Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Election follow-up. NE Wisconsin wins it for Walker

I’m still in disappointment over last night, both on the size of Gov Walker’s win (by 5.7% as we stand right now), and because of the GOP expanding their majorities in the State Legislature. Barring any John Doe indictments or the state’s fiscal crisis expanding in the next 2 months, things are going to get really scary around here.

But I wanted to backtrack from my pre-election post, and see how the preliminary election returns in the Governor’s race measures up to what I was looking at on Monday’s preview story.

I first wanted to look at the 19 counties that voted for President Obama in 2008 and 2012, but also voted for Governor Walker in 2010 and 2012. I said Mary Burke had to win back a sizable amount of these counties to win. Let’s see how it shaped up.

Walker-Obama Counties that voted for Burke

That’s it, the other 17 counties stayed with Walker. Many in the central and western parts of the state didn’t stay with him by much (Burke was within 5% in Grant, Jackson, and Lafayette Counties), and there were some inroads made by Burke in western Wisconsin. But it wasn’t enough to take those light-blue legislative seats back, and she ended up losing by nearly 15,000 votes between the higher-population Obama counties of Racine and Winnebago (more on Winnebago and the Fox Cities area in a bit). Here's a look at the statewide map, with the darker shading showing a bigger victory for a certain candidate.

Burke won three of the five Obama counties that Walker had won once (Columbia, Crawford, and Green) but shockingly lost Kenosha County. Trempealeau County also stayed with Walker, with Scotty getting 52.4% of the vote there, just above his statewide total. I said on Monday Burke had to win all five of those counties, she didn’t, and you see the result.

The other thing I looked at was to see which counties swung the most between 2012’s recall election, and the 2012 presidential election. And what I said on Monday was
If Walker cannot recover at least 10 points of these swings tomorrow night, he's in big trouble.
Well, let’s go to the numbers, starting with 10 counties that swung the most from those two elections in 2012.

Swings between 2012 Presidential election and 2014 Gov election
Lafayette- Dem +15.4 to GOP +3.3 (18.7 swing)
Trempealeau- Dem +14.1 to GOP +6.0 (20.1)
Manitowoc- GOP +2.8 to GOP +24.9 (22.1)
Buffalo- Dem +2.9 to GOP +16.4 (19.3)
Richland- Dem +16.1 to GOP +1.7 (17.8)
Forest- Dem +5.4 to GOP +15.1 (20.5)
Kewaunee- GOP +5.4 to GOP +25.5 (20.1)
Jackson- Dem +15.0 GOP +2.6 (17.6)
Crawford- Dem +20.0 to Dem +2.8 (17.2)
Shawano- GOP +10.0 to GOP +30.9 (20.9)

I also mentioned that the larger-population counties of Brown, Marathon, Outagamie, and Sheboygan were key counties to see if Walker could get these areas to snap back towards the Republicans from the relatively close outcomes of the Obama-Romney election. And boy did they ever snap back into dark red.

Brown- GOP +1.8 to GOP +17.6 (15.8)
Marathon- GOP +6.1 to GOP +23.5 (17.4)
Outagamie- GOP +1.8 to GOP +20.1 (18.3)
Sheboygan- GOP +8.8 to GOP +27.3 (18.5)

These four counties are either in the 920 area code and/or along Highway 29, and that swingy part of the state is what ultimately won the election for Walker (something accurately broken down by Andy at Wisconsin Soapbox in past posts). Western Wisconsin actually came back to the Dems some in this election, and Burke ended winning 14 counties in the western 2/3 of the state- which is often enough to make the race around a 50-50 proposition. But in the eastern 1/3 of the state, she won exactly 1 county- Milwaukee. And she only won Milwaukee by less than 100,000 votes, which isn’t close to what Barack Obama ran up in the two presidential elections (Obama won in Milwaukee County by over 170,000 in 2008 and by 177,500 in 2012). Even Tom Barrett won Milwaukee County by 107,000 during the recall election in 2012. The Dems were hoping for much more of a gap than the 98,500 Burke won by in the 414 last night.

I could go on and on as to why I think this is, but no sense heaping on the depression at this time. But what there is no doubt about is that Scott Walker’s victory last night is almost entirely due to his big-time showing in eastern Wisconsin, and that many of these areas are places that Barack Obama was at least competitive in (Obama even won several of these counties during his and the Dems’ 2008 landslide in Wisconsin). Wisconsin Dems need to figure out why this is so.


  1. Jake - Thanks for all your hard work. I consider your posts required reading, and I hope you keep it up as we plunge into whatever gnashing of teeth lies ahead in Fitzwalkerstan 2.0.

