Another Wisconsin election day! By the polls — and I trust the polls, absent any reason not to — incumbent governor Scott Walker is likely to squeeze by with a narrow win. If you don’t live in Wisconsin, how much should you care about this? A lot, says Slate’s Betsy Woodruff, who calls this race “The Most Important Race in America.”
Winning statewide as a conservative Republican in Wisconsin isn’t easy. Even though five of its eight congressmen are Republicans and the GOP controls its statehouse, Wisconsin is a very blue state. It’s historically been a union stronghold, and it hasn’t gone Republican in a presidential race since 1984. For progressives, the Republicans’ fragile hold on state government is an insult, an affront that should be corrected.
Wisconsin is not a very blue state. In those 30 years since 1984, a Republican has been governor for 19 of them. In both 2000 and 2004, the Democratic candidate won Wisconsin’s electoral vote by less than half a percentage point. In 2012, Obama won Wisconsin by 7 points, in a year he won nationally by 4 points. So Wisconsin, in Obama’s home turf of the Upper Midwest, was slightly bluer than the country that year.
But it’s not California or Maryland. It’s not even New Jersey. It’s a state that’s half Republican and half Democratic. (See also: “It’s a recall, not an omen.”) That’s why elections here are close. Despite what Woodruff writes, neither liberals nor conservatives think they have a right to own the state. Walker has the advantage of incumbency and he’s probably going to win. That’s important for his dreams of a Presidential run; but I don’t think it has much to say about national politics.