Matt DeFour’s rundown in the Wisconsin State Journal is pretty thorough, and talks to party hacks to sort out the nuts-and-bolts reasons. But I think a simple look at these topline totals explains a lot.
Overall turnout was 66.2 percent of eligible voters, according to the Wisconsin Elections Commission, the lowest level in a Wisconsin presidential election since 1996.I think the lack of total votes and high third party figures (nearly 5.2%) point to the fact that many were uninspired and/or disgusted by both Trump and Clinton, and didn’t feel either were worth filling in the marker for…or even worth making the effort to vote at all. This is certainly true in 3 Lakeshore counties with significant minority populations in Southeastern Wisconsin.
A little more than 2.94 million votes were cast for president in Wisconsin, not counting write-ins, according to preliminary results tallied by The Associated Press. That's almost 124,000 fewer than in 2012.
Trump was able to win a close 27,000-vote victory in the state — a margin of 0.9 percent, 47.87‑46.94 — by picking up about 1,500 more votes than Romney, while Clinton received nearly 239,000 fewer votes than Obama.
Third-party candidates received more than 150,000 votes.
Voter dropoff, president 2012 vs. 2016
Milwaukee Co. 492,576 vs 444,108 (-48,468, -9.8%)
Racine County 103,364 vs 96,904 (-6,460, -6.2%)
Kenosha County 80,897 vs 77,576 (-3,321, -4.1%)
Dig deeper, and you’ll see that the voter dropoff was especially bad in the Cities of Milwaukee, Racine and Kenosha, and it’s pretty infuriating if you are a Dem, because Hillary Clinton won the City of Milwaukee with 76.6 percent of the vote, Racine with 64 percent, and Kenosha with 56%.
City of Milwaukee 288,459 vs. 248,045 (-40,414, -14.0%)
City of Racine 35,512 vs. 30,837 (-4,675, -13.2%)
City of Kenosha 45,148 vs 41,935 (-3,213, -7.1%)
If you give Clinton the same percentages in those 3 cities, but the same turnout as those cities had in the Obama-Romney election of 2012, then she makes up over 23,000 votes on Trump. As of today, Trump unofficially leads Clinton in Wisconsin by 27,257 votes. Seems to explain a lot of it, eh? Now whether that dropoff’s all due to dispirited voters or whether it’s the suppression measures passed by Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP, I’ll leave that up to you.
Now that doesn’t mean there wasn’t also a shift in how the voters chose, especially in rural parts of the state. Take a look at this picture of the final 2016 presidential results by county in Wisconsin
And compare it to this picture from 2012's presidential election. The darker colors are for margins of 30+ only, but you'll still get the idea.
The erosion in Western Wisconsin by Clinton is very telling when you look at these two maps, and you can see how Senate Majority Leader Jen Shilling nearly lost her seat, which includes 2 of these blue-to-red counties. Interestingly, Feingold did better than Clinton in these areas and South Central Wisconsin, winning 5 more counties than Hillary, and consistently getting another 3-5 of the electorate.
Also notice the darker red in Northeastern Wisconsin. Obama was competitive in the 920 in 2012, staying within 2 points of Romney in big-population Brown and Outagamie Counties, and actually won Winnebago County (Oshkosh). But Clinton lost Brown County by nearly 11, Outagamie by 14, and Winnebago by 7.5. This gave Trump an advantage of nearly 34,700 in those three counties alone, more than his entire winning margin in the state, and Johnson did even better in those 3 large counties, beating Feingold by over 47,700 votes, nearly half of his winning margin.
The Trump 2016 map in Wisconsin resembles Scott Walker’s 2014 midterm map more than Obama’s 2012 map, and the lower voter turnout goes along with that trend. Those are things that should alarm Dems in the state going forward, but also identifies the 2016 results as being far from the major mandate for the GOP that some may want to portray it as. Indeed, Trump has basically the same number of votes Romney got in 2012 when Mittens was losing by nearly 7% to Obama.
Moral of the story for Dems- get someone at the top of the ticket that the Wisconsin voters like, so they’ll want to go out to the polls and vote for them. Hillary’s loss of 71 of 72 counties to Bernie Sanders should have been a warning sign, but the top-down DNC and DPW refused to hear the message, and now we’re going to have to live with the awful results.
I’ll have more to break down as the more official numbers come in. But those items stand out to me for now.