Wednesday, June 6, 2012

So what the hell happened on Election Night- Swings or no swings

Well that was a major letdown (with the exception of the Lehman win giving Dems the Senate). When I heard by 9pm that Walker was being projected the winner while ballots were literally still being cast in Milwaukee and counted in Madison, I was hoping for it to be some kind of mistake that would be reversed with a major turnout and a Barrett win (and wouldn't that have been an amazing ending for this!). Then I got to my girlfriend's place after doing my duty for democracy, and saw this statewide map, and my disbelief turned to "What the fuck???"

So what went wrong that turned what seemed to be a close race into a near-7 point win for Walker? The map tells part of the story, and especially as you look to the north and west in the state. As you'll see, in recent years, Western and Central Wisconsin had trended blue, but that didn't happen yesterday.

So that's what I want to discuss- the swings. Remember, I said that Barrett needed a lot of "springbacks" from the 2010 election back toward Obama's win total in 2008 in order to take this race. Well, that generally didn't happen, and the interactive map shows Walker expanded his lead in several major counties, particularly near Appleton, Green Bay, Wausau and Western Wisconsin.

Major swings to Walker, 2012 vs. 2010
Outagamie Co.- Walker +9.1% to Walker +23.2% (+14.1%)
Brown County- Walker +13.6% to Walker +20.0% (+6.4%).
Waupaca County- Walker +19.6% to Walker +30.0% (+10.4%)
Marathon County- Walker +17,2% to Walker +24.9% (+7.7%)
Trempealeau, Buffalo and Pepin Co's combined- Walker +3.4% to Walker +18.0% (Walker +14.6%).

I have to think those are the places where the money advantage played a big role, as Walker used ads to convince people of a reality that generally didn't exist (because there wasn't a lot of direct appearance of Walker's damage other than some staffing changes at school districts). Also, as John Nichols accurately pointed out, this was an area where Walker's Milwaukee-bashing might have hit home. Those types of swings made a major difference in keeping Barrett's turnout-based larger leads in Dane and Milwaukee Counties at bay (Barrett won those 2 counties by a combined 205,000 votes, or another 42,000 above his 2010 advantage).

There were a few places who swung towards Barrett. Dane County swung 1.7% to Barrett for a 15% springback to '08, and Milwaukee County swung 3.1% to Barrett for a springback of about 24%. Note some other main counties that swung toward Barrett yesterday,

Major swings to Barrett, 2012 vs. 2010
Rock County- Barrett +6.9% to Barrett +12.3% (+5.4%), 24% springback.
Racine County- Walker +13.1% to Walker +6.2% (+5.9%), 29% springback.
Kenosha County- Walker +3.7% to Barrett +1.2% (+4.9%), 21% springback.
Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland Co's Combined- Barrett 18.1% to Barrett +25.8% (+7.7%) 40% springback.

Note that Rock, Racine and Kenosha are all blue collar counties with an industrial heritage. You don't think Walker's union-bashing played a role in them moving to Barrett (and putting Lehman in the Senate over Wangaard)? Paul Ryan should take notice of that, too, since all 3 counties are in the heart of his district. And Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland are in the area where the Mining Bill was written for. Guess it tells you Walker didn't exactly have the support of the locals with that one, did it?

And that does seem to be a pattern. The more you were directly affected by Act 10 and other Walker policies, the more you didn't like the guy. Meanwhile out in the sticks, the damage of Fitzwalkerstan hasn't been easy to see, except for the mill closings around Wausau - I don't know what the hell those people are thinking by standing with Walker, other than showing resentment of people whose lives haven't taken the hits.

The pro-Walker media propaganda and the lack of firsthand experience of Walker's damage probably helped lead to these answers from the New York Times exit poll.

When are recall elections appropriate?
For any reason 27%
Onlt for official misconduct 60%
Never 10%

And since Walker hadn't been charged by John Doe yet, it seems a vast majority of voters were casting ballots in an election that they felt shouldn't happen. If only 3.5% of voters changed their vote from Barrett to Walker on the basis of it being a recall vs. general election, that's the difference in the election right there. I'm thinking that's probably the case.

