By Steve Jagler Special to Published Sep 29, 2010 at 4:04 PM
Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes.

Depending upon which poll you choose to believe, Republican candidate Scott Walker is either pulling away in the race to be Wisconsin's next governor or Democrat Tom Barrett is closing the gap and gaining momentum.

Most polls have shown Walker with comfortable leads in recent weeks.

However, the latest poll by The Mellman Group shows Barrett pulling within three points of his GOP rival.

The poll of 600 likely voters in the Nov. 2 general election was conducted for The Greater Wisconsin Political Fund, a Democrat-leaning organization.

"Tom Barrett has gained ground since July, while Scott Walker's growth has stalled," The Mellman Group stated. "Barrett has made significant progress among independent voters since our July poll, when Walker held a 19-point lead over Barrett (46 percent to 27 percent). Barrett has now reduced Walker's lead in that swing segment to just two points in our September survey (39 percent to 37 percent)."

One Democratic strategist who leaked the new poll results to BizTimes, took heart in Barrett's apparent rise among undecided independent voters.

"The statewide race is decided in the middle. That's where this race will be won and lost," he said, noting that Walker had to "swing hard to the right" in the Republican primary to secure the nomination from challenger Mark Neumann, and in doing so, he may have alienated some independent voters.

However, the Walker camp likes to point to other polls, including the latest Rasmussen Poll, which shows Walker commanding an eight-point advantage and leading among independents by a whopping 25 points. The Rasmussen organization is widely regarded as being skewed for Republican candidates.

Keith Gilkes, campaign manager for Walker, said, "Following Scott's huge primary win, it is clear voters are rallying behind Scott Walker's candidacy and his positive message of job creation; this despite the millions spent in desperate attack ads by Gov. Jim Doyle to ensure a third term of his policies by his hand-picked candidate, Tom Barrett."

So, how can the same pollsters survey (presumably) the same pool of likely voters in Wisconsin and come up with entirely different results?

Just as voters increasingly must decide whether they want their political news pre-sorted by liberal (MSNBC) or conservative (Fox) news sources, the same seems to be happening in the polling industry ... One man's facts are another man's propaganda.

Even the art of political fact checking has been stained by partisanship. We now have mainstream media fact checkers and conservative fact checkers -- sometimes within the same communications company.

These days, partisans act as if they are not only entitled to their own opinions, but to their own facts, as well. The truth be damned.

Amid all of the noise and the spin, here's a good rule of thumb: Don't believe anything you hear in any political commercials this year, especially those from phantom outside groups.

And in the end, only one poll will matter.

Steve Jagler Special to

Steve Jagler is executive editor of BizTimes in Milwaukee and is past president of the Milwaukee Press Club. BizTimes provides news and operational insight for the owners and managers of privately held companies throughout southeastern Wisconsin.

Steve has won several journalism awards as a reporter, a columnist and an editor. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

When he is not pursuing the news, Steve enjoys spending time with his wife, Kristi, and their two sons, Justin and James. Steve can be reached at