Posts tagged ‘Democrats’

06/07/2012

Wisconsin: How to Win Badger State

People scratch their heads upon learning Wisconsinites blew away Sen. John McCain by 14 points when supporting President Obama in 2008, but then gave right-winger Scott Walker 52% of the vote in the 2010 governor’s race, and an even slightly larger margin of 53% in the 2012 gubernatorial recall.

The distinction between the Presidential and Governor’s race is relatively easy to understand, because the issues were different. Since the state’s dominant German-American population was sent to Europe in World War I to fight an unclear battle against the Kaiser, the Badger State has had an antiwar tilt. When Sen. John McCain visited in 2008, he found no friendly military bases at which to push his endless idea of war, and as the articulate Sen. Obama delivered a message that Iraq was a mistake, it was well received. While it is no surprise McCain lost in a landslide, the Democrats must be mindful, the next contest will be much closer, as Romney has none of McCain’s military baggage.

The other factor in the governor’s election and recall survival was the focus on economics. Wisconsinites also have a very deep-seated German-American work ethic. Whether they are socialists, willing to spread the wealth, or hard-core capitalists, they all share the same belief that government must be run efficiently. They do not like seeing or hearing about waste, fraud, or abuse. Since the governor’s contest involved economics, instead of foreign affairs, the race was necessarily much closer than the 2008 contest.

The third factor has to do with political science and understanding it is generally difficult to win a statewide contest using a Madison or Milwaukee-based strategy. While Illinois, with a population of 13 million, can be won by turning out votes in greater Chicago, where 8 million reside, Wisconsin, with a total of 6 million, is not dominated by greater Milwaukee, as it only has 2 million. It was a fundamental mistake to hope Madison or Milwaukee could single-handedly carry the day. It was also a major error to have pep rallies at the end with Jessie Jackson, as he may have unintentionally triggered heavy white turnouts, in Republican dominated Waukesha, Washington, and Ozaukee counties.

Democrats have to remember winning Wisconsin means playing in all 72 counties, not just Madison or Milwaukee. In the past, with the notable exception of Jim Doyle of Madison, whose father was a federal judge, governors have come from small towns in the northern or western areas. The fact Walker was elected even though he was a Milwaukee County Executive, was because his opponent Tom Barrett, was Milwaukee Mayor, and the voters had no choice.

In the past, Republican Tommy Thompson (1987-01) came from little Elroy, in Western Wisconsin. Democrat Tony Earl (1983-87) was elected from Wausau, in the north. Republican Lee Dreyfus hailed from nearby Stevens Point, in the north. Democrat Patrick Lucey (1971-77) crawled out of tiny Gays Mills, a poor little Crawford County town, four hours from Milwaukee, near the Mississippi. Republican Warren Knowles claimed New Richmond, in the northwest. Democrat John Reynolds (1963-65) hailed from Green Bay, in the northeast. Democrat Gaylord Nelson (1959-63) came from little Clear Lake, in the northwest. Republican Vernon Thompson (1957-59) was from the farming town of Richland Center, in the southwest.

It is too easy to divide and conquer against a Milwaukee mayor. People in little white towns, who have never met anyone like Jessie Jackson, certainly were not even going to listen to his chants. They tend to think all big city people want to do is take their guns away. To neutralize the prejudice, next time, Democrats need a guy like Tom Barrett, only one without the Milwaukee or Madison label, or in other words, one from a small town. If the Republicans slander machine had not had all the problems of Milwaukee to unfairly dump on Barrett’s head, the election may have favored a Democrat.

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08/18/2011

Wisconsin Recall: A Democratic Success

Now that the last of the Wisconsin State Senate recall elections has ended, the Democrats can claim an important success, as they won five of nine contests, gained a net of two Senate seats, and reduced the Republican majority from 19-14 to 17-16. No matter what spin Gov. Walker and his right-wing allies put on it, if you ask the Republicans whether they would be willing to go through the recall process again, they would certainly say no.

As soon as Walker completes his first year in office in 2012, and becomes eligible for a gubernatorial recall, petitions will again be circulated to put his name on the ballot, for yet another election. The Democrats will have to field a good candidate to oppose him, as an unbelievable sum of money will be spent to retain Walker.

The Republicans should have learned a few lessons from the recall elections. First, if the legislative agenda is going to include radical proposals, at the very least, they must be raised during the campaign season, and not for the first time once they take office.

Second, when the Republicans see large crowds of ordinary citizens gathering to oppose their legislative agenda, they should ignore them only at their peril. While it is true typical protesters in Madison are not representative of Wisconsinites at large in other parts of the state, they are still a barometer of general attitudes, and again cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Third, outside money alone does not determine the outcome of elections, where the electorate is informed on important issues, and they are motivated to vote accordingly. In fact, ads that contradict what people know to be true, only strengthen their resolve, and make them even more determined to prevail.

Walker is now finally talking about working with the Democrats, but he did not come into office with that posture, and he has only recently shifted his stand, because he knows his head is on the chopping block. Soon the ax will fall, but at this point, it is too early to predict if the blade will actually sever his head.

08/11/2011

Wisconsin Recall: What Results Mean

The results of the Wisconsin Recall Elections that targeted six incumbent Republican State Senators should not be misconstrued by spin artists, who may now suggest that Gov. Scott Walker is off the hook. Instead, the outcome means Walker is in trouble.

Since all six of the State Senate Districts up for grabs on Tues. Aug. 9 were held by incumbent Republicans, some of whom had been in office a long time, any flip was a success for Democrats.

In two districts, each with college towns, the Democrats were in fact able to throw the Republicans out. In Western Wisconsin, where every town along the Mississippi River from La Crosse to Prairie du Chien was named by French explorers, the 32nd District, home of the Univ. of Wisconsin-La Crosse, was lost by an incumbent Republican to an Assemblywoman from La Crosse.

In East-Central Wisconsin, where the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh is located (18th), the Deputy Mayor of Oshkosh, also a female, beat another incumbent Republican Senator.

While Republicans kept four seats, two were maintained by slim margins. They easily won a rural area, west of Green Bay (2nd), and the easternmost part of suburban Minneapolis-St. Paul (10th). In suburban Milwaukee (8th), however, normally a safe seat for Republicans, Democrats couldn’t overcome the demographics, but got close with 46%. In a rural central part of the state (14th), where Democrats have not won since Grover Cleveland was President, the Republican barely held onto his job, with only 52%.

Republican victories in the 2nd, 8th, 10th and 14th were not surprising, since Democrats are a much smaller minority in those places, and help was needed from a large number of independents. The fact that the Republicans received only 54% in the 8th, and just 52% of the vote in the 14th, means they barely kept control.

One must remember Milwaukee, Madison, and other heavily Democratic areas, were not at all involved in these recall elections. If the results this week in Wisconsin mean anything, they spell trouble for Walker, if he is forced to go through a recall next year. He may likely end up serving only ¼ his 4-year term.