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Takeaways from 'Meet the Voters' -- Wisconsin Edition

NBC's Frank Thorp

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Wisconsin is one of the most polarized states in the country, and the bitter governor's race between Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Democrat Mary Burke is wearing the old partisan grooves thin.
We visited with some voters in the Badger State to find out what they care most about this November, what they want from their leaders, and whether there are any swing voters left here at all.
1) There's a sense of sheer exhaustion from the polarization here.
Everyone knows exactly where they stand; Walker supporters are still with him, and Burke backers are stalwart -- mostly in their opposition to the governor -- but both sides are simply tired of fighting. It's like the 15th round of a boxing match, when both sides still want to win but are tired of beating each other up. If the exhaustion factor drives down turnout, that could hurt Burke, who needs all her potential voters to come out of the woodwork. But the silver lining: Wisconsin is at least working on its recovery process from the deep polarization. Exhaustion is part of the healing process, but Washington is still in full battle mode.
2) The Obama factor is different here than in Senate races.
Around the country, Republicans are running hard against Obama while Democrats are delicately negotiating their relationship with the president. But it's harder to run against the White House in a governor's race, especially in a state that's picked Democratic presidential candidates for decades. That could be a problem for Team Walker, because he needs more to run on than just fire-up-the-base opposition to the president. Burke has an enthusiasm problem too, demonstrated by how her supporters are almost exclusively anti-Walker rather than pro-Burke. She had a LOT of momentum before the Walker campaign seized on the scandal involving the plagiarism of her jobs plan, but she's struggled to regain it. The Democrat seems to have opted for turning out the base rather than reaching out to any remaining persuadable voters, though; Obama will campaign with her next week.
3) Walker's presidential star seems to have dimmed.
The chatter about Walker's possible 2016 run seems to have quieted, in part because Walker himself isn't talking about it. It's not clear whether that's because he's having doubts or because the outside enthusiasm around him has dampened, but either way, he's just not looking as strong as he had. This race seems to have bogged him down, and his lack of foreign policy experience isn't helping him raise his profile in this age of ISIS. And, even though he's mostly beaten it back so far, the investigation involving potential campaign finance violations have dinged his image. Even if he wins this re-election race, he may not be a) the juggernaut or b) the likely candidate we all thought he would be.
NBC's Carrie Dann contributed to this report.

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