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Morning Feature – Nutshell: Wisconsin Recall Results

June 6, 2012

Morning Feature

Morning Feature – Nutshell: Wisconsin Recall Results

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker easily survived the recall, but Democrats recovered control of the State Senate. (More)

Nutshell: Wisconsin Recall Results

Despite tightening polls in the final days and early exit polls suggesting a 50-50 deadlock, last night Gov. Scott Walker cruised to a 7-point victory in Wisconsin recall election. Up to 12% of voters cast their ballots before election day, and were not reflected in the exit polling.

The lone bright spot was State Senate District 21, where Democratic challenger John Lehman appears to have defeated Republican Van Wanggaard. The final tally was very close, with only 771 votes separating them. Wanggaard has not yet conceded, but Democrats will have a one-seat majority in the Wisconsin Senate if that result holds.

In his victory speech, Gov. Walker admitted that last year he pushed through an agenda he had not discussed with voters:

I’ve learned much over the last year and a half. There’s no doubt about it. You know, early in 2011 I rushed in to try to fix things, before I talked about them. Because you see, for years too many politicians I had seen, not only in Madison but in Washington and beyond, talked about things but never fixed them.

Well, but I want to tell you looking ahead, we know it’s important to do both. Looking ahead to tackle the challenges that face all of the people of Wisconsin, we’re both going to be committed to talking together about how to solve problems. And then working together, we’re going to move forward with the solutions that put our state back on the right track towards more freedom and more prosperity for all of our people.

Governor Walker outspent his opponent by almost 10-1 and money certainly played a role in the outcome, but the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza offers additional reasons for Barrett’s defeat, including a hotly-contested Democratic primary, swing voters opposing the recall, other Wisconsinites’ fears and resentments of the city of Milwaukee, and Gov. Walker’s disciplined and effective campaign.

Exit polls suggest the results were less an endorsement of Gov. Walker’s agenda than a rejection of the recall process:

Yet the Walker success in defeating Barrett and Democrats’ attempt to unseat him may be rooted in voters’ unwillingness to remove a sitting officeholder for political reasons. Just 27 percent of voters said recall elections are appropriate for any reason; Barrett won this bloc 9-to-1. But the vast majority – 60 percent – said recall elections are only appropriate for “official misconduct,” and more than two-thirds of these voters supported Walker.

Although voter turnout was high, it was nowhere near the over-100% levels reported yesterday. Greater than 100% turnout was possible as Wisconsin allows same-day registration. Initial reports of 119% projected turnout in Madison were based on exceptionally heavy turnout early in the day.

The failure to recall Gov. Walker was obviously a defeat, but DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said the recall effort “sent a message” and emphasized that President Obama still leads Mitt Romney in every Wisconsin poll, including a 7-point lead in yesterday’s exit polls.

But RNC Chair Reince Priebus was quick to blame President Obama for Barrett’s defeat, saying: “Wisconsin Democrats will now look to President Obama and ask, ‘Why did you abandon us?’ Let the infighting begin.”

The exit poll data suggest President Obama’s presence in Wisconsin would not have helped, as 93% of voters said they had made up their minds long before the election.

What do you think?


Happy Wednesday!

  • glendaw271

    Honestly, I think that President Obama was correct in not getting involved in what really was the business of the Wisconsin voters. It is all well and good to say otherwise, but I think that a lot of people would have been offended at such a political move, and would have made it even more difficult in the future to work with any Republicans at all.

    Because, first and foremost, he is President of the entire country.

    • NCrissieB

      Chris Cillizza’s article noted that national Democratic Party leaders did not want the recall, while Wisconsin Democrats and labor unions pushed for it. It may be that national party leaders better recognized the resistance to recalls, or maybe they just wanted to shepherd their resources during a general election year. My guess is they’ll claim the former, but the latter was their more salient concern.

      Regardless, the exit polling suggests President Obama and the DNC pouring more resources into Wisconsin would not have made a difference. The vast majority of voters had made up their minds far in advance, and this seems to have been a referendum on the recall process itself.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • winterbanyan

    I am glad Obama did not get involved. This was a state issue, as Glenda said, not a national issue for the President. What’s more, his involvement would have turned into a referendum on him, and given the large resistance of voters to recall elections except in cases of official misconduct, the result would have hurt the national campaign with the optics.

    If infighting begins over this, then we show ourselves to be a national party that can’t get it together on any level.

