Wisconsin Recall Post-Primary Thoughts
posted at 5:27 pm on May 9, 2012 by Steve Eggleston
In case you missed the toplines from yesterday, I’ll restate them quickly:
- Governor Scott Walker crushed “protest ‘Republican'” candidate (and semi-pro protestor) Arthur Kohl-Riggs 626,538-19,920 in the Republican gubernatorial recall primary.
- In the Democrat gubernatorial recall primary, Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett easily outpaced former Dane County executive Kathleen Falk, state Senator Kathleen Vinehout, secretary of state Doug La Follette, and “protest ‘Democrat'” candidate Gladys Huber 390,109-228,940-26,926-19,461-4,842.
- Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin president Mahlon Mitchell won the Democrat lieutenant governor primary, beating “protest ‘Democrat'” Issac Weix and private investigator Ira Robbins 384,208-192,207-159,762. There was only a Democrat recall primary for lieutenant governor.
- “Real” Democrats Lori Compas, former state Senator John Lehman, Kristen Dexter, and state Representative Donna Seidel easily bested the “protest ‘Democrats'” to earn the right to take on (respectively) Republican state Senators Scott Fitzgerald, Van Wanggaard and Terry Moulton and state Representative Jerry Petrowski (who was the only Republican to file to replace retired state Senator Pam Galloway). Much like the lieutenant governor race, there were only Democrat recall primaries, all triggered by the presence of “protest ‘Democrats'”.
Let’s dig a bit beyond the raw numbers:
As noted by Allahpundit last night and Ed Morrissey this morning, Walker got more votes than the two major Democrat candidates, and came close to equaling all five of the Democrats (including Kohl-Riggs). How odd is this? Let Christian Schneider explain:
A bit of context: Traditionally, vote totals in contested primaries vastly exceed vote totals in corresponding primaries that are essentially uncontested. Take, for instance, the 2010 gubernatorial election, when Walker faced off against former congressman Mark Neumann, and Barrett ran for his party’s nomination essentially unopposed. Over 618,000 people voted in the GOP primary, while only 236,000 voters cast ballots in the Dem primary, where there was nothing at stake. That same year, Ron Johnson ran in a U.S. Senate GOP primary against several other candidates, while incumbent Russ Feingold was unopposed. The GOP primary drew 596,000 voters, while Feingold garnered only 224,000 votes. The Republican gubernatorial and Senate primaries drew 263 percent and 266 percent more voters, respectively, than the Democrats.
The same effect traditionally occurs for Democratic primaries. In 2002, a Democratic gubernatorial primary featuring, coincidentally, Tom Barrett, Kathleen Falk, and eventual winner Jim Doyle, drew 554,000 votes. Incumbent Republican governor Scott McCallum, running virtually unopposed, saw 230,000 votes in his primary — giving Democrats a 241 percent vote advantage.
This came despite the only effort to get the Walker vote out coming from talk radio, and at least some efforts at something resembling what Rush Limbaugh once termed Operation Chaos. Unlike the typical partisan primary, the only prohibition against participating in multiple partyies’ primaries was against participating in multiple parties’ primaries for the same office. Indeed, there were two mentions that one could only vote for one candidate per office for each of the offices on the ballot instead of the usual one.
On the Democrat side, Barrett’s win was essentially inevitable once Public Policy Polling and Daily Kos released polls taken in mid-April that had him well ahead of the early union favorite, Falk. Even with that said, there was a giant surprise – Barrett carried Falk’s home county, Dane, where she was county executive for 14 years before retiring in 2011, by 31 percentage points. In addition to the fact that Falk was the only Democrat in the country to lose a contested “major” statewide or Congressional office held by Democrats in the 2006 election (Wisconsin attorney general), the folks at the Republican Party of Dane County offered up another reason – she barely survived a debacle in the Dane County 911 Center that was a key miss that led to the murder of a UW student.
Given that almost 901,000 recall signatures were certified by the Government Accountability Board against Walker, the weak total rung up by the Democrats has to be disappointing. The total 1.32 million turnout, on the other hand, was significantly over the 1.08 million who turned out for the Presidential primaries in April (785,167 on the Republican side) and nearly 61% of the 2.16 million who voted for governor in 2010.
We haven’t had a poll with a fresher sample than the Public Policy Polling/Daily Kos poll in mid-April that had all the Republicans except Wanggaard with double-digit leads over the “real” Democrats and Wanggaard up by 2 points, though there was a Myers Research/Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee poll taken in late March/early April (2 weeks prior to the PPP/DKos) poll released afterward that had Wanggaard losing and Moulton and Petrowski with single-digit leads. Compas and Lehman (who will be going against Fitzgerald and Wanggaard respectively) received more votes than recall signatures against their opponents, while Dexter and Seidel received fewer votes than recall signatures against their opponents. That metric suggests Wanggaard and Fitzgerald, the latter with a Libertarian challenger as well as a Democrat, could be in for a long night on June 5.
Lieutenant Governor’s race:
The thing that just struck me was that the 758,070 people who voted in the statewide “undercard”, with only minimal advertising by Mitchell, was roughly 90,000 more than those who voted in the Democrat gubernatorial primary, where millions were spent by both Barrett’s and Falk’s camps, and roughly 70,000 more than everybody who voted for somebody other than Walker in the gubernatorial primaries. That. Just. Does. Not. Happen. (until now, that is).
Even so, only 561,018 voted for the two “real Democrat” candidates, over 104,000 fewer than those who voted for the “real Democrats” in the Democrat gubernatorial primary, and over 124,000 fewer than those who voted for said “real Democrats” and the “protest ‘Republican'”. Again, that was significantly fewer than the nearly 809,000 who signed recall petitions against lieutenant governor Rebecca Kleefisch, who like the Republican Senators (and Petrowski), was not in a primary as she was the only Republican who qualified.
The crossover factor:
That brings me to what factor, if any, the potential for crossover had on the Democrat gubernatorial primary. As most of those who did so likely would have voted for Falk as the “weaker” candidate, it obviously was not successful in keeping Barrett from winning. However, that is not to say that it was not significant, even though there were no exit polls to check this against.
James Wigderson used one way to calculate the maximum potential crossover, using heavily-Republican Waukesha and Washington Counties. Allow me to use a second method. The four “real” Democrat gubernatorial candidates garnered 665,436 votes, 104,418 votes more than the two “real” Democrat lieutenant governor candidates garnered.
The last Marquette Law School poll said that roughly 17% of the potential voters in the Democrat gubernatorial primary would actually be Republicans. The 0.7% of the Democrat primary vote Huber received is almost entirely “crossover”. If all 104,418 who voted for a “real” Democrat in the gubernatorial primary but didn’t vote for one in the lieutenant governor primary were Republican crossovers, that would be another 15.6%. Add the two together and the 16.3% crossover would be right in the ballpark.
However, there is a complication. On my paper “complete the line” ballot here in southern suburban Milwaukee County, and on the sample paper ballots in the parts of Racine County where there was a Senate primary, both the Republican and Democrat gubernatorial primaries were in one column, while the Democrat lieutanant governor primary (and in the 4 Senate districts where there was a recall, the Democrat Senate primaries) were on a second column. It is reasonable to believe that at least some people didn’t realize this.
With that said, I strongly doubt that much more than 50,000 people who voted for a “real” Democrat in the gubernatorial primary would either “forget” there was also a Democrat lieutenant governor primary or somehow vote for the one “protest ‘Democrat'”. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll estimate that only 50,000 Republicans decided to meddle by voting for a “real” Democrat in the gubernatorial primary, and will return “home” to vote for Walker come June 5.
That sort of destroys the meme that the Democrats got more votes than Walker. Add that 50,000, and the 4,842 that Huber got, to Walker’s total, and subtract that 50,000 from the Democrats’ (including Kohl-Riggs’) total to wipe out the effects of crossover, and the Republicans likely outvoted the Democrats roughly 681,000-635,000, or 51.7%-48.3%.
To complete Ed’s thought on how bad a night it was for the unions, the Democrats and the public unions had planned on having all the candidates get together with them in Madison today. However, Barrett nixed that idea on Monday, and while the unions are rallying in Madison, the candidates are meeting at his home in Milwaukee.
There is one more recall potentially coming down the pike. Some of the residents of Democrat state Senator Bob Jauch’s far-northwest district got mad enough over his vote to kill a mining bill that would have brought a rather signnificant number of lead mining jobs to the district to launch a recall effort against him on March 19. They have until May 18 to turn in 15,270 signatures. A story posted today by the Barron News-Shield quoted recall organizer Shirl LaBarre, “All I can say is that I’ve put my heart and soul into (the effort).”