Last night in Wisconsin, Democracy died because Republicans spent a bunch of money and Wisconsin saw record voter turnout levels across the state where they decisively sided with the incumbent Republican Governor against the ongoing childish assault on representative democracy by leftists unhappy with the hand the voters dealt them in 2010. Or something like that.
Remember, the left was perfectly fine with money in politics when they thought Barack Obama was going to raise $1 billion with which he would bludgeon the GOP. Now that it is not happening, money in politics is again evil. It is no coincidence that the left seized on this talking point even before the polls closed. They think it sells well. But it doesn’t. Remember in 2010, they tried to claim the Chamber of Commerce was spending foreign money to help the GOP? Lot of good it did them then.
These are also the same people who once told us the Wisconsin recall was a harbinger of GOP overreach and voter retaliation would ensue. Suddenly, the recall means nothing according to these same people. The Chairwoman of the Democratic Party once called last night a “dry run” for the general election. Heh.
Last night in Wisconsin, despite a disastrous run of exit polling, made more difficult by the dynamics of a recall election, Scott Walker handily beat Tom Barrett. What exit polls suggested would be a close race turned into a romp. The left has resorted to screaming about money in politics. What they cannot reconcile is that, most likely, were Barack Obama and MItt Romney on the ballot last night as well as the Walker v. Barrett race, Barack Obama would have won despite all the GOP money pouring in.
I maintain that special elections mean very little to general elections. The flawed exit polls were flawed because people who vote in recall elections vote in different ways from general elections. There was a massive union vote in Wisconsin last night. We can conclude that Scott Walker winning big with a big union turnout means even private sector union members hate public sector unions. But we should be careful not to over conclude things based on Wisconsin.
Republicans around the country should take note of that. While I maintain recalls and special elections are not really good indicators of anything beyond the dynamics of those races, there are a few things Wisconsin tells us that do bode ill for President Obama and that are easy to conclude.
The first thing we can conclude is that defense of public sector unions is now a non-starter even in the birthplace of American progressive politics. Union voters voted for Scott Walker. Republicans have a new battle tested issue that sells well even in blue states.
The second thing we can conclude is that the same winning coalition of disaffected independent voters, tea party activists, and Republicans held together in Wisconsin to keep Scott Walker. More importantly, and perhaps most importantly, the demographic shift that saw the Democrats lose their hold over the rustbelt in 2010 has continued to the Democrats’ disadvantage. Couple that shift away from the Democrats with the Republicans’ new found strengths in Appalachia and the Democrats who like to claim Republicans cannot win in New England will have an even harder time winning in the heartland. Both in North Carolina with gay marriage and in Wisconsin with the recall, a real silent majority stood up to be counted and heard.
For all the Democrats’ talk about their growing strength in the west, it is still going to take several decades for them to make up the votes lost in the rust belt and Appalachia. Wisconsin’s recall election shows that the demographic trends against the Democrats are starting to lock in, including losing blue collar white voters and even a number of private sector union workers. As my friend Dan Gainor pointed out on twitter, Scott Walker won by a larger margin last night than Barack Obama did against John McCain nationally. Nonetheless, some in the media would have you believe Walker only barely got by.
The third thing we can conclude from Wisconsin is that the Republican Party’s use of technology in its GOTV efforts really paid off. We should be thanking the Democrats for giving us an opportunity for a live test of our new GOTV tools and ground game. Scott Walker’s thumping of Tom Barrett showed the GOP, in a blue state, has the ability to pinpoint voters and get their voters to the polls. 2012 will be the first truly technology driven Presidential campaign, run on iPads and iPhones. The Democrats handed the GOP a marvelous gift of a recall that went on and on and on. By the time everyone got to the gubernatorial recall, the GOP had its GOTV tweaked perfectly.
It exceeded expectations.
The fourth thing we can conclude from Wisconsin is that Barack Obama is extremely nervous. He would not campaign for Tom Barrett. Only on election day did he tweet out his support for Barrett in 140 characters. Barack Obama has batted 1000 in seeing those candidates with whom he campaigns for statewide office go down in flames. Despite their bold prognostications that Wisconsin does not matter and all is well and Obama was just too busy, the Democrats know that they poured in a lot of resources only to lose Wisconsin while giving the GOP multiple recall votes to get their GOTV right. It should speak volumes to Democrats everywhere that Bill Clinton was happy to go campaign for Tom Barrett in a state Barack Obama’s campaign considers a swing state, but Barack Obama was not willing to get tied to a loss there. Remember when James Carville said Barack Obama needed to borrow one of Hillary’s . . .
The fifth thing we can conclude is that exit polling does not work well for recall elections. Consider that voters were evenly split going into the polls on whether they supported Scott Walker’s reforms or not. Likewise, roughly two-thirds of voters either were or were related to union members, which was a bit higher than in 2010. The presuppositions were therefore that this would be close. It’s not so much that the exit polling was wrong, as it was that the presuppositions that went into formulating the exits and, more importantly, into interpreting the exit polling was wrong. The presuppositions the media makes headed into November desperately need to be recalibrated. The media is still operating on FDR Coalition presuppositions in their formulation of and analysis of exit polling data.
The sixth thing we can conclude from Wisconsin is that Barack Obama is still the favorite there, but, while I hate to be repetitive, the Democrats’ continued recall efforts have made the state much more competitive for the GOP in that state.
The seventh thing we can conclude from Wisconsin is that MSNBC is consistently the most entertaining news network in America when things go badly for the left. They may think Fox is in the tank for the GOP, but Fox anchors don’t cry when the GOP loses. I was actually concerned that Ed Schultz might have a medical episode on live television last night. It was … surreal. Now I know what MSNBC means by lean forward. I leaned forward as I was viewing, watching for signs of possible coronaries live on TV.
Here’s one thing I don’t think we can easily conclude, but I would take away from Wisconsin. Anger does not win elections. In November, the GOP should be happy warriors, not angry. Let the left be angry. One of the things the left did in Wisconsin that has not been well reported is send mailers to voters documenting their neighbors’ voting history. Think about that. A leftwing group sent mail pieces to voters trying to shame them into voting by revealing how much or how little they choose to participate in the democratic process. How many voters turned out to vote mad as hell at the left for stooping to this level?
Lastly, I hope the GOP in Washington, which is often afraid of its own shadow, is watching this. In Wisconsin, the Republican Governor was willing to pick a fight on a core Democrat issue, stick to his guns, and go through a recall process. And he won. Sometimes, Messrs. Boehner and McConnell, you don’t have to compromise. You can stick to your guns and still win.