On Recall

There is a way to do it and there is a way not to do it. This is true anywhere, for anything.

For months, the Wisconsin recall effort gained steam and was a truly inspirational grassroots drive. They were successful in getting enough petitions. Once it was no longer grassroots, the epic failure of strategy, messaging, and politics from organized Democrats is borderline criminal.

They so clearly misjudged the political landscape like nothing I’ve seen since John McCain swung for the fences with Sarah Palin and subsequently dislocated his shoulder on the whiff.

Scott Walker did in 2011 what Scott Walker said he would do in 2010.
Scott Walker beat Tom Barrett in 2010.
Nothing consequential has changed about the political landscape since 2010.
To re-nominate Barrett shows either a lack of candidate recruitment or strategic planning. Or both.

I’ve grown up with union workers around me. No one works harder. The movement may be dying because of imbecile strategic decisions made by people with no understanding of the electorate they are trying to persuade.

Here is a county breakdown in Wisconsin:
(County, 2010 Winner, 2012 Winner = Difference)

Adams – Walker 52%, Walker 54.5% = +2.5%
Ashland – Barrett 62%, Barrett 61.2% = -0.8%
Bayfield – Barrett 58%, Barrett 59.5% = +1.5%
Barron – Walker 55%, Walker 59.3% = +4.3%
Brown – Walker 56%, Walker 59.7% = +3.7%
Buffalo – Walker 53%, Walker 60.8% = +7.8%
Burnett – Walker 57%, Walker 60.8% = +3.8%
Calumet – Walker 60%, Walker 66.2% = +6.2%
Chippewa – Walker 56%, Walker 58.3% = +2.3%
Clark – Walker 61%, Walker 68.7% = +7.7%
Columbia – Walker 52%, Barrett 50% = -2.6%
Crawford – Barrett 51%, Walker 51.1% = +2.1%
Dane – Barrett 68%, Barrett 69% = +1%
Dodge – Walker 66%, Walker 63.6% = -2.4%
Door – Walker 50%, Walker 56.8% = +6.8%
Douglas – Barrett 57%, Barrett 64.4% = +7.4%
Dunn – Walker 54%, Walker 53.9% = -0.9%
Eau Claire – Barrett 50%, Walker 49.8% = -0.2%
Fond du Lac – Walker 64%, Walker 63.9% = -0.1%
Florence – Walker 65%, Walker 64.8% = -0.2%
Forest – Walker 53%, Walker 58.8% – +5.8%
Grant – Walker 52%, Walker 52% = Even
Green – Barrett 50%, Walker 51.1% = -1.5%
Green Lake – Walker 64%, Walker 68.9% = +4.9%
Iowa – Barrett 54%, Barrett 52.9% = -1.1%
Iron – Walker 53%, Walker 55.7% = +2.7%
Jackson – Walker 51%, Walker 53.6% = +2.6%
Jefferson – Walker 61%, Walker 60% = -1%
Juneau – Walker 56%, Walker 55.8% = -0.2%
Kenosha – Walker 51%, Barrett 50.3% = -1.9%
Kewaunee – Walker 57%, Walker 64.1% = +7.1%
La Crosse – Walker 49%, Barrett, 51.2% = -1%
Lafayette – Walker 52%, Walker 56.7% = +4.7%
Langlade – Walker 61%, Walker 65.6% = +4.6%
Lincoln – Walker 55%, Walker 56.9% = +1.9%
Marathon – Walker 58%, Walker 62% = +4%
Manitowoc – Walker 60%, Walker 64.4% = +4.4%
Marinette – Walker 56%, Walker 62% = +6%
Marquette – Walker 58%, Walker 59.3% = +1.3%
Menominee – Barrett 78%, Barrett 73.2% = -4.8%
Milwaukee – Barrett 62%, Barrett 62.7% = +0.7%
Monroe – Walker 58%, Walker 59.2% = +1.2%
Oconto – Walker 59%, Walker 65.2% = +6.2%
Oneida – Walker 55%, Walker 58.1% = +3.1%
Outagamie – Walker 54%, Walker 61.3% = +7.3%
Ozaukee – Walker 69%, Walker 70.6% = +1.6%
Pepin – Walker 53%, Walker 60.1% = +7.1%
Pierce – Walker 53%, Walker 55% = +2%
Polk – Walker 59%, Walker 60.2% = +1.2%
Portage – Barrett 52%, Barrett 51% = -1%
Price – Walker 52%, Walker 60% = +8%
Racine – Walker 56%, Walker 58.9% = +2.9%
Rock – Barrett 53%, Barrett 55.8% = +2.8%
Richland – Walker 53%, Walker 53.8% = +0.8%
Rusk – Walker 56%, Walker 62.6% = +6.6%
Sauk – Walker 50%, Walker 50.9% = +0.9%
Sawyer – Walker 58%, Walker 56.5% = -1.5%
Shawano – Walker 60%, Walker 66.2% = +6.2%
Sheboygan – Walker 63%, Walker 64.3% = +1.3%
St. Croix – Walker 61%, Walker 61.1% = +0.1%
Taylor – Walker 62%, Walker 73.7% = +11.7%
Trempealeau – Barrett 49%, Walker 57% = +8.2%
Walworth – Walker 65%, Walker 64.3 = -0.7%
Washburn – Walker 53%, Walker 57.1% = +4.1%
Washington – Walker 75%, Walker 75.6% = +0.6%
Waukesha – Walker 71%, Walker 72.4% = +1.4%
Waupaca – Walker 59%, Walker 64.7% = +5.7%
Winnebago – Walker 54%, Walker 56% = +2%
Waushara – Walker 60%, Walker 62.9% = +2.9%
Wood – Walker 55%, Walker 58% = +3%
Vernon – Walker 50%, Walker 52% = +2%
Vilas – Walker 63%, Walker 63.3% = +0.3%

