Sunday, August 16, 2015

Dirty secret- Walker's electoral record ain't that impressive

A meme Scott Walker is trying to give to GOP supporters is "I won 3 statewide elections in a blue state that hasn't voted GOP for president since 1984." On the surface, it would seem that would make for an attractive resume for the average Republican voter who has seen his or her party get fewer popular votes than the Democrats in 5 of the last 6 presidential elections. But once you drill down even a little, Walker's claim of "winning over voters with a conservative message" falls apart, as Scotty's electoral success seems to have a lot to do with midterm electorates that favored Republicans in Wisconsin, and had little to do with anything Walker did himself. In fact, it can be argued that Walker UNDERPERFORMED compared to the average Republican in the 2010 and 2014 elections.

First of all, let’s not forget that 2010 and 2014 were major victories for Republicans nationwide, where they gained numerous amounts of seats in Congress, and also won big at the state level, as GOP candidates won 24 of the 34 races for Governor. If you look at the national vote for the House of Representatives for those two elections (a good proxy for a nationwide vote, as all seats in the House were up for re-election), Walker does no better than the Republican Party as a whole.

Margin of victory, 2010 vs 2014
GOP in U.S. House +6.61%
Walker vs. Barrett +5.77% (-0.84%)

GOP in U.S. House +5.78%
Walker vs. Burke +5.67% (-0.11%)

In addition, Wisconsin’s Republican candidates for Congress drew a larger vote share in both years than Walker did.

Wisconsin GOP House vote 54.46%
Walker 52.25% (-2.21%)

Wisconsin GOP House vote 52.36%
Walker 52.26% (-0.10%)

So if anything, Walker ran BEHIND the GOP totals in those lower-turnout elections. Sure, Walker may be able can hang his hat on winning the recall by a slightly larger margin in Summer 2012 (6.8%). But let’s face it, he got a decent amount of votes in that election from cowards and suckers people who were voting against the idea of a recall more than supporting Scotty’s policies. If those people were even 3.5% of the total electorate, and would have switched to a Dem in other circumstances, Walker would have lost.

I’ll also note that while Walker tries to imply that Wisconsin’s proximity to Iowa give him an advantage, Walker’s vote share in the places closest to Iowa tell another story. The 7 counties closest to the Hawkeye state are in the southwest corner of Wisconsin, and are largely rural (La Crosse is the only one of any size). While these areas are somewhat swingy and a bit bluer than the rest of the state on the presidential level, outside of the immediate La Crosse area, they have had Republican Assembly and Senate members since the 2010 elections. Also keep in mind that Walker got almost the exact same share of the vote in both of his November victories (52.25% in 2010, 52.26% in 2014).

As you can see, Walker lost ground in 6 of the 7 counties, had two of those counties flip from red to blue (two of only 4 statewide) and in the one county he did gain in (Crawford) he still lost the county in both elections. That’s not a very impressive result to me, and you can imagine how badly Walker would been slammed with a better Dem Party performance statewide and a better Dem Party candidate for governor. And the parts of Wisconsin that are closest to Iowa are among those that have turned the most against him between his first election, and his last one.

If some enterprising national reporter is so inclined, he or she might want to trek up Highway 151 and ask why this might be. Especially with many rural school districts in those areas getting pinched by Walker’s pro-voucher policies, I’m thinking they might get some answers that don’t exactly fit Scotty’s “I’m special because I won in a “blue state” meme.” Not only because those near-Iowa areas didn’t vote for Scotty, but because Wisconsin didn’t act like a blue state in the midterms of 2010 or 2014, but was instead was more like a slightly red one where Walker would have been expected to win regardless of what he did.

These numbers expose a dirty secret about Scott Walker’s elections for governor - it’s not that impressive. In fact, it is more a reflection of anti-Obama midterm electorates filled with angry white men in Wisconsin than anything special that pertains to Walker himself (and I’m not even bringing up the huge money and propaganda advantages Walker had, something not likely to be duplicated in the GOP primaries or the presidential elections). In other words, Scotty earns no points for winning in GOP years with GOP-leaning electorates. Try again, kiddo.


  1. Remember also that Doyle won in 2002 partly with the help of Tommy Thompson's brother Ed taking 10% on the Libertarian ticket and that in 2006 he had incumbency and a 8.0% (US House) national Democratic wave at his back.

    Prior to Doyle the last time a Democrat won the governorship here was over three decades ago. It's historically been uphill for a Dem to gain the Governor's mansion.

    1. Didn't Tony Earl win the governorship in 1982, a mere 20 years prior to Doyle's win.

    2. Geo_ Sadly, 1982 was over 30 years aho, and I think that's Geoff's point. Doyle is the only Dem who has won a Guv election since Tony did. And Tommy won his elections by a much wider margin that Scotty did