Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has opened up a 6-point lead over Democratic challenger Tom Barrett ahead of a closely-watched June 5 recall election.
Fifty percent of Wisconsin's likely voters said in a Marquette Law School Poll that they would support retaining Walker versus 44 percent of likely voters who said they would instead elect Barrett, Walker's challenger in the 2010 general election who will again face Walker after having won last week's Democratic primary.
The poll would seem to reflect what had been an anecdotal sense that Walker has opened up an advantage in the few weeks before the recall election.
A target of Democrats and organized labor since pushing a dramatic reform of collective bargaining rights for public employees through the Wisconsin state legislature, Walker has raised millions more than his challengers in order to fend off the recall effort.
If Walker were to win, it would be a symbolic victory not only for his efforts to curb labor rights, but also for a series of other Republican governors who have embarked upon the same path. It would also be a disappointing setback for organized labor.
It could also help put Wisconsin in play for this fall's general election between Mitt Romney and President Obama.
Among likely Wisconsin voters, Obama and Romney were tied at 46 percent in a hypothetical November matchup.
A poll preceding the Democratic primary in Wisconsin had showed Barrett and Walker virtually tied in the gubernatorial recall, suggesting that the tide might have turned back toward Walker in the weeks since then.
The Republican governor had a 50 percent approval rating, according to the most recent Marquette poll, versus 46 percent of Wisconsinites who disapporove of the way he is handling his job.
The remainder of the recall campaign is still expected to be a hard-fought campaign, with millions in ads sponsored by outside groups on both sides. But reflecting the stakes of the race, and prevailing sentiment in Washington, state Democrats had to complain publicly about a lack of support from the Democratic National Committee before eliciting a promise to help raise funds.
The Marquette Law School poll, conducted May 9-12, has a 4.1 percent margin of error for the sample of likely voters.