Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

Who Will Win the Elections?

The turnout will be massive. And could result in upsets.

By - Apr 5th, 2016 10:34 am
Rebecca Bradley

Rebecca Bradley

As Donald Trump might put it, the election is going to be “hu-uuge.”

How huge? State officials are predicting a 40 percent turnout, or 1.75 million of Wisconsin’s 4.44 million eligible voters going to the polls, the biggest turnout for a presidential primary since 1980, when it was 45 percent. In the city, Neil Albrecht, executive director of the City of Milwaukee Election Commission, is predicting turnout will be even higher, between 50 and 60 percent of registered voters. That’s really hu-uuge.

Which makes the much smaller February primary results for a race like the Supreme Court, where incumbent justice Rebecca Bradley looked weak gaining just 45 percent of the vote, pretty irrelevant. There will be nearly 1.2 million new voters in this election, in addition to the 563,000 that voted in February, which makes the primary not much of a guide to who wins the general election.

This election will be all about that turnout and which side turns out more. Once upon a time in Wisconsin, the choice of independent voters could be a key. But in Wisconsin, one of the most politically polarized states in America, they’re a vanishing breed. Marquette University Law School pollster Charles Franklin predicts “not many independents voting” in the election.

And his last poll, released on Wednesday, found 54 percent of likely voters say they’ll be voting in Republican primary and 46 percent in the Democratic primary. The poll’s 3.3 percent margin of error means the Republican advantage could fall below 51 percent, but a stronger GOP turnout makes sense given that across the nation there has been more excitement around Trump and the Republican circus, still with three rings left. The bigger GOP turnout will ripple down to other races as well.

For the Republican presidential primary, the turnout will be heavy state-wide, but the WOW counties of Waukesha, Ozaukee and Washington, who have been whipped into an anti-Trump frenzy by conservative talk radio, are likely to turnout the state’s highest percentages, with most going for Ted Cruz. Trump will lose, but I suspect it will be closer than the 10-point margin in the MU Poll. By contrast the polls’s four point margin for Bernie Sanders over Hillary Clinton will likely be larger, due to a huge (there’s that word again) turnout of Sanders-loving university students (always tricky to predict) in both Madison and Milwaukee.

And the key down-ticket races:

Bradley Beats: JoAnne Kloppenburg: Given all the negative press for Bradley, regarding her extremist writings years ago, her extra-marital affair, etc. you might think she’s toast, but many general election voters probably haven’t paid that much attention. And given Kloppenburg lost a squeaker to David Prosser in 2011, due to him winning his Fox Valley base, you might think she’d win this time, what with Bradley sure to lose her home base of Milwaukee County. But the 2011 race had a turnout of 33 percent, compared to the predicted 40 percent this time and most of the additional voters will probably lean conservative. UW-Milwaukee professor and former Democratic legislator Mordecai Lee predicts Bradley will win by five points. That sounds about right, perhaps a little tighter than that.

Abele Beats Larson: It would be a dramatic upset if state Sen. Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee) beats incumbent Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele, and it might just happen. Abele, after all, got just 40 percent of the vote in the primary and has wounded himself badly with questionable decisions on high-profile issues, most recently by suggesting he’s consider tearing down the Mitchell Park Domes.  Then there’s the likelihood of a surge of student voters for Sanders. “I don’t know how many Bernie voters are going to vote for Abele,” says longtime PR operative and Democrat Evan Zeppos. But some of those university students may simply vote for president and skip the other races.

One Democratic consultant offers this analysis: “Everything points to an Abele win. He has just overwhelmed Larson everywhere — on TV, radio, digital, mailers. Larson needs a heavy city vote and a light inner suburban ring vote. In a normal spring race, the inner ring votes +7 over the city. This is not a normal race. The heavy interest in the GOP primary will help drive the suburban ring which should benefit Abele. There is no clear advantage in the African American vote, so that likely helps Abele as well.” Abele wins a very close race.

Barrett Beats Donovan: This will be a runaway with Mayor Tom Barrett getting 65 percent of vote over Ald. Bob Donovan, as my colleague Jeramey Jannene predicts. “Donovan never got traction on anything,” Zeppos observes. Had the race been closer it would have driven city turnout that could have helped Larson.

Wiken Beats Witkowski: Challenger and conservative Chris Wiken unseats veteran Ald. Terry Witkowski in the 13th District (southeast side). Witkowski is popular, but his support of the streetcar could hurt him, and the turnout is likely to bring out infrequent voters thinking “throw the rascal out” thoughts.

