1. The swingy places - where are they, and who do they swing to?
I touched on this in an earlier post in breaking down the Assembly districts that have seen some notable changes in outcomes in recent years.
To add onto that thought, there are 5 counties that have voted for 3 of these 4 winning statewide candidates - Donald Trump in 2016, Ron Johnson in 2016, Tony Evers in 2018, and Joe Biden in 2020.
Door (all but Evers)
Grant (all but Biden)
Kenosha (all but Biden)
Sauk (all but Johnson)
Vernon (all but Biden)
Interestingly, there is not one county in Wisconsin that voted for all 4 of those candidates. But that's likely as close to a bellweather as you are going to find.
There are also 5 counties that voted for Trump and Feingold in 2016, and Trump in 2020. And all are in the 608 area code.
All but Lafayette County voted for Tony Evers in 2018. Not big-population areas, but those seem to be interesting harbingers to me.
2. The students are back, will their votes return with them?
I mentioned this a couple of weeks back,
but it bears repeating here. Fall 2020 was a time without a COVID vaccine, and had a lot fewer students residing on college campuses than we have today. This depressed turnout in a heavily-Dem constituency, and included a lot of swingy areas of the state.
A big reason that rapidly-growing Dane County had a lower share of the turnout in 2020 (10.42%) than they did in 2018 (11.02%) was because of significant lagging in growth (or outright declines) in votes in many wards in and around the UW-Madison campus.
In that post, I also noted that assembly districts which included UW campuses in Stevens Point, Eau Claire, La Crosse, and (to a lesser extent) Oshkosh also lagged behind statewide increases in turnout between 2018 and 2020. This may not only have an effect in the statewide races for Governor and US Senate, but it may also mean Dems' chances of holding key seats in the State Assembly in Point, Oshkosh, and Whitewater, and a hotly contested State Senate seat in Eau Claire, are better than what 2020's results may indicate.
I could be taking some hopium here, but in the first post-Dobbs election in a state that has an abortion ban that will be enforced if Dems don't win, this factor has to be put into consideration. Especially when you see pictures like this.
3. The WOW and the BOW
This reflects the Milwaukee suburban/exurban counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington (WOW) and the Fox Valley counties of Brown, Outagamie and Winnebago (BOW). These areas have accounted for 22-23% of statewide votes in November elections, and gave huge margins to Ron Johnson in 2016. But Dems have gained since 2016 in both areas.
This is the biggest question mark to me in the election. Do the BOW and WOW produce results that are more like the 2016 Senate election, or the 2020 Presidential election. And will there be any differences between the Governor's race and the Senate race?
If the numbers resemble 2016 Senate, GOPs will win. But if Dems do as well as they did in the 2020 Presidential election, or if things keep sliding even more into the Dems' column in BOW and WOW? Dems will win, and might well win downticket.
4. Will Milwaukee step up, or will its share keep shrinking?
Milwaukee gives Democrats a lot of votes, but it's been a smaller part of the Wisconsin electorate since peaking in Barack Obama's re-election campaign in 2012, with the City barely making up more than 7.5% of the overall number of votes in the State in the 2020 Presidential election.
It's worth noting that Russ Feingold barely got more than 75% of votes cast for Senate out of Milwaukee in 2016, while Obama pulled nearly 79% of a much larger number in 2012, and Joe Biden pulled 78.33% in 2020. If an election that includes Milwaukee's own Mandela Barnes can get an Obama-level share of votes cast, and if the share of the statewide electorate in Milwaukee looks more like an Obama election, or even the 2016 election, then that will put the Dems in great shape statewide.
Here's your challenge, Milwaukee. If you want to stop seeing Republicans have a central strategy of appealing to racist and anti-Milwaukee attitudes, then having a huge turnout in reaction to that racist, anti-MKE rhetoric that causes GOP candidates to lose statewide
is the only way to do it.
5. The rest of Wisconsin, and the dead MAGAt factor
Just under half of Wisconsin's votes come from outside of the 10 largest counties in the state. This ranges from places as large as Wausau, La Crosse and Eau Claire all the way down to Menominee County (population 4,255), and Barack Obama won this vote in both 2008 and 2012. But it has shifted hard toward the Republicans in the Trumpian era, with Democrats losing by double digits from 2016 forward.
The GOP also benefitted from huge turnout in the less-populated areas, as their share of the electorate went from 45.3% in the 2018 Governor's race to 46.6% in 2020. But COVID-19 has claimed a lot of people in the last 2 years, and a disproportionate amount of them have been in red-voting rural counties. Here are the counties that are the top 1/3 for COVID death rates in Wisconsin, courtesy of the New York Times.
Every one of those 24 counties voted for Donald Trump, and many of these counties weren't growing before COVID started taking people away. It's morbid but also true that if everything else is held equal, these places should have a smaller effect on the 2022 election, and that's not going to help Ron Johnson and Tim Michels.
But that being said, Dems cannot afford to be down at 40% or below for the "rest of the state" vote tomorrow. And GOPs have been definitely trying to run up the score with a very MAGA-like strategy that kisses up to the Big Lie and has
resentment be central in their messaging to maximize those voters.
When you have close elections as we do in Wisconsin, a 3-5 point shift in outcome or turnout due to any of these factors could become decisive. And if things go the wrong way, it won't just be bad for the 49% of us whose candidate lost, it'll be awful for 99% of us.
Guess we'll find out soon enough, but hopefully this gives you some kind of reference to look at as the results come in, and know when you really should be happy, concerned, or depressed after 8pm tomorrow.