    Some observations from election night that I'd love to hear your thoughts on at some point…

    1) Why did Mary Burke concede so early? Milwaukee and Madison results were just starting to come in. She ultimately did lose, but why not wait to see if it tightened up some? Everybody and their mom knows that the rural red counties get their numbers tallied up first, so of course Walker would be out to an early lead. As I was listening to Mary give her concession speech, I was hitting refresh on and she picked up 4 percentage points while she was live on air.

    2) Doug La Follette got 38k more votes than Mary Burke. If you figure most of the people voting for the Libertarian or Constitution Parties for Sec of State voted Walker for Gov, my hastily constructed spreadsheet suggests ~60k+ people voted Walker/La Follette. Who are these people? Why would anyone split their ticket that particular way? More importantly, why couldn't Mary keep pace with La Follette? Sure, he's been around forever, but he didn't campaign or spend any money.

    3) What happened in Racine/Kenosha Counties? I always thought they were reliably at least light blue.

    4) It has little impact on the overall results, but what happened in Kewaunee County? Thanks to Walker's pals at the Dairy Business Association they don't even have clean drinking water, but went for Walker 62/38.

  2. Yes, being from Manitowoc I was stunned by the numbers here. Its interesting to note that in the city of Manitowoc the supposedly young Liberal Mayor wone reelection by a super majority just last two years ago and was feted at the Dem convention as the second coming. In letter to the editor at he endorsed Lanning and Harris (who also lost big here) but notably ignored Burke refusing to answer my question about that omission. Clearly there is a huge disconnect between Nickels election and the swing to the right on the other candidates though Im skeptical that Nickels is the Liberal Dems seem to think he is. In the same election voters turned down 3 referendums to bolster the school system which has been losing a million per year from the state and is increasingly in desperate condition.

    1. Good info from the ground in NE Wi, Bernie (love the Courthouse Brewpub there!). Maybe it takes a year without Ships football for people to wake up and see just what these policies are doing.

      From your position, is it religion or Archie Bunkerism or something else that turned a reliably blue, pro-union area into a supporting the union-busting governor who's funded by rich corporate oligarchs? And why is it not so extreme in presidential elections?

      As you mention, western Wisconsin is starting to get it, but the east side is slipping away.

    2. Our local party has completely disintegrated. Ive written a lot about it at my blog You might find the observations interesting.

  3. Its also interesting to point out that counties most affected by frac and iron mining shifted severely toward Dems.

  4. In the de-industrializing parts of the US the white working class, particularly men, have thrown in their lot with right wing populists for the most part.

    I think the primary reason for this is the lack of program of the Democratic Party when it comes to industry.

    Charlie Sykes, Walker, Belling and Rush give them red meat daily-scapegoats. This is more than the Dems have delivered since Carter.

    The Democratic Party has failed to deliver one of their main talking points-jobs. Why? because they are a neo-liberal party now.

    Finance, real estate, insurance is where many jobs are, industry not so much, why? because of the embrace of free trade and de-regulation. These are part and parcel of the Carter, Clinton, Obama plans.

    The Dems have meagerly defended the welfare state and stood up for reproductive freedom but these issues only antagonize white male workers.

    It may be too late for the upper Midwest for the white working class and I blame the policies of the Democrats.

    I know many of these issues are structural but humans create the system that we live in and places like Germany and Scandanavia have weathered the storm far better than the US.

    I know there are good people in the party who have talked about these issues but in the end when you support the Carter's, Clinton's and Obama's of the world you get what you pay for.

    1. I think you have a lot of accuracy in those statements, Foncsy. The Dems have done a horrible job in Wisconsin in pointing out that GOPs are the ones who favor the low-wage "race to the bottom" that has especially screwed blue-collar white guys over the last 30 years.

      And directly taking on Sykes and Belling and similar hate-mongerers as the water-carriers for the rich that they are, and that'll get enough of them to wake up. And NO SUPPORT FOR BAD TRADE DEALS LIKE TPP. You'll notice Tammy Bakdwin spoke out against unfair trade, and did a whole lot better on these parts than Burke did.

      Maybe that's the cynical calculation Walker inc made with those Trek ads, which seemed like a major hypocritical backfire in the rest of the state.

    2. Not sure if it was Tammy's message more than it was the year she ran (see Russ Feingold).

      Obama is already talking nicee nice about TPP.

      That's a big mistake unless you are hitching your wagon to the magic demographic changes that will automatically carry the Dems to power.

      Latinos are the key here obviously and if they are able to move up a notch or 2 I would bet they move Right.

      Industrial policies that work are what is needed and a strong defense of workers rights and social welfare. Otherwise, why vote for Republican lite Tom Barret, Cuomo, Clinton.....?