So this is why Walker hardly has a "mandate" for action or is vindicated in any way- it is likely that a strong reason for his victory is the reluctance of certain voters to remove elected officials before their term is up. All I can say is that I bet a lot of those people will regret that way of thinking within the next 12 months, to all of our detriment.

The other lesson to be learned from the vote swings- the Dems need to become a 72-county party. They have lost the Hwy. 29 corridor and the Northeastern part of the state. The DPW already is good at getting the boots on the ground and voters out in Milwaukee and Madison, but they need to take that same attitude to the rest of the state to get back a lot of the voters they have lost in those areas since 2008.

And it starts with going face-to-face with a strong message of values explaining why we invest in education, respect our environment and demand a chance at an improved life for all Wisconsin citizens, not just the rich and the corporate. What people forget about the recalll movement is that when the Uprising began, a lot of it had a core message of "We do not do business this way in Wisconsin, we're better than this." The Dems need to capture this message and use it positively as a contrast to the constant negativity and division that WisGOP tries to sow. Because if they do, I have a feeling they will stand to make major gains in the next 29 months as the damage of the Fitzwalkerstanis becomes obvious.

So yes, last night was a setback, but it was not a killer. We will fight on, hold these guys accountable, stop and reverse the destruction to the Wisconsin institutions that we hold dear, and restore this state to the great place that we know it to be.


  1. Jake,

    Many days before the election, I figured Walker would win by 6 to 8 points. Last I saw Walker won by 6.92.

    But I have to come here and post to eat crow because I posted here that Barrett would struggle to win 6 counites. I figured Barrett would easily win Milwaukee, Dane, and the extreme NW tier of Douglas, Bayfield and Ashland plus he could win 1 to 3 more counties but by slim margins.

    But Barrett won 12 counties--a lot more than 6.

    I know you will disagree, but IMO Walker won due to 1) Act 10 changes are actually working to improve WI, 2) a large slice of WI voters rebelled against the constant recalls and millions of dollars of scarce state dollars being spend to recalls and bitter and never ending negative attacks and 3)terrible strategic tactics that were employed by your side (pretty much all legal but in the long run not helpful to your cause).

    Both supporters of Walker and opponents of Walker need to find ways to work cooperativbely for the good of the state of WI. I know that right now that seems impossible to do. But when you look for them there are small things that can be done cooperatively to build a better WI.

    The John Doe thing will play out one way or the other. Nothing you or I can do about that.

    But the divisiveness and anger has gotta stop. WI desperately needs to heal. Everybody should do their part to accomplish that.

  2. You're right that I disagree on Parts 1 and 2. No one can objectively say this state is better off after 1 year of Act 10, not with the job losses, home value destruction, and divisiveness that it has sown. The one thing I will say is that people haven't had the 2nd year kick in yet, which is where the Act 10 items have already happened, but the cuts remain, showing it to be the one-time fiscal gimmick that it is.

    As for "constant recalls", that's the propaganda machine talking. There's been exactly 2 sets of recalls over the last 16 months, and the GOP started one in March 2011. But certainly the media and the GOP played into that perception, which leads some people to become recall-weary. I have a feeling it'll make a lot more sense to people when they see the wreck that the 2013-15 budget situation is.

    3. I agree the Dems didn't do enough to go statewide and were a bit too John Doe-centric, which I mentioned that above.

    I'd like the divisiveness and anger to stop, but it starts with the guy in the Governor's chair. After the "divide and conquer" actions of his last 10 years in Milwaukee and Madison, forgive me if I'm skeptical. It's actions, not words, that'll stop the division, and unlike what today's GOP thinks it means, cooperation goes beyond "agreeing to see things our way."

  3. You know what sank you also?

    You based the recall on collective bargaining and then when Barrett wins collective bargaining was no longer the issue

    It stank of bait and switch