    I had wondered if the results wouldn’t be affected by voters who objected to what would essentially be a nullification of an election. To many it probably appeared to be a purely political move designed to reverse their votes in 2010.

    • NCrissieB

      Several sources noted this in exit polls and other surveys, winterbanyan:

      I had wondered if the results wouldn’t be affected by voters who objected to what would essentially be a nullification of an election. To many it probably appeared to be a purely political move designed to reverse their votes in 2010.

      As for the Democratic infighting, I’m sure the Republicans would be thrilled if we formed a circular firing squad. But I don’t see any data to support the thesis that President Obama and/or the DNC committing more resources would have changed the outcome.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • NCrissieB

    My take is that this election can be explained entirely by Wisconsinites’ opinions on the recall process itself: 9% opposed recalls in any situation and another 40% did not believe Gov. Walker had committed “official misconduct.” (That is, they support recalls only for “official misconduct” and voted for Gov. Walker.) That’s a 49% base, without considering policy issues or campaign spending.

    This was, simply, a rejection of recalls.

    Good morning! ::hugggggs::

    • Gardener

      Yup….. I wondered about that going in.

      Hopefully, they will soon have some “official misconduct” to look at….

      • winterbanyan

        I’m hoping, too, Gardener. The evidence against him is mounting, it seems.

        • winterbanyan

          But I’m not holding my breath. Our governor has had four sealed federal indictments against him since a few months before the election.

          EDIT: Apparently I am mistaken about the indictments. Mea Culpa

  • addisnana

    Thanks for this perspective. I don’t think this is the end of the world or the beginning of a big democratic infight. I did not expect President Obama to intervene at all.

    I do think it is more evidence that Citizens United was a very bad decision and not just because Walker won. The 10 to 1 spending differential is stunning and I think it speaks volumes about the resources available to certain candidates.

    • NCrissieB

      I agree that Citizens United was a bad decision, though I’m not sure how much Gov. Walker’s 10-to-1 advantage affected the outcome. Exit poll data on when voters made up their minds – 93% said they decided long before the election – suggest campaign ads did not have much influence.

      On the other hand, the turnout numbers suggest campaign spending on GOTV – by both sides – was very effective.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • LI Mike

    Hard to dispute any of your analysis.

    As someone who has spent a lot of time GOTVing on election day, I’ve hear all the time: “Wow, turn out is huge today,” when, in fact, it is not. Same thing in Wisconsin yesterday, except pretty impressive since it was a June election.

    I do think, though, that this election continues and strengthens the anti-union effort. There are just too many people who think that if we cut back health care, wages and pensions for public sector employees that all will be well in their lives.

    • winterbanyan

      This is annoying, because the huge loss in public sector jobs is the only reason unemployment is not down around 5%. I don’t know how the heck to get that message out there.

      I guess everyone is willing to sacrifice someone else’s job. 😡

    • NCrissieB

      The exit polls don’t entirely support this, Mike:

      I do think, though, that this election continues and strengthens the anti-union effort. There are just too many people who think that if we cut back health care, wages and pensions for public sector employees that all will be well in their lives.

      Here are some exit poll data on those issues:

      — 52% have a favorable view of public employee unions, vs. 43% unfavorable

      — 50% approve of Wisconsin’s changes to collective bargaining for public employees, vs. 48% disapprove.

      — 54% say government should have a more limited role in solving problems, vs. 42% who say government should do more.

      Again, those exit polls don’t reflect the roughly 12% who voted early, and (by my math) Gov. Walker won among early voters by nearly 5-to-1. So support for unions may be weaker than those exit polls show.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • LI Mike

    Maybe not the right time to bring this up, but, a nice development in NY CD#1 yesterday. A former Republican Assemblyman endorsed Congressman Bishop yesterday. This guy does have some clout. He lost his legs in Vietnam and is very popular in these parts. He says — we don’t need this Randy Altschuler guy carpetbagging in our district. He knows diddly squat about our needs.

    Yesterday, Randy Altschuler says a deep-pocket backer of Tim paid for his 2 dtrs college education. Well, I can guarantee Randy Altschuler that Tim Bishop will campaign 24 hours a day now.

    • NCrissieB

      I hope that endorsement will help. What will help more, as you note, is an energetic campaign both by Rep. Bishop and by local Democrats.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

    • A lot of these ultra-conservatives have a real talent for antagonizing the more moderate Republicans. I know one of the things that led to Assemblywoman Scozzafava endorsing (now) Representative Owens was that not only did Hoffman not ask for her endorsement, he gloated about her suspending her campaign.