walker, who is up for a third term in November, has repeatedly warned in recent months that Democratic wins in other state elections should alarm Republicans. He called a Democratic special state Senate election victory in January a "wake up call" and cautioned after the liberal's choice for state Supreme Court won in a landslide last week that a "blue wave" could be coming to Wisconsin.

"The left, man, they're motivated," Walker said Monday on "The Jay Weber Show." ''Unfortunately, anger and hatred is a pretty powerful motivator. We've got to match that, but we've got to match that not with that anger and hatred. We've got a great story to tell."

Wisconsin Democratic Party spokeswoman Melanie Conklin said Walker is trying to accuse Democrats of being angry because polling shows voters feel that it is actually Republicans who are hateful.

"Walker polls more than anyone and changes his rhetoric in a sad attempt to save himself because Republicans are out of step with the public in Wisconsin," she said.

Walker said successes of his administration — cutting taxes, passing the Act 10 law that forced state workers to pay more for pensions and health insurance while greatly restricting collective bargaining and freezing tuition at the University of Wisconsin — were all in jeopardy if he is defeated. He said the good news of his time in office, including the state unemployment hitting a record low of 2.9 percent in February, has been underreported by a "cynical" news media.

Walker said he was extending a personal invitation to every listener to join his campaign and help.

"This election is going to be tougher, I think, than the recall election was," Walker said, referring to his 2012 win that made him the first governor in U.S. history to defeat a recall. He went on to be re-elected to a second term in 2014.

Money for the ads from the RGA will help.

RGA spokesman Jon Thompson, who announced the $5.1 million ad buy at the same time Walker was issuing his latest caution to Republicans, said the spending shows the group is "all-in" for Walker's re-election. The ad time was booked for the five weeks leading up to the Nov. 6 election.

The RGA previously announced it had booked $20 million in TV ads in Arizona, Florida, Nevada and Ohio, also for the final few weeks before the November elections.

It's often cheaper to book early rather than wait. The group said ad time is expected to be in high demand in Wisconsin and those other states because of competitive U.S. Senate and House races.

Walker is fighting for re-election at the same time as Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. The race already has generated more than $9 million in spending by outside groups, more than twice as much as any other U.S. Senate race, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Two Republicans — state Sen. Leah Vukmir and Delafield businessman Kevin Nicholson — are running in that race. A third Republican, millionaire businessman Eric Hovde, announced on Sunday that he was not going to run after he first tried in 2012 and came in second in the GOP primary that year.

There is a crowded field of more than a dozen Democratic candidates for governor, with nine top-tier contenders who are actively raising money and campaigning across the state. Two virtually unknown candidates, Bob Harlow and Michele Doolan, announced in recent days they were dropping their long-shot campaigns.

The primary to winnow the field in both the Senate and gubernatorial races is Aug. 14.