Did Kavanaugh Ad Elect Hagedorn?
Republican group says its ads killed front runner Lisa Neubauer in Supreme Court race.
Just one week before the April 2 spring election, conservative justice Brian Hagedorn seemed destined to lose. He had lost any financial support from key groups like the Wisconsin Realtors Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and was behind in outside group spending on the race by a margin of 14 to one. Hagedorn faced waves of criticism for his anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-NAACP views which were condemned as “extremist.”
Then the Washington D.C.-based Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) decided to get involved and as a memo it recently released noted, its poll found Hagedorn was trailing by eight points: 42 percent to 34 percent.
“Through the polling we identified that Judge Hagedorn’s biggest challenge was that he was not winning among Republicans (+50%) as much as his opponent was winning among Democrats (+71%),” the memo notes. But equalizing the partisan intensity would make this a two point race, the group estimated.
The April 2018 Supreme Court race a year earlier and won by Rebecca Dallet had just “under 1 million votes cast, with the liberal candidate outpacing the conservative candidate by 115,040 votes,” the memo says. “Making up the 115,000 vote deficit that conservatives faced in the 2018 Supreme Court race required either turning out 120,000 more conservative leaning voters, or persuading 60,000 swing voters to switch their vote. While liberal groups were focused on persuasion, the RSLC data team told us there were limited high propensity swing voters who vote in April elections. Instead, we saw that turning out low propensity Republicans would be a more effective use of our resources.”
To do this the group created ads that tied “Judge Hagedorn to other popular conservative judges like Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch, and Antonin Scalia.” The ads suggested that liberals were trying to do to Hagedorn what was done to Kavanaugh, who faced claims of sexual abuse before narrowly winning the approval of the U.S. Senate.
The memo cites a Journal Sentinel story which found that compared to the Dallet race of a year earlier, the 18-county Green Bay media market in northeast Wisconsin had seen a swing of 18 points, from a conservative deficit of more than three points “to a lead of roughly 15 points and in “the 11-county Wausau media market in north central Wisconsin, the swing in the court margin was 17 points, from a conservative deficit of 3 points in 2018 to an advantage of 14 points.”
“The morning following the election,” the memo notes, “Democrats woke up to realize that the RSLC… had outsmarted them at their own game” by successfully implementing “a plan to turnout 120,000 more conservatives than in the 2018 Supreme Court race, which would result in a Hagedorn victory by 5,000 votes. The actual result was a 5,962 vote win for Judge Brian Hagedorn.”
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