Thursday, October 11, 2018

Wisconsin Governor- Race of the Day

26 Days Until Election Day

Wisconsin Governor

Status: Republican Incumbent
2016 Presidential Result: Red State (Midwest)

Outlook: Leans Democrat

With so much on the line this year, especially in Senate elections, this race for Governor is not getting the sort of attention it might have, considering the past national implications involving the career of Republican Governor Scott Walker.

The one-time Milwaukee County Executive had wanted to be Governor of Wisconsin for a long time. In 2006, he was defeated in the GOP primary by a Congressman, but four years later, in a strong year for Republicans, Walker defeated the then Mayor of Milwaukee (and a former Congressman) to capture the Governorship.

Walker got off to a fast and ambitious start, implementing various conservative initiatives that weakened the power of public employee unions. Democrats and the state and from around the nation converged on Madison (already a heavily liberal city) to protest Walker and his legislative Republican allies. The parties battled it out in various recall elections and Democrats were successful in getting enough signatures to make the Governor himself face a recall election. The party and union activists of all sorts were optimistic they could make an example of Walker and drive him from office, with the candidate he defeated in 2010 taking over after the recall election. However, in June of 2012, Walker survived, with an even slightly larger margin than his initial election to become the first Governor in American history to survive a recall. Democrats had gambled and lost, although the GOP was unable to capitalize in other races in the fall of that year. Walker was strengthened though, and proved his political mettle by winning a bitter reelection battle in 2014, once again scoring in the 52-53 percent range.

Having been elected now three times as Governor, Walker jumped into the 2016 Presidential sweepstakes and many saw him as the kind of rising political star with a narrative of accomplishment that could eventually propel him to the nomination. On the national scene though, Walker came across as tentative and a bit pandering. Like many others in the field, the surprise emergence of Donald Trump hurt him, and an attempt to tangle on a debate stage with the new front-runner did not go as smoothly as Walker might have hoped. With his fundraising drying up, the Governor suspended his Presidential campaign in September of 2015. In a terse announcement, he indicated the necessity of the party to act in a way that avoided a Trump nomination. Shortly before the Wisconsin primary, Walker endorsed Ted Cruz, who in a big break easily won the contest, but Trump prevailed to take the nomination. Walker put aside his reservations and offered his support to the new nominee. In November, with the Hillary Clinton campaign basically taking the Badger State for granted, Trump defied many state polls and narrowly took the state's Electoral Votes, becoming the first Republican to do so since 1984.

With 2018 approaching, and without an offer of an Administration job, Walker was left with the options of either walking away from politics, running an uphill race against an incumbent Democrat Senator, or seeking a third term (which might feel like a fourth term to Governors, and which would also be a fifth campaign for the job) as Governor. Republican Governor Tommy Thompson had won four terms as Governor between 1986 and 1998, but most states have term-limits for Governor now and voters are seemingly more in the mood for a change after someone serves eight years.

Democrats looked to find a top-tier candidate to take on Walker, and for a time, it looked like they would be unable to find one. Still, a slew of lesser known candidates ran ahead of the August primary. With so many on the ballot, some had withdrawn and had thrown their support to other candidates. There was some late consolidation in the party on behalf of the one statewide elected official in the candidate in Tony Evers, who serves as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, which is technically a non-partisan post.

As the incumbent Republican took 92 percent on his side, Evers was an easy winner for Democrats with 42 percent. Well behind, with 16 percent was Mahlon Mitchell, the young African-American Firefighters Union head, who had been the 2012 party nominee for Lt. Governor. In third place with 13 percent was a young former State Representative named Kelda Roys, who ran as a more liberal attorney. Further back in the pack was a female State Senator and former Gubernatorial candidate and a male former state party chair, who both fell short of double digits. Clearly, the primary voters wanted Walker and Evers.

The Democrats' primary for Lt. Governor was won by 31 year old former State  Representative  Mandela Barnes. The African-American candidate, who had lost a 2016 State Senate primary to an incumbent, is 35 years older than Tony Evers, who should not be confused with character of that name, who went by "Duke" and who used to manage Apollo Creed in the Rocky franchise. Running alongside Walker, for the fourth time, is incumbent Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. A former beauty pageant contestant and television news anchor, Kleefisch, who is married to a former State Assemblyman, and who has ties to the Evangelical community, won her first race, when she was Walker's Lt. Governor partner in 2010, and she also survived in the 2012 recount.

There is nothing that liberals would like to see more than Scott Walker finally give a concession speech. The polls in the race have for the most part shown him trailing Evers. It could just be that a third term is a lot to ask for these days or that Democrats in the state, which until recently at least had a reputation of being fairly liberal, are extra-motivated. Trump took the state in a surprise two years ago, even as many suburban Republicans resisted, but may be an anchor this time. Wisconsin relies on a lot of agricultural exports, as well as selling it's Harley-Davidson motorcycles, and those industries stand to lose a lot under Trump's pro-tariff executive actions and rhetoric.

There are some varying polls this week, but they tend not to look good for the Republican. It should be kept in mind though that among the 2016 battleground states, Wisconsin was the one (and perhaps the only real one) that wound up deviating from what polls were showing. One poll this week now has Walker up by one point over Evers, while another has the Democrat 10 points ahead.

 The truth is probably somewhere in between, but it is hard to not have the perception that Evers is ahead as the race heads down the home stretch. It is quite possible there will be a late surge to Walker, but the polls are not showing that as of yet. If Scott Walker does manage to somehow win this election and secure another term, he will have to be considered the ultimate political survivor.

Gubernatorial Races predicted thus far:

16 D  (2 Safe, 3 Likely, 8 Leans, 3 Tossup) 
19 R  (2 Safe, 9 Likely, 6 Leans, 2 Tossup)

Total with predictions thus far:

23 D (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 3 Likely, 8 Leans, 3 Tossup)
26 R (7 holdovers, 2 Safe, 9 Likely, 6 Leans, 2 Tossup)


At 6:48 AM, Blogger Steve Boudreaux said...

I'm betting Walker wins reelection to 3rd term.


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