Everybody requested this so here is the swing to the 2018 gubernatorial race. Tony Evers outran John Kerry by 0.76%. pic.twitter.com/7eFv79j14K— Drew Savicki (@SenhorRaposa) September 13, 2019
It really illustrates how different things are these days from even the early 2000s. Republicans have made major gains in much of northern Wisconsin, especially once you get out of the Green Bay/Appleton metro area, and East-Central Wisconsin. This has turned swingy or even blue-leaning areas quite red.
Dems have made up the difference by making gains in much of the southern half of the state. This is especially true in Dane County and the counties around it, and also in the Milwaukee suburbs, particularly as you get closer to the city itself (which is why state legislative districts that were gerrymandered to include the edges of Milwaukee County are now swing districts).
The real battlefield seems to be in Racine and Kenosha Counties, where percentages didn't change much at all, and the votes were relatively split between Dem and GOP. If either party gets a gain in that part (and/or a bigger turnout), it'll likely be a strong harbinger of who wins the state in 2020.
There's also a difference in where the votes are, as the population of those redder places up North stagnates and ages while Dane County and other places getting bluer tend to be growing faster (the City of Milwaukee being a notable exception).
I also can't help but notice this comparison between two relatively close GOP election losses in presidential election, and Donald Trump's win in 2016.
Number of votes, GOP presidential candidate
Bush 2004 1,478,120 (49.3%, lost)
Romney 2012 1,407,966 (45.9%, lost)
Trump 2016 1,405,284 (47.2%, won)
Trump basically "won" Wisconsin in 2016 because fewer people voted, especially in blue-leaning cities like Milwaukee. Fewer Wisconsinites voted for Trump than the amount that voted for Romney and (especially) Bush. And given the demographics of the average Trump voter, I bet a decent amount of those 1,405,284 aren't going to be around in 2020.
Now let me bring in the last 3 midterm elections for Governor.
Number of votes, GOP governor candidate
2010 Walker 1,128,941 (52.3%, won)
2014 Walker 1,259,706 (52.3%, won)
2018 Walker 1,295,080 (48.4%, lost)
Poor Scotty. He got more votes in each succeeding November election he was in. But lost his last one when more Wisconsinites finally decided to show up to vote his ass out.
This seems to indicate that when more people show up to vote in November elections, Republicans can't win. So Dems should be working on having candidates who inspire turnout in higher-population areas over trying to turn people and parts of the state who have turned against them. This may put Dems at a disadvantage for the State Legislature in much of the state (even before gerrymandering), and I am not arguing that those areas should be abandoned, as even a swing of a few percentage points in those rural areas pretty much makes GOPs toast in a statewide election, so Dems need to have a PRESENCE in every corner of Wisconsin (something they often forget to do).
But for statewide elections, the trends in voting patterns and the map to victory seems pretty straightforward. So Dems need to get causal lesser-frequency populations registered, and get them to the polls. If so, the bleeding in the state and the country can be stanched for good, and real recovery from an awful 2010s can begin.