Tag Archives: wisconsin

Sympathy for Scott Walker

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel suggests that the slow pace of job creation in Wisconsin, not recall campaign shenanigans, may be Scott Walker’s real enemy in his upcoming re-election campaign:

In each of Walker’s first three years, Wisconsin has added private-sector jobs more slowly than the nation as whole, and the gap is sizable. Wisconsin has averaged 1.3% in annual private-sector job growth since 2010; the national average has been 2.1%. Wisconsin’s ranking in private-sector job growth was 35 among the 50 states in 2011, 36 in 2012 and 37 in 2013.

Combining the first three years of Walker’s term, the state ranks behind all its closest and most comparable Midwest neighbors: Michigan (6 of 50), Indiana (15), Minnesota (20), Ohio (25), Iowa (28) and Illinois (33).

I think this is slightly unfair to Walker!  Part of the reason Michigan is doing so well in job growth since 2010 is that Michigan was hammered so very, very hard by the recession.  It had more room to grow.  Indiana’s unemployment rate was roughly similar to Wisconsin’s in the years leading up to the crash, but shot up to 10.8% as the economy bottomed out (WI never went over 9.2%.)  Now Indiana and Wisconsin are about even again.

But I do mean slightly unfair.  After all, Walker ran on a change platform, arguing that Jim Doyle’s administration had tanked the state’s economy.  In fact, Wisconsin weathered the recession much better than a lot of our neighbor states did.  (The last years Wisconsin was above the median for private-sector job growth?  2008 and 2010, both under Doyle.)   There’s some karmic fairness at play, should that fact come back to make Walker look like a weak job creator compared to his fellow governors.

 

 

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Hiring at and from Wisconsin

Happy to report that the UW-Madison math department has added two more terrific young faculty members, both joining us next fall:  Daniel Erman in commutative algebra and algebraic geometry (seen previously on the blog counting smooth members in semiample linear systems over finite fields) and Uri Andrews in model theory.

In other awesome news, my former Ph.D. student Derek Garton will join the department at Portland State (his master’s degree alma mater!) as a tenure-track assistant professor.

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Who does Public Polling Policy think is challenging Scott Walker?

We got a PPP robopoll today.  First of all, I want to note that the recorded voice on the phone was a middle-aged man with the worst case of vocal fry I’ve ever heard.

Anyway.

Much of the poll was of the form “If Republican Scott Walker runs for re-election against Democrat X, who would you support?”  And here are the Democrats they listed:

  • Peter Barca
  • Jon Erpenbach
  • Russ Feingold
  • Steve Kagen
  • Ron Kind
  • Mahlon Mitchell

Are these really the main Democratic contenders?

The poll went on to ask whether I had a favorable or unfavorable opinion of each of the following strange foursome:

  • Sen. Joseph McCarthy
  • Bret Bielema
  • Hilary Clinton
  • Paul Ryan

I’d kind of like to see the crosstabs on that, actually!

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The GOP’s electoral triumph

You knew there was one, right?  While the national party was crying in its beer, Wisconsin Republicans held the State Assembly and took back the State Senate, undoing the results of last year’s recalls and regaining complete control of the legislative process.  After a December special election to fill the seat left open by Rich Zipperer (best political name of 2012?) the Republicans are expected to hold a Dale Schultz-proof 18-15 majority in the upper chamber.

That’s not such a surprise; a GOP-friendly redistricting generated a slight majority of Republican State Senate districts in this purple state.  More impressive is that Republicans may not have lost any of the healthy majority they hold in the Assembly, an advantage obtained in 2010 when the GOP gained 15 seats out of 96 in play.  That means there are a lot of new Assembly members who are well to the right of their districts.  With the 2012 electorate back to a more normal partisan distribution, how did all these people keep their seats?

My guess is that people just don’t pay much attention to Assembly races, and that the incumbency advantage there is even bigger than it is for federal positions.  After all, it’s reasonably safe to vote for the US Senate candidate nominated by your preferred party; that person’s been vetted at a high level and the chance that they’re an incompetent or a loon can reasonably be considered pretty small.  But a State Assembly candidate?  If the first time you see their name is on Election Day, it’s not totally nuts to go with the incumbent.

My guess is that the Assembly won’t switch control again, or even move close to 50-50, until there’s another Democratic wave election.  Despite the many reasons Democrats have to be happy today, this election wasn’t it.

 

 

 

 

 

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Walker and Obama

Back in June, before the recall election, I argued against the view that a Walker victory spelled trouble for Obama’s re-election campaign in Wisconsin:

“if Walker actually wins by 7, it means there’s no massive shift to the GOP going on in this state, and you’re a broadly popular incumbent President whose hometown is within a half-day’s drive of most of Wisconsin’s population, your prospects here are pretty good…..

In 2010, Walker won as a non-incumbent in a regular election. If he gets the same margin against the same opponent, as a sitting governor, in a recall that not all Democrats think should have happened, I take that as a signal that the state of the electorate has shifted back to something like normal,, from the abnormally Democratic year of 2008 and the abnormally Republican year of 2010.”

In fact, Walker did win by 7.  And I think my assessment of what that meant for the November electorate is looking pretty good!

 

 

 

 

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I go in bars

We walked by a softball game with a keg at Vilas Park today.  Tanya asked me if I thought CJ knew what a keg was.  I said, of course CJ knows what a keg is, he lives in Wisconsin.  Tanya said, but how would he know?  So we asked him, hey, CJ, what’s that big silver thing by the softball game?  And he said, “That’s a big beer thing.”  And I said, how do you know?  And he said, “I know what a tap looks like!  I go in bars!”

