City Decides Election

More than 80 percent of Obama’s victory margin in Wisconsin came from Milwaukee.

By - Nov 8th, 2012 08:08 pm

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.

Categories: Politics

4 thoughts on “City Decides Election”

  1. Jeff Jordan says:

    You are correct about the lack of attention to Madison that many in Milwaukee practice. It comes with the disconnect that Milwaukee has with anybody outside of our county. You have to live in the “Out State”, as I have, to understand the mistrust and arms length attitude that goes on with those that never venture into our city and when they do restrict themselves to Miller Park or the Fair grounds.
    Politicians from these areas have free rein to blame any and all of the woes in the state on Milwaukee.
    Not allowing us to tax ourselves creates the humiliating act of having to go to Madison and asking for allowance every week only to find there is always some misdeed we committed and the money is not going to be forth coming.
    We would do a lot better if the Federal money we qualified for were sent directly to us. What if the money we send to Madison had to be returned to us.?

  2. Nancy Mueller says:

    Actually, Jack Norman, it was redistricting that hurt state elections. Your last sentence is highly negative and typical of the state’s attitude toward Milwaukee. We were and are paying attention to local politics. Hope you read Jeff Jordan’s comment. He’s right on. The State of Wisconsin has blamed Milwaukee for years for one thing after another. For example, for years they have drained the Milwaukee Public Schools of money for a voucher program that doesn’t work, double taxing City of Milwaukee residents while trying to destroy their schools. Then they turn around and say the schools are failing. We have had enough! Milwaukee is united and organized. You saw it in the presidential election and you will be seeing it again and again.

  3. Joel says:

    87 percent of registered voters is fantastic turnout but most of the time turnout is associated with voting age population. Milwaukee had 67 percent turnout of VAP. It is still a fantastic number and probably outstrips most urban centers in the US. Congrats Milwaukee.

  4. Joe P. says:

    Dane County is, of course, the other source. You could also say the margin in Dane County, which was roughly 132,000 votes, represented almost 2/3 of the state’s overall margin for Obama. Or that without the votes in the City of Milwaukee and Dane County, Romney would have carried the state by about 98,000 votes.

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