City Decides Election
More than 80 percent of Obama’s victory margin in Wisconsin came from Milwaukee.
A remarkably successful get-out-the-vote machine in the City of Milwaukee anchored President Barack Obama’s Wisconsin win, the day-after numbers show.
Obama’s victory margin in Milwaukee grew by 15,070 votes in 2012 compared with 2008, boosted by a turnout that saw 87% of the city’s registered voters casting a presidential ballot. His winning margin in the city was a stunning 170,831 votes.
But in the rest of Wisconsin, Obama fell sharply from 2008. His overall margin of victory in the balance of Wisconsin—the state minus the city of Milwaukee—dropped from 256,532 to a mere 34,374.
In other words, in 2008 Milwaukee joined with the rest of the state in a strong win for Obama. But in 2012 it was Milwaukee’s vote that provided almost the entire winning margin for Obama in Wisconsin.
Credit goes to the voters, of course, but also to the very effective work of the various get-out-the-vote operations in the city. These included the official Obama operation, Organizing for America, and also a number of independent groups, including those of the AFL-CIO, the Service Employees International Union, Citizen Action of Wisconsin and others.
Their technical sophistication and dedicated volunteers blew away any notion of an “enthusiasm gap” within the City of Milwaukee.
At the same time, the very strength that Obama showed in the city underlined an increasing polarization among voters. For example, Obama’s city showing was in stark contrast to his losing effort in the Milwaukee County suburbs.
In 2008, Obama won the Milwaukee County suburbs by 14,613 votes (53.7%). But this year, Romney beat Obama in Milwaukee County suburbs by 1,171 votes, a big turnaround for the GOP (Obama’s vote was 49.7%).
If the Democratic success in Milwaukee is enough to give Obama the state, why can’t they replicate this pattern in state politics? State government moved even further into Republican control in this election, with their sweep of both houses of the Legislature.
There are many reasons—from redistricting to racism—but among them is the simple fact that people care so much more about national candidates than about local ones. President Obama still excites Milwaukee Democrats. Tom Barrett, or any other state Democrat capable of running for Governor, does not.
Milwaukee voters care a lot more about who’s running the show in Washington than who’s running it in Madison. With Republicans now in total control in Madison, this lack of attention to local politics will come back to haunt city Democrats.