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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2 thoughts on “The GOP’s electoral triumph

  1. What you’re seeing might be redistricting but it might be a failure by the WI state Dem party, either in candidate recruitment or in training the candidates they got. Compare MN, where the state leg (both houses) flipped in 2010 and then flipped back this year. I realize MN is a bluer state than WI, but the contrast suggests either (a) that Dems are more concentrated in compact areas in WI than they are in MN (so that it’s easier to gerrymander more safe R seats, even above and beyond the purpler lean of the state) or (b) that the state Dem party isn’t doing enough to field good candidates in swing districts right now. State party organization is a huge variable, and there’s no way to make up for a bad one (i.e. union GOTV won’t help) in downballot races where long-term planning is key. Nevada’s legislature has been Dem controlled and stayed that way in 2010 because the Nevada state Dems are much better organized (thanks in part to Harry Reid) than the NV GOP.

    Maybe you know all this already; maybe I’m wrong for reasons I don’t know…

  2. JSE says:

    Maybe relevant: Mark Pocan, who led the sucessful D campaign to retake the Assembly in 2008, was busy running for (and winning) Tammy Baldwin’s old house seat.

    Certainly relevant: despite being a 50-50 state, WI has had a GOP-controlled Assembly for six of the last seven terms, which could speak either to your a) or your b).

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