If the strategy was a rematch of 2010, then the Democratic grassroots effort needed to create a 4% shift from Walker to Barrett. This is profoundly more difficult than nominating a new candidate, to energize new voters and reengage your base, around the rationale of the recall. In many ways, in renominating Barrett, the focus was taken away from Walker and the recall rationale to a replay of issues from 2010. This is not what the recall supporters wanted.

So, in 2010, Walker pulled in 1.13M (52.3%) to 1.01M (46.5%) for Barrett.
Now, in 2012, Walker pulls in 1.3M (53.4%) to 1.12M (46%) for Barrett (98.4% reporting).
It is essentially the same result from the same election, replicated.
You can see this from the county results. Barrett needed to make headway outside of counties that he won in 2010. He failed miserably. There are a handful of counties that flipped their results, but Barrett never improved more than a couple percentage points. There were well over a dozen counties that Walker improved his turnout by over 5%, with the highest being an astonishing 11%. Barrett could not even improve considerably in Milwaukee and Dane County.

Supporters will want to make ridiculous excuses in the face of an historic election after one of the purest democratic processes I will likely see in my lifetime — where a petition drive of over a million voters sparked Wisconsin voters hiking to the voting booths over a half-dozen times in a year.

This was expected to be a very close race. But it wasn’t even close. Wisconsin voters made their voices heard and did so in record numbers. A mature adult walks away from a loss graciously and humbled. A real competitor will take responsibility when they are expected to compete but end up leaving onlookers dumbfounded. It is disappointing to see.

Even though many on both sides like to paint the electorate as stupid and easily persuaded by lies, spin, and tactics, it is also likely possible that many voters cast a ballot for Walker who did not like him because they did not treat this like a normal election. This was a recall, in many ways like an impeachment, and disagreeing with a policy does not constitute an elected official being recalled. Ironically, this is a similar argument made during the Clinton impeachment. The difference is that one is disagreement over a policy stance while the other was gross misconduct in office — but neither deserved the attention they garnered.

I will admit that I do not like Scott Walker; his personality or his policies. However, as a political scientist and an election nerd, this was an impressive victory. This was an unexpected victory. He deserves credit and respect for it.

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About Creed

I often ramble. What some people can eloquently say in 10 words, when most people would take 25, I will intentionally take 100. It's always been this way. This blog is mainly to spare my friends, family, and co-workers from my epic long rants.
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4 Responses to On Recall

  1. Chris says:

    I agree that the Dems should have realized that running Barrett would not necessarily be the shot in the arm their party needed against Walker. I think they assumed a little too much about how things were going to go, and took a few too many things for granted. And after doing what they did to get the recall in the first place, you would’ve thought they’d manage to finish the job, but it just didn’t happen. It was a surprising result in how big the margin was, but I did think Walker would end up winning.

  2. Daily Shaeffer says:

    I absolutely agree that Barrett was a poor nominee choice. Perhaps Falk, who I believe was executive of Dane County, would have done better against Walker. In the end, I still think Wisconsin made the right decision.

  3. Creed says:

    As a left-leaning voter, I even agree with you that Wisconsin made the right call. It might be the academic trumping the partisan in me, but I believe that recalls truly should be used for extraordinary circumstances, not because of policy decisions. Especially policy decisions that were discussed during the original campaign. If this becomes precedent, we’ll be in more of a constant stream of election cycles than we are now.
    (The election nerd in me wouldn’t complain, but…it’s still wrong)

    Scott Walker was wrong and extreme in what he did to public unions. Make him pay in 2014. It does not meet the criteria for a recall.

    • Chris says:

      You said: “Scott Walker was wrong and extreme in what he did to public unions. Make him pay in 2014. It does not meet the criteria for a recall.”

      That’s it in a nutshell. I’m in Florida, and we have a sizable number of folks here who want to recall Rick Scott. But there is no recall option in Florida, and I’m glad. I loathe Scott, don’t get me wrong – he’s just like Walker in his bulldozer approach to problems, our education system is going to hell, and the cronyism has been appalling. But I would not like to circumvent the democratic process. As much as it pains me, this guy is our democratically-elected governor and we will have to put our efforts into getting him gone when he stands for re-election. Now is not the time, and a recall is not the way.

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