Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Would Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's survival tell us anything useful about the fall?

By Richard K. Barry

As Nate Silver at FiveThirtyEight suggests, it really does look like Gov. Scott Walker is going to be able to save his job in today's recall election in Wisconsin. An average of recent polls has Walker up by 6.7% over his Democratic challenger Mayor Tom Barrett of Milwaukee. Some polls have it closer, some with a much larger margin for Walker, but the Governor remains the clear favorite. As well, there are very few undecided voters, which means less volatility in the electorate. In other words, we are not likely to be surprised.

It is true that Barrett's forces are claiming they will have a better "get-out-the-vote" operation, so we'll have to watch for that. Silver also notes that recall elections are rare so the margin of error in the polls might be greater than normal. Fine, I'll tune in.

A few thoughts come to mind. The state is fairly evenly split in support for Walker, but this recall exercise has been going on for some time. You'll remember that two Wisconsin state senators were ousted last August, though four were able to hang on. Some people who may not adore Scott Walker may be just as happy to send a message that they are tired of the recall circus, reasoning that it's only fair to let him serve out his term. After all, he's up for reelection in 2014. Voting to remove someone from office takes a great deal of passion, a passion which may be absent for many voters.

I know Republicans would be very happy to win here, and will consider this an omen for the fall. Interestingly, the same polls that have Walker up by more than 6% have Obama over Romney by the same amount. That does mean, as Silver points out, that some Walker supporters are prepared to vote for Obama. This should remind us that things are never that linear in politics.

I'm not saying I'll be happy if Walker wins, but I won't be ready to think this means Obama won't win the state. Maybe it will be closer there between the President and Mitt Romney than we thought and maybe Obama will have to spend more time and money to hold on, but the presidential race will have many more twists and turns before we're done. These things will happen everywhere, good and bad. I wouldn't read too much into Scott Walker's survival.

(Cross-posted at Lippmann's Ghost.)

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