Who could ever fill Herb Kohl’s shoes?
The easy way to make an election prediction is wait for a poll. Unfortunately, the last poll by Marquette Law School was (in technical terms) just off-the-wall wackadoo. So before I make this prediction, let me point to everything I said about the presidential election and polling. Let me also add this observation from Michael Franc,
In 2008, Democrats enjoyed a decisive ten-point advantage in partisan affiliation, 39 percent to 29 percent. When undecided voters were pushed to choose a party, the Democrats’ edge grew by another two points, to 54 percent to 42 percent. Yet in the Gallup polls conducted since October 1, the two parties have pulled even, with Republicans actually ahead by a statistically insignificant percentage point, 36 percent to 35 percent. After being pushed to choose a party, likely voters give the Republicans a further boost, resulting in an overall three-point advantage of 49 percent to 46 percent.
Let me also direct you to this blog post by Charlie Sykes, who quotes Ben Domenech,
Democrats entrusted their GOTV effort to much of the same union-heavy organizational structure which has been thricely curbstomped by the Walker/Spicer effort over the past eighteen months. Second, unlike elsewhere in the country where a significant ramp-up was required, the Republican GOTV effort has never stopped running in Wisconsin, and what they’re seeing anecdotally really does amount to a breakthrough in the white deer+Packers demographic which has always eluded them. But third has to be the shocking early vote numbers from the state, which really do indicate an Obama machine which has failed to deliver an advantage for the president in a state that’s gone blue in six consecutive presidential elections.
Here’s a few of those early vote numbers which stand out: One of the first signs of trouble for the Democrats during the Walker recall was when Dane County, which has about a 110k population advantage on Waukesha county and includes blue-dominated Madison and the University of Wisconsin campus, had only about a 2k advantage in early voting and absentees. Democrats later claimed the surprisingly close number was due to a lack of college kids in Madison. As of the latest update from Wisconsin early voting, the gap between Dane and Waukesha is once again 2k. But that’s with a massive increase in the overall vote, meaning the gap is even less statistically significant than before. So here’s the big question for Wisconsin Democrats: where are your college kids? What happened to them? Why do you have to send Katy Perry to Milwaukee this weekend and Bruce Springsteen to Madison on Monday in the hopes of getting them out?
I’ve been wavering on my predictions all weekend, but I’m predicting former Governor Tommy Thompson will beat Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin in a very, very close race. I will not be surprised if he loses.
I did not predict a close race at the beginning of the year, it’s not what I predicted after the primaries, and not what I would have predicted even just two weeks ago. But here we are.
The September 11 ads were clunkers that probably backfired, and the decision by Thompson’s campaign not to tie Baldwin to the protestors in Madison was just political malpractice. Then you throw in the questions regarding Thompson’s finances (seriously, nobody audited to see if there were problems like connections to Iran?) and the inability to raise quick cash after the primary, and you have a mess of a campaign. At times it seemed like Thompson was running a campaign from the 1990s, complete with the usual endorsements. He finished the race that way, too, touting the newspaper endorsements.
Indicative of Thompson’s trouble, for all practical purposes he is the incumbent in this campaign. Everybody knows him. Wisconsin was booming when Thompson was governor. Everyone should love him, but he hasn’t been able to put this race away. I’m betting that undecideds break against him.
Mitt Romney might actually outperform Thompson, especially in the western part of the state.
A variable working in Thompson’s favor, Republicans at lower levels should have a surprisingly strong showing. Republican enthusiasm is up and the GOTV efforts from the recall campaign never stopped. Romney and Paul Ryan never gave up on Wisconsin, and enthusiasm for Ryan in his congressional district should help push Thompson’s vote totals.
Also working in Thompson’s favor are Baldwin’s radical politics. She’s a typical Madison lefty, and the Iran lobbyist money only confirms that impression.
I know I’m the only one saying this, but her sexual orientation could also be a factor among socially conservative Democrats. Call it the gay Wilder effect. Granted, Thompson was not able to use the issue effectively, especially after the minor backlash from one campaign staff member distributing the video of Baldwin dancing with Wonder Woman. However, it wasn’t that long ago that Wisconsin Democrats voted with Republicans to ban gay marriage.
In the end, Thompson still remains a towering figure in Wisconsin politics. It doesn’t help Baldwin that nobody can think of a single accomplishment she has, other than being a openly lesbian congresswoman. That might get you re-elected in Madison, but the reality surrounding Madison has other priorities.
It’s going to be close, but Thompson should squeak by with a win.
On the other hand, Dave Blaska sees Baldwin losing 51% to 48%. If Tommy wins by that margin, and Romney also wins, somebody put Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zielinski on suicide watch. Oh, and Chairman Mike Tate will need some empty cardboard boxes for the stuff in his office.