The Thinker: Rich Galen


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On, Wisconsin

Rich Galen

Thursday April 5, 2017

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  • Another canary-in-the-coal-mine election took place this week. This time it was an election for state supreme court in Wisconsin.

  • The Liberal won. Big.

  • Wisconsin is not Alabama in its voting patterns, but this election was so one-sided that, taken along with Pennsylvania 18, it may be another precursor of things to come on November 6.

  • There was a vacancy on the supreme court in Wisconsin. And, like many jurisdictions, court races are "non-partisan" in that the candidates are not labeled "Republican or Democrat."

  • But, everyone knows who is which.

  • In the case of this election the more Liberal candidate (nudge, nudge; wink, wink) is named Rebecca Dallet. The more conservative, Michael Screnock.

  • In the end Dallet won with about 55 percent of the vote to about 44 percent for the "more conservative" candidate.

  • Wisconsin, remember, is the home state of Republican Governor Scott Walker, so it is not like running statewide in California. Republicans can, and do, get elected.

  • The dean of political reporters in Wisconsin is Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

  • He pointed out in his post-election analysis that Dane County - which contains Madison - went for Dallet by an astounding 81 - 19 margin.

  • I know what you're saying: Dane County contains the state capital, the University of Wisconsin's main campus, and is as dependable a bastion of Democrat votes as any county in the state except for Milwaukee.

  • True, but Gilbert's point is that "the county turned out a rate 50% higher than the state as a whole," leading him to believe "it is on fire politically, galvanized in opposition to Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Republican President Donald Trump."

  • It is that galvanization of anger and frustration with Republicans in Washington that is fueling that Democratic fire.

  • The other day Donald Trump trumpeted his job approval number in the Rassmussen poll as being over 50%. True. What he didn't mention - nor would he have any reason to - was that on that same day Gallup had him at 39%.

  • As every campaign consultant knows: You live by your carefully selected poll numbers; you die by your carefully selected poll numbers.

  • The average of Trump's approval is about 42 percent approving and 53 percent disapprove.

  • The Reuters/Ipsos poll which has numbers near the RCP average, breaks that down to:
    "80% of Republicans, 36% of Independents and just 10% of Democrats approving of Trump's performance."

  • Stay with me, here.

  • Let's assume these number hold stable for the next seven months. If the mid-term elections are typically a referendum on the President - any President - then you would like your President to be in positive territory.

  • "Well," you say. "Trump's 41-53 isn't that much different than Obama's numbers at a similar point, right?"

  • I wouldn't take too much solace in comparing Obama and Trump polling results.

  • The week before the 2010 mid-terms Barack Obama's numbers (according to Gallup) were also underwater: 45-47.

  • "See?"

  • Hang on, there Sparky.

  • Republicans won a net 63 seats a week later.

  • If Wisconsin is, in fact, another data point showing a tsunami heading toward the Republican Party in November, then it is not all about approval-disapproval. I guarantee that many, if not most of the people who voted in the Wisconsin election couldn't tell you policy differences between the two candidates.

  • In lower-turnout elections - which this was - the difference is almost always which side had the enthusiasm - the intensity - and which side, like the last little piggy, stayed home.

  • If the 80 percent of Republicans who support Trump now still support him (and by extension GOP candidates across the board) then the trick will be to get them out to vote.

  • If support slips and GOP voters shrug their shoulders and stay home, we may see, in spite of all the gerrymandering across the heartland, a result on the Democrat side that rivals the Republican rout of 2010.

  • As Gilbert concluded his analysis: "It is a sobering fact for Republicans that the state's bluest county is getting bluer, is voting "mad" and is voting like mad."

  • On, Wisconsin.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Gilbert analysis, to the RealClearPolitics job approval page and to the Wikipedia entry for the elections of 2010. The Mullfoto is another in the Food-Truck-On-L-Street series.

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