Governor Walker Makes History
Governor Scott Walker (R-Wauwatosa) became the first governor in the history of the United States to survive a recall attempt as he defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D-Milwaukee) Tuesday evening by a seven-point margin, 53 to 46 percent.
All it took was a quick walk around the capitol square in the days leading up to the election to realize the TV sets of the nation were going to be tuned into what was about to unfold in Wisconsin. Cable news networks such as CNN, MSNBC and FOX News all had remote satellite trucks camped out on the square for days as they devoted hours of live coverage to the historic election.
Political observers and pundits were all over the map when trying to predict what to expect on June 5th. Wisconsin politics was once again entering unchartered territory, a recurring theme from the last 16 months.
Tuesday evening certainly didn’t lack in delivering election night surprises. Nobody was predicting the networks would call the race only an hour after the polls had closed. Many were predicting a late night and some were even talking about the possibility of a recount.
Someone Got it Right
Every major poll leading up to the election had the Governor in the lead, but the lead was narrowing and was certainly within the margin of error. Barrett’s own internal polling had the Mayor down by only a tenth of one point on the eve of the election.
In the end, the Real Clear Politics (RPC) composite of polls from 5/17 to 6/3 painted the most accurate picture of the outcome of the election. When RPC took the averages of polls released during this period, they had Walker defeating Barrett 51.5 to 44.8, a differential of 6.7 percent. The actual differential was 6.9 percent.
One of the many anomalies of this election was the level of engagement by the voters and how quickly they had made up their minds. Everyone seemed to have an opinion on recall of the Governor; all you had to do was ask them. Undecided voters were virtually nonexistent.
Unprecedented Turnout for a Gubernatorial Race
Both the Republican and Democratic bases were energized. Nearly 2.5 million votes were cast in the recall election in comparison to 2.17 million in 2010 where these two first faced off. In that election Walker won by less than 6 points. At 57% turnout, this was the highest turnout for a mid-year, gubernatorial election in Wisconsin since at least 1950.
Exit polling indicates Walker’s message appealed to the same voters in 2012 as in 2010. For example, he won men, but lost voters under 30. He won independents, but lost moderates. He won in the rural areas and suburbs, but didn’t perform as well in urban areas.
The Huffington Post has an excellent interactive map, which not only breaks down the vote totals by county, it also provides a snapshot of who won each county in 2010 for an easy comparison of the two elections.
Governor Walker won 60 of the 72 Wisconsin counties. He lost Dane and Milwaukee County as expected, while he lost a few percentage points in counties with bedroom communities close to Madison. Walker also lost Bayfield, Douglas and Ashland counties in the north, but he did perform better in the recall than he did in 2010 in neighboring Iron County, site of the proposed taconite mine.
A Historic Election for Other Reasons
Since the beginning of 2011, Governor Walker has raised more than $30 million. Nearly $11 million of that total has been directly attributed to the recall and had the benefit of being exempt from campaign contribution limits. By contrast, Mayor Barrett raised nearly $4 million in a much shorter period of time.
The candidates aren’t the only ones spending money. Third parties have reported spending nearly $22 million combined on the recall. This doesn’t account for issue advocacy groups that don’t have to disclose their expenditures. Of this outside spending, it has been estimated that groups supporting Governor Walker outraised those supporting the Mayor by a 10 to 1 margin. This money has been used for everything from television advertising and robo calls to statewide bus tours and Facebook ads.
All combined, between candidates and outside groups, it has been estimated that more than $63 million has been spent on the Wisconsin recall. Specifically, $2.4 million was spent in the last five weeks to purchase 9,400 broadcast television ads supporting Mayor Barrett. Nearly $5.8 million was spent on 17,000 ads for Walker.
And of course, the taxpayers will contribute nearly $18 million to fund the cost of the recall election.
Governor Walker wasn’t the only elected official on the ballot. Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch survived her recall attempt by a six percent margin.
State Representative Jerry Petrowski (R- Marathon) will be the new Senator from the 29th Senate District as he pulled in 61 percent against Representative Donna Seidel (D-Wausau) in the race to replace Senator Pam Galloway (R-Wausau) who resigned in March.
State Senator Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) retained his seat with 57 percent of the vote against former state Representative Kristen Dexter (D-Eau Claire) in the 23rd Senate District.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau) defeated political newcomer Lori Compas (D-Fort Atkinson) by a 17-point margin.
Finally, the battle many thought would determine the balance of power in the state Senate, at least until the November elections, has challenger John Lehman (D-Racine) defeating incumbent Van Wanggaard (R-Racine) by 779 votes according to the unofficial tally. Wanggaard has indicated he will wait until after the official canvass to determine if he will seek a recount.