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Contest already underway to define 2014 governor’s race

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MADISON (WITI) -- The 2014 race for governor is more than a year away, but already, the contest to define the campaign is underway. This week, Milwaukee TV viewers are seeing the first of many political ads on the subject. The Democrats are saying Scott Walker broke his central campaign promise on jobs, and Walker supporters say the Governor has improved the state's economy.

"Most Wisconsinites are going to tune out and say,'Oh my God, it's more than a year before the 2014 elections, do I really have to watch TV and see these political commercials?'" UW-Milwaukee Professor Mordecai Lee said.

Lee says early advertising can end up paying dividends in the game to define a race.

"The logic of early advertising, as much as most people hate it, is that you do get a foot forward before public opinion really freezes," Lee said.

Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, an organization that supports Walker is running an add saying the state's economic situation is improving -- saying Wisconsin ranks fifth in the nation in new manufacturing jobs.

The Wisconsin Democratic Party says only one number matters: 250,000 -- the number of jobs Gov. Walker said he would create when he ran for governor.

"When he ran, he said 'my tenure in office should be judged by if I create 250,000 new jobs,'" Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate said.

So is Gov. Walker backing away from his promise?

"There's no hedging. For us, we set a big, bold, aggressive goal. It's interesting that Mike Tate, who presided over the party when his governor lost 100,000 jobs -- and he's focusing on the fact that we've gained tens of thousands of jobs, and we're going to continue to," Gov. Walker said.

Since Gov. Walker took office, Wisconsin has created 76,000 jobs, and Illinois, more than 165,000.

"I think the real question is why is the economy lagging?  Our competitors who demographically are very similar to us, what is Scott Walker doing wrong and why is he trying to hide from the fact that he's failing at his central campaign promise?" Tate said.

Professor Lee says Walker's promise could become a political problem.

"He didn't make a kind of a vague promise. He said, 'I know how to create 250,000 private sector jobs.'  The problem in politics is it's really easily understood, and easily remembered," Lee said.

So far, there is no official Democratic candidate who has said he or she will run against Walker, but much of the buzz is around former Trek Bicycles executive Mary Burke.

Until there are two candidates, and more direct dialogue between them, experts say it seems likely the early stages of the campaign will be fought over the campaign promise from the last election.

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