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Friday, January 16, 2004


Posted by DavidNYC

At long last, I'm back. Exams were hell, but winter break was relaxing... though it was far too short. In any event, I promised a state run-down, so here's the Badger State:

Electoral Votes: 10 (11 in 2000)

2000 Results:

Gore: 47.83%
Bush: 47.61%
Nader: 3.62%
Buchanan: 0.44%

Like Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania - and a bunch of other eastern states - Wisconsin has also shed an electoral vote. (In fact, the only Gore state that's gained an EV is California.) Nonetheless, Wisconsin is still very important to us. And as you can see, the margin in 2000 was razor-thin: The spread was a mere 5,708 votes. There were so many ultra-close states last time that the narrowness of our victory in Wisconsin has been, in my opinion, a bit ignored. But people are beginning to focus on it now - or at least, so Bob Novak claims. (Via Kos.)

Despite the fact that Bush has made numerous visits to Michigan and Pennsylvania, Novak says the GOP is targeting Wisconsin and Minnesota as their best bets to switch to red this year. He doesn't give any particular reasons why, though I presumably the tightness of the 2000 race there is a big factor. (In that case, why not target Iowa as well, which went blue by a similarly narrow margin? I'm going to assume Rove is doing just that.) Obviously, a lot depends here on the Nader voters who could easily tip this race back to the Dems, albeit far from decisively. As I've said in an earlier post, I won't presume to know what these folks will do. But it goes without saying that I hope they come to our side.

Wisconsin's unemployment rate has eased a bit in recent months, down to 5.0% in November from a recent high of 5.9% in July (all figures seasonally adjusted). But, as Billmon and Krugman (among others) have observed, the lumber mill may not have re-hired Yon Yonson. Rather, he may have just quit looking for work. That is to say, the official unemployment rate only counts people who are actively searching for a new job. If you give up looking, ta-da, you are magically no longer counted among the ranks of the unemployed. (Krugman also thinks that a lot of people are who say they have jobs are only "marginally" employed.)

And the 3-year picture tells a familiar story: Unemployment when Bush took office was just 3.9%. In a very evenly divided state like Wisconsin, anti-incumbent resentment brought about by joblessness could well make a difference, especially if it brings otherwise apathetic voters to the polls, or better yet, convinces Republican voters to switch sides. Folkbum, a DKos regular and long-time Wisconsin resident, believes that the proverbial guys in pickup trucks might indeed be persuaded to vote Democrat. And if the rural areas of Wisconsin have been devastated in recent years the same way, say, they have been in Pennsylvania, this may be a bad omen for Bush.

A good sign for us is that Wisconsin just elected a new Democratic governor in 2002. The bad news is that Jim Doyle won with just 45% of the vote (former Gov. Tommy Thompson's brother split the vote by running on a third-party line), so I'm not sure how much of a trend, if anything, this represents. Doyle's approval rating is also in the doldrums - a December poll put it at just 42%. Wisconsin's legislature is Republican, but all of its statewide elected officials are Democrats. Speaking of which, Russell Feingold - a hero to many on the left for his strong stance on campaign finance reform - is up for re-election. While he may not be Paul Wellstone, I think his campaign could fire up the base a bit. And right now, apparently, his re-election prospects look pretty good: The University of Wisconsin's Badger Poll (PDF) gives Feingold a 50-30 re-elect.

Meanwhile, Bush's approval rating in Wisconsin ain't that hot. It doesn't stink as bad as the horsehead Paul O'Neill found in his bed the other morning, but it's not too pretty. The December Badger Poll (PDF) gives Bush a 52% approval rating (17% "excellent", 35% "good"), which is down considerably from his April high of 69%. The same poll says 46% want to see Bush re-elected vs. 47% who want someone else. I don't think you want to be under this particular Mendoza line, not in a state this evenly divided.

And with the electoral college overall so closely split, every state feels like its crucial. No, Wisconsin is not California. But those are 10 EVs we would have a tough time making up elsewhere. We're going to have to mobilize heavily in Wisconsin - manpower and money - in order to keep it.

