The Wisconsin Government Accountability Board finalized their numbers from the November 2014 elections yesterday, and with it comes a wealth of data at the county and ward level that could tell some interesting stories for the future. With that in mind, I want to review the numbers from the Governor’s Election and see what patterns hold up or may have changed. Notes from yesterday’s posting of the official results by the General Accountability Board.
For the final totals, Mary Burke ended up about 700 votes closer than was indicated on election night, which means Scott Walker won by a little under 5.7% (52.3%-46.6%). This is smaller than his Recall Election win of 6.7% in 2012, and in line with the 52.3-46.5 win he had over Tom Barrett in 2010. This is also less than the spread that Barack Obama won Wisconsin by in either of his two elections (Obama won by 6.9% in 2012, and a whopping 13.9% in 2008). Not really an overwhelming mandate if you ask me, especially when you consider that the national vote for the House of Representative ended up favoring Republicans by more than 6 points. There is an argument to be made (most recently put forth by former U.S. Rep Dave Obey) that Walker’s winning margin is a result of a national trend toward Republicans in this recent election more than anything Scotty did or the Democratic Party of Wisconsin did not do.
However, that doesn’t take the Democratic Party of Wisconsin off the hook, because there was serious erosion inside certain portions of the state that counteracted Dem gains in other parts of the state. If you take apart the state of Wisconsin by area code, you find interesting vote patterns. What I’m going to do is split up the state’s counties by what area code and geographic area they generally fall under, and then split up the sprawling 715 area code Up North to 715 East (the area that includes I-39 and US 51 and parts east) and 715 West.
Let’s compare the numbers for each section of the state in the 2010 election and the 2014 election. Walker won each election by a similar amount, but total votes in 2014 were up by 11.55% compared to 2010 (2.41 million vs 2.16 million). We’ll go south to north, and east to west.
414- Milwaukee County
2010: Barrett 61.6-37.7, Total votes 341,017
2014: Burke 62.8-36.1 (Dem +2.8), Total votes 368,093 (up 7.9%)
Gains for Dems on both fronts, although turnout wasn’t raised as much as it was in other parts of the state. The Dems padded their lead by about 17,300 votes in 2014 vs 2010 in Milwaukee County, and it is safe to say that Scott Walker couldn't be elected County Executive there today. The difference within the county is also intriguing, as Walker continues to lose the northern parts of the 414, but if anything Scotty is gaining support in the Archie Bunker-like southern parts of the county (not coincidentally, the part of Milwaukee County that's in Paul Ryan’s district is Archie Bunker-land).
262- Milwaukee suburbs and rest of Southeastern Wisconsin
2010: Walker 66.1-33.1, Total votes 479,082
2014: Walker 66.0-33.1 (Dem +0.1), Total votes 527,789 (up 10.2%)
Not really a difference in these two elections, as it still went 2-to-1 GOP in the area that includes the notorious “Ring of Fire.” They did increase turnout some, but below the state increase, so the 262 was not quite the added advantage for Walker as the media memes might think it was. But the added turnout did allow the Guv to add about 15,000 votes to his win total in this area, which counteracted most of the additional losses he suffered in Milwaukee County.
Now we get to the parts of the state where things did change over the four years.
608, Madison and rest of SW Wisconsin
2010: Barrett 57.8-40.8, Total votes 459,519
2014: Burke 60.1-38.7 (Dem +4.4), Total votes 523,494 (up 13.9%)
Scott Walker wasn’t all that known in this part of the state in 2010, with the Guv’s campaign was largely overshadowed by the Senate race between Ron Johnson and Russ Feingold. They know who Walker is now, and you see the result. Huge increases in turnout, and a sizable increase in the Dems’ margin of victory. Dems picked up over 34,000 votes in this part of the state compared to 2010, and it wasn’t just due to those hippies in Dane County. Walker also lost the non-Dane County half of this area by nearly 10,000 votes, with Columbia, La Crosse, Sauk and Vernon Counties all flipping from red to blue in 2014. If there’s one area of growth for Dems in Wisconsin, this is it.
But now watch what happens in the northeastern part of the state.
920, Northeast Wisconsin
2010: Walker 58.2-40.3, Total votes 454,840
2014: Walker 60.4-38.4 (GOP +4.1), Total votes 514,994 (up 13.2%)
Basically the Bizarro World 608, with gains in both percentage and margin of victory for the GOP (up more than 32,000 vs 2010). And if you know the demos of this area, these results scream “Dems are losing the white working-class!” Given the anti-working class philosophy of Walker and WisGOP (against a minimum wage, favoring “right-to-work for less”, not expanding BadgerCare) this is a massive fail by Mike Tate and the Wisconsin Dems for not searing this reality into people’s brains.
715 East, Rural north-central and northeast Wisconsin
2010: Walker 55.7-42.5, Total votes 153,727
2014: Walker 58.5-40.3 (GOP +5.0), Total votes 172,241 (up 12.0%)
Yes, there are fewer people, but here’s another place where Walker gained 11,000 votes compared to 2010, and the Legislative seats are almost all GOP here (even Mandy Wright’s Assembly seat in the blue-leaning Wausau area went to her GOP chalenger by less than 100 votes). This is an area where few if any voucher schools would ever locate (not enough money or people), but people in these areas are voting for the party that will steal state aid for their schools to send to voucher schools in other parts of the state. They’re also voting for the party that’s OK with grabbing resources without limits and wrecking much of the scenic part of this region that relies on tourism. Unacceptable.
715 West, Northwestern quadrant of the state
2010: Walker 53.5-44.5, Total votes 272,647
2014: Walker 54.1-44.6 (GOP+0.5), Total votes 303,703 (up 11.4%)
Not as big an advantage for Walker, or as much as a switch to him as we saw in the other two northern regions. He only added about 4,400 votes to his lead in this area, but all he needed to do was to hold serve on his margins to win the election. On many levels, this area reflects the overall vote totals- slightly more total votes than 2010, but no real change in the percentage for either side. Interestingly, this includes a large amount of the districts of U.S. Rep Ron Kind and State Senator Kathleen Vinehout, both of whom overperformed how a Dem representative would be expected to do in this area with the GOPs winning statewide. Could be worth a listen to what those people have to say.
The bottom line is that while Scott Walker lost more counties in 2014 than he ever lost in a statewide election (14), he and the Wisconsin GOP made up for that by expanding their margins in the northern parts of the state that they were already won in 2010, especially northeastern Wisconsin. The Democratic Party of Wisconsin needs to take a long hard look as to why that is, and possibly look to the gains in the 608 (both inside and outside of Dane County) as a guide to winning back a northeastern part of Wisconsin that used to be blue-collar and Dem-favorable in many places.