Barone on Wisconsin

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 8 2011 9:16 AM

Barone on Wisconsin

The conservative election number guru analyzes the state Supreme Court race . (This post was written before a last batch of votes gave the edge to Prosser, but that doesn't change much of the topline analysis about the 50-50 election.)

In the remainder of the state Republican Prosser lost significant ground, in vivid contrast to what happened in metro Milwaukee. I suspect this reflects organizational efforts by public employee unions, and in particular by teacher unions. There are teacher union members (unlike UAW members) in every county in Wisconsin; they have an above average capacity for political activity and the union seems to have mobilized them effectively.

Instinctively conservatives tend to think that their arguments will fail in large metro areas where mainstream media are the major source of information about government and public and that they will fare better in smaller communities where tea partiers and other volunteers find it easier to communicate with neighbors. The Wisconsin returns suggest that something like the opposite is true, at least in Wisconsin. The Walker message got through pretty well in the big city and its suburbs—and the Democrats’ message, if I’m right about black turnout, did not do much to move those who are portrayed as the prime beneficiaries of Democratic policies. But in the factory towns and county seats and rural communities in the rest of Wisconsin teacher union members seem to have had more effect on opinion than tea partiers.

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Barone might emphasis "tea partiers" too much here. Prosser was rescued from defeat by a late surge of massive ad spending from groups like the Club for Growth; there's less evidence that Tea Party activists were hitting the streets for him. But the point is important -- Democrats gained back a lot of turf that had been trending Republican in 2010, and that's going to help them win recall elections.


David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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