Monday, October 24th, 2016

Walker’s lead meets the Silver standard


Nate Silver, the campaign numbers guru for the New York Times, says Governor Scott Walker will likely survive the recall challenge. (His hate mail from Democrats has probably already started.) Silver says of the recall,

Mr. Walker leads his Democratic opponent, Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee, by an average of six percentage points in those polls and has not trailed in any poll since February.

Some polls issued by Democratic-affiliated groups have shown a somewhat tighter race, with Mr. Barrett trailing by about three percentage points instead. Partisan-affiliated polls have a long track record of somewhat exaggerating their candidate’s standing, however, and it may be telling that even these polls do not show Mr. Barrett ahead.

In a typical November election, a 6-point lead with two weeks to go would translate into a high probability of winning — roughly on the order of 90 percent, based on the historical accuracy of polls of governors’ races.

The dynamics of a recall election may be slightly more uncertain. But with high turnout expected, which tends to make polling more reliable, Mr. Barrett would most likely need a last-minute change in momentum to have much of a chance of prevailing.

I was trying to think of the odds of Walker winning at this point. Silver just set the line at 90%. Suddenly the Intrade odds look very much in line.

There’s a reason why I keep mentioning Walker’s net positive approval rating:

If Mr. Walker’s approval-disapproval ratings were even, he might be a favorite to win the recall election because some voters who are on the fence might nevertheless object to the idea of removing a governor from office in midterm. Since his approval rating now appears to exceed his disapproval rating by a couple of points, that should give him a clearer advantage.

Finally, there’s the advantage of incumbency:

Generally, however, it is difficult to oust an incumbent governor from office. They win about 80 percent of the time when they decide to run for another term and it usually requires some sort of special circumstance to beat them.

Mr. Barrett does not appear as though he’ll have quite enough of a case.

Instead, Wisconsin seems to have reverted to the mean in which elections there are normally close. But Mr. Walker’s fund-raising advantage and his status as the incumbent, coupled with swing voters’ being uncomfortable with the idea of a recall, will likely be enough to push him over the top.

Such a result will undoubtedly be disheartening to Democrats, although they should remember that an embattled incumbent of their own, President Obama, will be running for re-election in a similarly divided electorate with similarly mixed economic data.

I wrote earlier today on the latest polls, all of which show Walker leading and a net positive approval rating. Let’s also add in Public Policy Polling’s hypothesis that Democrats really need 54% to 55% disapproval of the incumbent to win the recall election. Right now, and it’s worth noting a lot can happen between now and election day, Walker appears to be on his way to victory.


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