July 14, 2015

WALKER '18!:

Scott Walker Is Overstating His Blue-State Appeal (JOSH KRAUSHAAR, 7/14/15, National Journal)

Walker's political argument is accurate at face value, but it comes with a major caveat: All three of his successful campaigns took place separate from the presidential election, when turnout among many of the Democratic Party's core constituencies dropped off precipitously. Wisconsin has one of the most polarized electorates in the country, and there's a significantly lower midterm turnout in the state's most-liberal counties (most dramatically, in Milwaukee County) compared to the state's conservative base (Waukesha County). The more a county supported Walker, the more likely it was to see strong turnout in an off-year election.

Walker's success had as much to do with the political calendar and the state's polarized electorate as it did with crossover appeal. He won only 6 percent of Democratic voters in his 2014 reelection. Many African-American voters simply stayed home during Walker's gubernatorial campaigns, while a disproportionate number of college students sat out the contentious June 2012 recall election--which took place after campuses' spring semester concluded. That's not likely to repeat itself if he's the GOP presidential nominee.

To wit: According to exit polling, young adults under the age of 30 made up 20 percent of the 2012 presidential electorate, but that number dropped to 16 percent during the recall election. White voters made up 91 percent of the recall vote, but only 86 percent in the last presidential campaign. The African-American percentage of the electorate was nearly twice as high in November 2012 (7 percent) as it was two years prior in 2010 (4 percent). In the Democratic bastion of Milwaukee County, turnout for the 2014 midterm election was only 74 percent of the vote total for the 2012 presidential election. In deeply conservative Waukesha County, that number was much higher: 83 percent.

Indeed, if voters from both parties had turned out at the same rates as in presidential elections in just the state's three largest counties (Waukesha, Dane, and Milwaukee), the resulting surge in Democratic turnout would nearly wipe out Walker's entire margin of victory in the state. Even more fascinating: Nearly all of the drop-off in non-presidential-year turnout in deeply-conservative Waukesha County came from Democrats. (Walker held nearly all--95 percent--of Mitt Romney's Waukesha County vote total in the 2012 recall election. Democrat Tom Barrett managed to retain only 74 percent of President Obama's 2012 support.)

Posted by at July 14, 2015 3:22 PM

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