The 2012 Gubernatorial recall against Scott Walker (R) is going to be very close as 2010 challenger and Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett (D) challenges Walker for the Gubernatorial office. Walker won by 5 points in 2010 in a closer than expected race (the final PPP poll showed Walker winning by 9 points.) A recent PPP poll showed that Walker may again win this race. The PPP poll showed Walker ahead by 3 in a sample that voted for Obama by 7 points. Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points though so if the voters who show up on Tuesday voted for Obama by 14 points, then Barrett should win. The reason the Democrats may have a chance here is that their ground game is extremely superior to the Republicans' ground game. According to reports from Wisconsin, Barrett volunteers are flooding training sessions and one cannot drive a few blocks in Madison (Wisconsin's capital and a Democratic stronghold) without seeing a pro Barrett canvasser. As for the PPP poll, I do not want to get too hopeful but the poll has a reputation for getting hard to poll races like this one (the Gubernatorial race is hard to poll because the turnout levels and organization are very unpredictable) 0-1 point on target. Still, they underestimated in 2010 but being realistic, it may have been a blip then but does not translate into a blip now. The reason is that although most polls in Wisconsin under perform for Democrats, there are many voters who dislike the concept of recalls and I know some strong Democrats who loathe the idea of recalling. Although if I ask them if they will vote for Walker, they will probably say no but a swing voter with the same recalling opinion may answer differently. I personally hope that PPP did underestimate Democratic strength like in 2010 but I have to be realistic.
Although the energy in the ground game is on Barrett's side and the race does appear to be getting closer for Barrett (polls two weeks ago showed Walker with a 7 point lead,) Walker probably will still win but the race may be closer than expected. I am going to estimate 2 points at the moment. This post though will show which areas to watch on election night and the election baselines. I calculated the baselines by factoring in the results from the 2004 Presidential election because it shows a close election in Wisconsin, the 2010 Gubernatorial results because it shows the results with Walker v. Barrett and the 2011 State Supreme Court because the collective bargaining rights were the main issue. I have heard criticisms that the Kloppenberg race should not be used calculated into the baseline but I have decided to use it because it shows the areas of union strength.
Results from the Kloppenberg/Prosser race: http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/files/elections/2011/by_county/WI_Supreme_Court_0405.html?SITE=AP&SECTION=POLITICS
Results for the 2010 Gubernatorial election: http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/state.php?year=2010&fips=55&f=0&off=5&elect=0
Results for the 2004 Presidential Election: http://uselectionatlas.org/RESULTS/
Areas to watch:
The Milwaukee area is extremely polarized and generally votes 1-2 more Republican than the rest of the state. The Democratic stronghold is Milwaukee County which contains large African American populations in Milwaukee City along with more liberal white voters. The swing areas in Milwaukee County are the outer suburban areas and Barrett needs to perform strongly there to win. The Republican strongholds are the suburban areas which unlike the suburbs of Chicago have not trended Democratic since the Clinton years. The Republican areas to watch are Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha Counties. Waukesha county's recent claim to fame was in the 2011 State Supreme Court battle where the more liberal candidate JoAnn Kloppenberg lost by 7,000 votes when extra Republican votes were discovered in Waukesha County by the Board of Elections there Kathy Nikolaus. Also in 2011, Democrats suffered from low turnout in Milwaukee County which the Democrats have been targting heavily in order to not repeat the low turnout.The swing areas to watch are Kenosha and Racine Counties, both along the coast south of Milwaukee. In recent elections, no Democrat wins without carrying Kenosha (although they sometimes lose while carrying it) and no Republican wins without carrying Racine (although they sometimes lose while carrying it,) so if there is a landslide for one side, watch Kenosha and Racine and for the overall, watch who is winning their combined vote.
Baseline percentages for Milwaukee area:
Milwaukee County: 62% 38%
Washington County: 27% 73%
Ozaukee County: 32% 68%
Waukesha County: 30% 70%
Racine County: 46% 54%
Kenosha County: 53% 47%
This part of the state is Democratic leaning. The liberal voters in Madison, the state capitol with the University of Wisconsin is located here and is expected to turn out strongly for Barrett. In the 2011 State Supreme Court race, Dane County (Madison) turned out extremely strongly for Kloppenberg fueled by the strong liberal base. The rest of western Wisconsin is mostly rural but leans Democratic due to the union presence and the populism of the farmers. The Democrats also get strong margins from small cities such as Eau Claire and La Crosse. A good winning margin from these areas would be in the low double digits for Barrett. The strong Republican area in western Wisconsin though is St. Croix County which is receiving Twin Cities exurban growth. Walker needs to bring out Republicans there in order to win (although the union presence there may be stronger than suggested, Kloppenberg lost St. Croix County by only 2 while St. Croix usually votes Republican by around 10 points in close races.) The northern counties along Lake Superior also have an extremely strong union presence and need to turn out strongly for Barrett but in the counties just south of the Lake Superior counties, it is a mix of the more conservative German immigrant descendants and the unions. A county there to watch is Price County which barely voted for Kerry and is well known as a bellwether county with a mix of Wisconsin's Democratic and Republican constituencies. Kloppenberg performed extremely well in western Wisconsin (although she lost Price County) but Barrett nearly lost La Crosse County in 2010. The organization here for Barrett has been really strong due to the union presence though so it is possible Barrett could over perform the baselines here and still lose Wisconsin. Also, what is most important for Dane County's percentage is not the percentage of the vote but its turnout levels. Other counties to watch are Sauk County which if Barrett loses means Walker should win because Sauk is usually a few points more Democratic than the rest of Wisconsin (Walker won it by one point in 2010 when he won statewide by 5.) Another important county is Columbia County which Bush in 2004 barely won but if Barrett wins, it is a sign that the union turnout is definitely making an impact.
Western Wisconsin Baselines
Dane County: 70% 30%
La Crosse County: 55% 45%
Eau Claire County: 56% 44%
Sauk County: 53% 47%
Columbia County: 51% 49%
Price County: 50% 50%
St. Croix County: 45% 55%
Eastern Wisconsin is more urban than western Wisconsin but is more populated by German immigrants who lean more Republican in Wisconsin. There are many small cities located in counties such as Outagamie, Brown (Green Bay,) Sheboygan and Fond Du Lac (Oshkosh) Counties. Although the cities themselves tilt Democratic, their suburbs are usually Republican so these counties usually lean Republican. Although the baseline percentages do not show any of these counties flipping to Barrett, he over performed in Brown and Outagamie Counties, performing 1 point better than Kerry in Outagamie County although Kerry performed six points better than Barrett statewide. Still, the union presence is not as strong in those areas as the Kloppenberg results show (Kloppenberg lost Outagamie by 14 points,) so the Democrats should focus on keeping down the Republican margins in those counties. Another area to watch is Door County which Walker won by 1 point in 2010 which leans slightly Republican but if Barrett wins, it suggests he is making enough inroads in eastern Wisconsin to win.
Eastern Wisconsin Baselines:
Outagamie County: 45% 55%
Brown County: 45% 55%
Sheboygan County: 40% 60%
Fond Du Lac County: 38% 62%
Door County: 49% 51%
Keep these individual counties in mind but as the election results unfold, keep some main points in mind: is Milwaukee cancelling out the Republican suburban ring (especially Waukesha County,) how are Racine and Kenosha Counties voting, are the union heavy swing rural counties such as Sauk, Columbia and Price swinging toward Barrett and is Barrett winning Door and Price Counties?
Baseline map of important counties (blue is for western Wisconsin, tan is for Milwaukee area and pink is for eastern Wisconsin.)