You've probably heard that the Marquette Law School put out their final poll before Tuesday's election, with Hillary Clinton maintaining a 6-point lead over Donald Trump among Wisconsin voters, but Ron Johnson getting with 1 point of Russ Feingold in the Senate race, at 45-44.
I wanted to quickly go over a few demographic figures from that poll. I'm going to use the wider "registered voters" net, which has toplines very similar to the widely-reported "likely voter" stats anyway, and compare it to the 2012 exit polls for the Wisconsin presidential election (Final Score- Barack Obama 53, Mitt Romney 46). The first thing that jumps out at me is that young voters still aren't coming around to Clinton and Feingold like they did for President Obama, at least according to the Marquette Poll.
2012 Wis exit poll- Obama 60-37
2016 Wis president poll (4-way race)- Clinton 38-27-15-8
2016 Wis Senate poll- Feingold 39-33-10
And this group of young voters still approves of Obama 61-29. Between that stat and the fact that Russ Feingold was doing Bernie Sanders things before Bernie was even a Senator, you'd think he'd be dominating Johnson with this group. I frankly expected more pictures like this over the last couple of months, but we haven't seen it till tonight.
But that doesn't appear to be happening, and I think a lot of this is due to a decision by the Feingold campaign to run as "generic Democrat". So he gets lumped in with Clinton for a lot of these younger voters (who have had at most 1 chance to ever vote for Russ), instead of identifying himself as the Bernie-like independent guy who voted against the Iraq War, Patriot Act, and the bank bailouts.
I think that's been a mistake, and another demographic in the Marquette Poll seems to bear this out. Yes, many "Independents" are really TeaBaggers in disguise, but these numbers still jumped out at me.
2012 exit poll- Obama 49-47
2016 Wis president poll- Trump 35-34-11-8
2016 Wis Senate poll- Johnson 43-36-8
Traditionally, Russ's great electoral success has been in winning Independents who appreciate that he will do what is right, regardless of which party or interest is backing the issue. By comparison, Ron Johnson doesn't get up in the morning without being told what to do by the Kochs, and has decided most his votes over the last 6 years based on whether or not the black president supports it (and he votes the other way). But somehow these facts haven't sunk in to alleged Independents, and it wasn't been pushed nearly hard enough by Russ or the Democratic campaign earlier this year (when it needed to be pushed and cemented into voters' minds). Now, alleged Independents somehow feel Koch lapdog (mo)Ron Johnson is a better fit for them than the maverick Feingold.
That's disappointing in itself, but "traditional Dem" Russ also hasn't translated to a core Democratic constituency- African-American voters. For some reason, self-identified Black voters in Wisconsin aren't backing Russ as much as the last 2 Dem presidential candidates, and this helps explain why Russ's race is close, but Clinton's is not.
African-American vote, Wisconsin
2012 exit poll- Obama 94-6
2016 Wis president poll- Clinton 92-0(!)-3
2016 Wis Senate poll- Feingold 58-18-11
If Russ received the votes of Black voters at the same 90% clip that Clinton or Obama have gotten, then he'd be up another 3% based on that stat alone, and we'd be breathing a lot easier if this race was Russ +4. I'm not sure if that 58% Africa-American support figure is BS and won't pan out, but it also indicates some work that hasn't been done correctly by the Feingold or Dem campaigns to get that vote banked for Russ.
I think today's poll confirms Clinton is largely OK in Wisconsin, and on track to win the state by a similar level to Obama's in 2012. That's not enough for me, and it likely won't be enough to make a major change at the state or House of Representatives, but I'd live with it. However, the prospect of 6 more years of (mo)Ron Johnson "representing" my state over a legitimate great like Russ is sickening to me, and I can't believe work still needs to be done at this point. So how can Russ close the deal? It appears to come down to 1 of 2 things- 1. Russ needs to either remind young voters and Independents that they'd be electing a true individual who can help break the logjam that is messing up Congress, and will do what is right for Wisconsinites. Or 2. he can drive up support among traditional pro-Dem African-American voters.
And honestly, I see the answer to both of those issues being the same - LET RUSS BE RUSS, and let him speak from the heart to the people.
It's way overdue at this point, but there are a few rallies that still can be done to drive those fickle last few out to the polls and to give Russ their vote. He needs to be the one front and center at these events, and not portray them as solely "vote Clinton" events. This can rise above all of the dark money and the negative attacks that are filling the airwaves these days.