Saturday, May 7, 2016

West-side, east-side divide showed again in Wis SC race

Here’s a follow-up to my analysis of statewide turnout in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race on April 5. I now want to look at who people voted for in the various counties across Wisconsin, and what that may portend for the November election at the state and maybe federal level.

To start, I am going to look at the GAB’s reports which show if a voter cast a ballot in the Democratic or Republican presidential primary, and then compare it with the results in the Supreme Court race. A common analysis is that Bigoted Becky Bradley won the Supreme Court election over JoAnne Kloppenburg because more Wisconsinites voted in the Republican presidential primary than the Democratic one. And here’s the stat that leads to that theory.

April 5 election, Wisconsin
Dem vs. GOP – GOP 52.33%, Dem 47.67%
Supreme Court - Bradley 52.23%, Kloppenburg 47.58%

But a little drilling down across the counties shows it’s not that simple. In fact, there are several counties that had notable differences from what the Dem vs. GOP split on the presidential side might say. For example, Kloppenburg overperformed in many counties in the western and northern halves of the state, where her vote share was much higher than the Democratic share of the primary ballots.

Biggest Kloppenburg “overperform”
Florence Co. +12.08%
Burnett Co. +9.01%
Washburn Co. +8.45%
Barron Co. +7.85%
Iron County +7.26%
Polk County +7.11%
St. Croix Co. +6.66%
Rusk County +6.18%
Green County +6.00%
Sawyer County +5.92%

These counties are overwhelmingly represented by Republicans in the State Legislature, and all but Green County cast more votes in the GOP primary than the Dem one. Perhaps this reflects an independent streak and/or souring on the Walker/WisGOP agenda on the state level (Walker’s approval has fallen the most in Northern and Western Wisconsin). Or maybe it just reflects more heat being generated by the GOP clown show presidential race in those parts. Either way, this indicates Dems should work hard in those areas in November, as it could have serious payoffs.

If Kloppenburg had overperformed statewide by half as much as she did in these counties, she would have won a seat on the Court. So why didn’t it happen? Because she did even worse than expected in the eastern half of the state, including a major miss in the state’s largest city, and consistently bad results in the already-pro GOP 920 area code.

Biggest Kloppenburg “underperform”
Menominee Co. -19.88%
City of Milwaukee -13.53%
Manitowoc Co. -2.39%
Winnebago Co. -2.23%
Kenosha County -2.00%
Brown County -1.76%
Outagamie Co. -1.36%
Calumet County -1.28%
Racine County -1.22%
Kewaunee Co. -1.07%

This underperformance seems to break into two reasons. The first is because of the strong performance of Bradley in NE Wisconsin, which is likely due to some combination of AM radio propaganda and the insular, socially conservative nature of the area (the comparisons to the environment enveloping Making a Murderer are noteworthy). Dems in the state have to do more to counteract this and be visible, pointing to the real damage that GOP policies and "justice" leads to, like the poisoning of well water in Kewaunee County.

The second reason deals specifically with my earlier post on turnout and dropoff between the number of votes cast in the presidential primary, and the votes in the Supreme Court race. In particular, this helps explain Kloppenburg ‘s underperformance in the typically blue areas of the City of Milwaukee and Kenosha County, and may somewhat explain some of her overperformance in other places. Let me go back to that list, and highlight the counties that also made the “underperform/overperform” list.

Top dropoff counties, Wisconsin April 2016
St. Croix Co. 21.25%
Douglas Co. 17.04%
Pierce County 13.83%
City of Milwaukee 13.71%
Kenosha County 13.64%
Ashland Co. 12.36%
Florence Co. 12.34%
Burnett Co. 11.90%

I’ll also add that many of those non-Milwaukee dropoff places were located on the border of another state, and in most cases, the local media market was not a Wisconsin-based one. Whether that means campaigns should be more or less locally-based in those areas isn’t something I know the answer to.

If we can draw anything ahead from the results of April’s Supreme Court race, it seems to indicate that there may be a continuing move toward the Dems in the western part of the state (this was also reflected by Kloppenburg winning in both rural and urban areas of SW Wisconsin). On the flip side, there seems to be a continuing problem for Dems in off-year elections in the eastern half of the state, especially in the Fox Valley counties of Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago, which usually run around 50-50 in presidential elections. The underperformance of Kloppenburg indicates that Dems should put extra emphasis on downticket races in those parts of the state, even in a presidential election year, as any gains there would likely be enough to put Dem candidates over the top statewide, and also for downticket seats that are up for grabs this November.

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