Lewis Beats Puente: Incumbent 9th district (northwest side) Ald. Robert Puente serves a majority black district, and got only 43 percent of the primary vote. Chantia Lewis is a strong African American candidate who’s likely to upset him.

Other council incumbents are likely to prevail. In the two open aldermanic seats, the prevailing wisdom is that Milwaukee County Supervisor Khalif Rainey beats Milwaukee School Board President Michael Bonds in the 7th District formerly represented by Willie Wade and former Barrett aide Chevy Johnson beats Sherman Morton, an aide to retiring Ald. Joe Davis in the 2nd District seat he held.

One final thought: Donovan easily carried his aldermanic district with 63 percent of the primary vote, but has been distracted by his mayoral race, while his challenger Justin Bielinski has relentlessly gone door to door. It’s a heavily (about 63 percent) Latino district and you may get a higher than usual turnout (there’s that word again) of Latinos looking to vote against Trump and with no particular loyalty to Donovan. A win by Bielinski would be quite an upset. Hu-uuge, you might say.

Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

15 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: Who Will Win the Elections?”

  1. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    1. While Bruce’s point about eastern Wisconsin may be valid in Supreme Court race, his Milwaukee-centric view is getting in the way. Over half of this state lives from the Jefferson-Dane line west, away from the poison of AM radio carrying Bradley’s water. Kloppenburg could well win that half of the state 60-40, and that, along with younger voters being clued into the race by Sanders and Clinton, gives Kloppenburg the edge.

    2. Bruce might be right about Co Exec, but it might also be his anti-County Board blind spot getting in the way again. Larson is the change agent candidate on this one, and don’t bet against that as a key tiebreaker.

    I could be way off here, but let’s face it, most of us are just flying blind with turnout models in an open primary

  2. Vincent Hanna says:

    I hope you’re right Jake. I have a bad feeling Bradley is going to win. I can’t remember ever seeing lines like I saw this morning. One polling place had 15-20 people lined up before 7am.

  3. PaulS says:

    I wonder, though, if Abele’s increase in property taxes for the Taj Ma-basketball-Hall will sit well with conservatives. Up taxation in St Francis to fund a playground in hated Milwaukee City might be too much to ask for.

    Broad reading of non-MKE, non-Madison press in the small cities, small towns, and rural parts of WI suggests a sagging of enthusiasm for the GOP as those areas feel the bleeding from our sick state economy–and not a D anywhere to blame for it.

    In any case, it’s fun to speculate. We’ll know in a few hours.

  4. Dave says:

    I hope Bruce is wrong. Otherwise, I’d better hit the liquor store. If Bradley and that little turd stain Wiken win, I’m going to need more than the 2 beers currently residing in the fridge.

  5. Ryan N says:

    Hope he’s wrong about Witkowski, the city doesn’t need that trash carpetbatter Witkowski to go along with equally awful humans Donovan and Borkowski. Everthing else I’m ok with.

  6. TF says:

    @Ryan N – Witkowski’s one of the good guys, Wiken is his opponent from Brookfield.

  7. Ryan N says:

    @TF you’re right, the W’s confused me. Meant to say that carpet batter “Wiken” so I hope he’s wrong about Witkowski losing.

  8. Cindy says:

    I live in Sherman Park and vote at Washington High School. When I voted at 10am, I was number 27. There was no long lines here.

  9. Vincent Hanna says:

    Loos like Bradley and Abele win easily.

  10. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    And….I was way off. And the reason why I missed on Bradley was because of the 920 and 715 area codes. That, and really odd number of undervotes by Dems and Sanders supporters especially, where Kloppenburg didnt get all their votes.

    Abele’s margin was shocking, and Milwaukee County progressives outside the city didnt hold up their end. Maybe the city should secede…

  11. WashCoRepub says:

    Congratulations to Justice Bradley on a wonderful victory! Thanks to the Journal-Sentinel for really firing up her base and bringing them out in droves to support her.

  12. Vincent Hanna says:

    The troll returns! Yes the state should be so proud for electing a hateful, ignorant, and hypocritical person to the state supreme court. It’s a sad day in the state’s history.

  13. Observer says:

    WCD wins. Wisconsin is a Red State.

  14. Dave says:

    It’s red except for Presidential elections where it is decidedly blue. Yesterday’s election only confirms how pathetic the state and Milwaukee County Dem organizations continue to be in their ability to turn out voters and counter the tidal wave of dark right wing money.

  15. Sam says:

    I don’t understand how these results get so red-shifted when WI votes blue for presidential elections. How do we know the machines are counting the ballots accurately?

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