Speaker of the Wisconsin Assembly Robin Vos, still smarting from Scott Walker’s loss in his re-election bid, said “Evers win was due to Dane County and the City of Milwaukee.” It’s typical GOP politics here to split off Madison and Milwaukee like this, as if liberalism in Wisconsin is a pair of dark blue inkstains on an otherwise conservative shirt.
Not so. There are liberals all over your shirt, Mr. Vos.
You can find tons of interesting data about Wisconsin elections in Excel spreadsheets at the Wisconsin Elections Commission page. This already gives you the ability to do some quick and dirty analysis of where Evers’ victory was won. In Wisconsin, every municipality is either a City, a Village, or a Town, in roughly decreasing order of urbanization. So it’s easy to separate out Wisconsin into three parts, the Cities, the Villages, and the Towns. This is what you get:
CITIES: Walker 542148 (40%), Evers 808145 (60%)
VILLAGES: Walker 257858 (55%), Evers 208596 (45%)
TOWNS: Walker 495074 (62%), Evers 307566 (38%).
That’s a pretty clear story. Evers won in the cities, Walker won by a bit in the villages and by a lot in the most rural segment of the state, the towns.
But wait — Madison and Milwaukee are cities! Is that all we’re seeing in this data, a distinction between Madison and Milwaukee on the one hand and real Wisconsin, Republican Wisconsin, Robin Vos’s Wisconsin, on the other? Nope. Take out the cities of Milwaukee and Madison from the city total and Evers still gets 521265 votes to Walker’s 477447, drawing 52% of the vote to Walker’s 28%. There are decent-sized cities all over the state, and Evers won almost all of them. Evers won Green Bay, he won Sheboygan, he won Appleton, he won Wausau. Evers won Chippewa Falls and Viroqua and Oshkosh and Neenah and Fort Atkinson and Rhinelander and Beloit. He won all over the place, wherever Wisconsinites congregate in any fair number.
Craig Gilbert has a much deeper dive into this data in the Journal-Sentinel. The shift away from Scott Walker wasn’t just in the biggest cities; it was pretty uniform over localities with population 10,000 or more. Update: An even deeper dive by John Johnson at Marquette, which brings in data from presidential elections too.
There’s a general feeling that the urban-rural split is new, a manifestation of Trumpian anti-city feeling. Let’s look back at the 2010 election between Scott Walker and Tom Barrett, an election Walker won by 7 points. 2010, when Donald Trump was just Jeff Probst in a tie. But the urban-rural split is still there:
CITIES: Walker 505213 (46%), Barrett 603905 (54%)
VILLAGES: Walker 207243 (59%), Barrett 143297 (41%)
TOWNS: Walker 416485 (62%) , Barrett 257101 (38%)
Here’s the thing, though. You can see that Walker actually didn’t do any worse in the towns in 2018 than he did in 2010. But his support dropped off a lot in the villages and the cities. And if you take Madison and Milwaukee out of the 2010 totals, Walker won the remainder of Wisconsin’s cities 53-47, which is actually a bit ahead of his overall 2010 statewide margin.
I don’t think Donald Trump has made Wisconsin politics very different. I think it’s still a state that calls its own tune, and a state where either a Democrat or a Republican can win big — if they have something to say that makes sense all across the state, as Walker and Ron Johnson used to, as Evers and Tammy Baldwin do now.