Posted at 04:21 AM in Wisconsin | Technorati


Governor Doyle's win came against a particularly unpopular unelected Republican incumbent, who actually came in 4th in student dominated downtown Madison wards. Scott McCallum's fate was sealed when he escorted his son to bypass the long lines at the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Ed Thompson topped 10% as a Libertarian by reaching past the dissafected Republican bloc with strong opposition to the Drug War. Senator Feingold will pick up those votes, but a Demo Presidential Candidate who supports continuing Prohibition will not.

Your unemployed lumber mill worker is not a likely Democrat pickup, he's more likely to blame environmental regulation for his job loss than Bush.

As a general election candidate here, Gov. Dean brings plusses: his opposition to Gun Control and the Patriot Act, and minuses: his support for the Northeast dairy compact which screwed our Dairy Farmers to benefit New Englands, and his opposition to hemp and medical marijuana, which draws 80% support.

If Wesley Clark is the nominee, he'll be hurt by his association with data aggregator Axciom. Privacy is important here.

Feingold will win handily. His Patriot Act vote is wildly popular, and may provide enough coattails to carry a mediocre Presidential candidate.

Posted by: Ben Masel at January 16, 2004 07:04 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Interesting to note that Thompson has practically endorsed Howard Dean. He said as LP chair, it's not appropriate for him to endorse Dean, but he favors Dean over the other candidates.

Posted by: Luke Francl at January 16, 2004 12:00 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I also believe Doyle has all but endorsed Dean as well. Can anyone tell me why Thompson ran as a third party? I have to imagine the GOP is pissed at him.

Posted by: DavidNYC at January 16, 2004 12:06 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Thompson ran as a Libertarian because he IS a Libertarian. Opposes the patriot Act, sceptical of the Iraq War, against the Drug War. His brother's Lt. Gov. and successor, Scott McCallum, was pretty moderate for a Republican, but inept.

Tommy, for that matter has grown much more reasonable than the persona he's been forced to adopt. A sad tale really. He gave up a gig he really liked, as Governor, only after he was promised he'd be running domestic policy from HHS, only to have the rug pulled from under him just a week into the Bush regime, initially over the issue of stem cell research.


Luke, I think you're overstating Ed Thompson's embrace of Dean. As I took it, he favored him over the other Democrats, but is voting Libertarian. I'll be seeing Ed tomorrow, he's hosting Statewide NORML meeting at his restaurant. I'll ask.

Posted by: Ben Masel at January 16, 2004 02:33 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Does it matter if the governor is well liked?

Or can he mobilize his employees without high approval ratings?

Posted by: Carl Nyberg at January 18, 2004 11:51 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Senator Feingold's coattails will be much more valuable to the eventual Dem. nominee, than Governor Doyle, who's not on the ballot this year. Doyle's not going to be much help with State Employees, who've been taking a hit as he copes with an inherited budget defecit.

Posted by: Ben Masel at January 18, 2004 04:20 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

This was a close state in 2000, but if Howard Dean is the Democratic candidate, he'll kill Bush in Wisconsin. I know Rove and others have targeted Wisconsin and Minnesota, but Dean or Gephardt would fix that problem instantly. I don't believe Bush stands a bat's chance in hell of winning this state in 2004. It was the moderate conservative image that helped Bush here before, but everyone has been dispelled of this myth this time around. Bet Bush loses this one by 10 points or more.

Posted by: Mark at January 18, 2004 08:37 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

On my short list of great VP candidates is David Obey, just to hold this state. Feingold's needed to hold the Senate close.

I also think Ike Skelton of MO would be a good choice in this region with aggie/middle-American swing states all around.

Posted by: Kevin Hayden at January 23, 2004 08:11 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

The link to the Bob Novak column discussing Wisconsin (& Minnesota) in '04 has expired. Here's the same piece from a different source:


Posted by: Harvey Hudson at January 23, 2004 11:04 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

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Posted by: Roy at November 12, 2004 01:00 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment