Moreover, it’s important for what didn’t happen. In early 2011, many commentators believed that Republicans were alienating white working-class voters and rejuvenating labor unions. The enthusiasm displayed at the Madison protests in March and April of last year certainly seemed to jibe with this interpretation.
But Republicans apparently got a shot in the arm as well, and we ended up with an electorate that looked more like the one from 2010 than from 2008. This, of course, is consistent with what we’re seeing in national polls: a race that looks like 2004, possibly in reverse.
We should also note that the pollsters saw a narrow Obama lead in the state. But they also understated Scott Walker’s victory margin pretty consistently, so the state may well be close to a tie. This view is actually bolstered by the exit polls: The ones that showed a tied Walker-Barrett race also showed the president up 10 points. With Walker’s lead expanding well beyond a tie, the president probably starts his campaign with a one- or two-point lead in this state, at least among the recall electorate.