 

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It’s a recall, not an omen

Already time to take back, or at least complicate, the nice things I said about the Times’s Wisconsin coverage.  Today above the fold:

Broadly, the results will be held up as an omen for the presidential race in the fall, specifically for President Obama’s chances of capturing this Midwestern battleground — one that he easily won in 2008 but that Republicans nearly swept in the midterm elections of 2010…

A Marquette Law School telephone poll of 600 likely voters, conducted last week, found Mr. Walker leading 52 percent to 45 percent; the poll’s margin of sampling error was plus or minus 4 percentage points for each candidate.

I suppose I can’t deny that the results “will be held up as” an omen for November’s election by some people.  But those people will be wrong, and the Times should say so.  At the very least they should avoid giving the impression that the recall vote is likely to be predictive of the presidential vote, an assertion for which they give no evidence, not even a quote in support.

I’m just going to repeat what I said in the last post.  Wisconsin is split half and half between Republicans and Democrats.  In nationally favorable Democratic environments (2008) the state votes Democratic.  In nationally favorable Republican environments (2010) the state votes Republican.  At this moment, there’s no national partisan wave, and you can expect Wisconsin elections to be close.  But incumbency is an advantage.  So Walker is winning, and so is Obama. As the Times reports, the Marquette poll has him up 7.  What the Times doesn’t report is that the very same poll has Obama beating Romney by 8.

I guess the recall might be an omen after all — if Walker actually wins by 7, it means there’s no massive shift to the GOP going on in this state, and you’re a broadly popular incumbent President whose hometown is within a half-day’s drive of most of Wisconsin’s population, your prospects here are pretty good.

Arguing against myself:  2006 was also a great year for Democrats nationally, and incumbent Democratic governor Jim Doyle beat Mark Green by only 7.

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Why Walker is winning

I tend to agree with Nate Silver, who thinks a victory by Tom Barrett in Tuesday’s recall election is fairly unlikely.  The Times’s coverage of Wisconsin politics has gotten a lot better since last February’s Capitol protests.  The NYTimes Mag feature from last Sunday is well-reported and well-written and told me some things I didn’t know.  But throughout there’s an air of puzzlement about the governor’s continued political viability that doesn’t seem warranted to me.

The feature is heavy on interviews with experienced Wisconsin political hands, both Democrats and Republicans, who are dejected about the Walker style of government and what it’s done to the state’s political culture.  I can easily imagine that it’s a depressing time to be a state legislator (and a downright dangerous time to be a Supreme Court justice) whatever party you belong to.

But I think the average Republican voter here likes Scott Walker just fine.  They like stripping collective bargaining rights just fine, and they like voter ID just fine.   And Republican voters make up half the population of Wisconsin.  Normal politics here is 5o-50; throw in the advantages of incumbency and whatever proportion of the voters disapprove of recalls on principle, and Barrett has a built-in disadvantage to overcome.  (That’s not even to mention the massive spending disparity in Walker’s favor.)  A Walker victory wouldn’t be very notable; what’s notable is the fact that a million recall petitions were signed in the first place, or that an unknown Madison judge came within a hairsbreadth of unseating an incumbent Supreme Court Justice.

That being said, the error bar here is pretty wide; not the sampling error in the polls, but the intrinsic uncertainty about who’s going to show up and vote in an election with no historic precedent.  Wisconsin Democrats surprised me and everybody else by getting a million recall petitions signed; maybe they’ll surprise me and everybody else by organizing a massive turnout on June 5.

And Barrett fans can take some comfort in the fact that I’ve been consistently wrong in every prediction I’ve made about Wisconsin politics.

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Wisconsin hires 2012

I’m happy to report on another very successful hiring year for the UW-Madison math department!  We added Dima Arinkin from UNC, who does algebraic geometry with connections to geometric Langlands; Betsy Stovall in harmonic analysis, from UCLA; our former Ph.D. student Bing Wang, returning to Madison after a postdoc at Princeton; Saverio Spagnolie, in fluid dynamics and biomechanics (who’s so organized he’s already put up a UW homepage!); and probabilist Sebastian Roch, whose job talk I enthusiastically blogged about a few weeks back.

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No good news for Wisconsin Democrats in the first Marquette Law Poll

My colleague Charles Franklin is running a year-long project at Marquette Law School to poll the heck out of Wisconsin in what will surely be a very interesting political environment.  The first poll is out, and it can’t be making Wisconsin Democrats very happy.  Full results here.  All potential recall challengers trail the Governor, though not by much, and the public is either positive or neutral about the most visible parts of Walker’s legislative plan (higher fees for state workers, voter ID, curtailing of collective bargaining.)  Majorities think that Walker’s program will increase jobs in the state and is “better off in the long run” for Wisconsin.  Cutting funding to public schools and BadgerCare, on the other hand, is deeply unpopular, and presumably those issues will play a big role in the recall campaign.  The Governor has access to a titanic amount of money from out of state, and will make sure people here don’t miss out on hearing his point of view.  His opponents may rise in the polls as they gain statewide name recognition, but it’s hard to see in the numbers a huge “anybody but Walker” sentiment.  On top of all that, Tommy Thompson, the only really popular Republican in the state, is going to be back on the campaign trail running for Senate.

The election is a long way away, but Democrats have to be seen as starting from behind.

My guess is that they have a better chance of capturing the State Senate (though I’m told that if Van Wanggard is tossed, his Democratic replacement has less than a year before being redistricted into an election they’re almost sure to lose.)  I wonder when Marquette starts polling the senate races?

(Note:  I was surprised to see that 43% of Marquette’s sample identified as “independent” — but it turns out that 40% of all Americans now give their party ID as independent, the highest proportion Gallup has ever recorded.)

Despite the title I should include the one piece of good news for Democrats; the President remains popular here and seems at the moment to be well ahead of any potential opponent.

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