19 Election Winners and Losers
Beyond the vote totals there were so many other winners and losers.
Wow, were the polls wrong. Again.
Real Clear Politics and fivethirtyeight.com both had Biden winning by 7 to 8 points. Wrong.
UW-Madison Elections Research Center had a 9 point lead for Biden in Wisconsin its last poll. Marquette Law School pollster Charles Franklin repeatedly gave Biden a four to five point margin, which was closer, but still far off: Biden won by six-tenths of one percent.
Nor were they alone. Looking beyond the candidate totals, who were the other losers and winners?
Winner: Wisconsin’s state and local election officials: An army of workers at 1,850 polling places, overseen by the Wisconsin Elections Commission, easily handed a huge turnout. They were incredibly efficient, delivered results with remarkable dispatch, and proved that democracy works.
Winner: Scott Spector: Biden’s Wisconsin campaign coordinator was at a huge disadvantage as the Trump campaign had so many appearances and rallies here, compared to Biden. But Spector squeaked out a victory. Update November 6: Spector emailed to note he served only as senior advisor and “the credit is really belonging to Danielle Melfi” who served as the State Director for Biden’s campaign in Wisconsin.
Loser: A Veto-Proof Majority. Republicans hoped to get a super-majority in the Senate, enough to override a veto by Gov. Tony Evers when they attempt to again gerrymander the state. They needed to flip three districts and flipped just two.
Winner: Early Voting: 1.9 million people in the state voted early with no problems. Led by liberal Dane County where the early vote total was 80% of the number that voted in 2016, followed by Republican Ozaukee and Washington counties, both at 77 percent. This was a bipartisan success that slapped down the silly objections by Trump and his minions, helped increase turnout (hurrah for democracy!) and may transform how Wisconsin does its elections.
Loser: Democratic spending on legislative races. Democrats and liberal groups outspent their Republican counterparts and what did it get them? They lost two Senate seats and flipped just two Assembly seats. The Racine County district of Assembly Speaker Robin Vos was a classic example. Liberals poured in nearly $300,000 in the final weeks against Vos and he still won easily.
Winner: Gerrymandering. One reason all that spending didn’t matter is Wisconsin is one of the most gerrymandered states in America and the Red Wall held again. A disgrace to American democracy, but Republicans seem hell bent of trying to continue it for another decade.
Winner Rebecca Kleefisch: The former Republican Lieutenant Governor has stayed away from the pandemic wars and has been quietly working to build support for a 2022 run for governor. Vos has opened a much wider lane for her.
Winner New Suburban Democrats: In places like Milwaukee’s North Shore and Ozaukee and Waukesha counties, they supported Biden. This could have an impact on both parties in the years to come.
Loser: City of Milwaukee. After a terrible turnout in 2016, it had almost exactly the same number of voters in 2020. That’s all the more remarkable given the success groups like BLOC (Black Leaders Organizing Communities) and Voces de la Frontera had turning out for the 2018 midterm. Expect a post-mortem by the Democratic Party on the poor turnout.
Winner: Dane County: Turnout in Madison was an incredible 84.7% of registered voters. Biden couldn’t have won without this.
Winner: TV Stations: They always win from political ads but the hyper-partisan intensity of this race generated an unprecedented level of campaign donations, and much of that was spent on TV ads in battleground states. More than $8 billion was spent in TV ads nationally, a healthy chunk of that in Wisconsin.
Loser: Bob Dohnal: The publisher of the Wisconsin Conservative Digest predicted Trump would win Wisconsin by 50,000 votes with a national “landslide.” Not quite. He also condemned the Wisconsin GOP operation as “the dimmest bulb presidential campaign, run by a bunch of rookies…The same stupid people that have run the last losing 8 campaigns.” With friends like Bob, who needs enemies?
Winner: Women challengers: Democrat Deb Andraca of Whitefish Bay beat incumbent Rep. Jim Ott of Mequon and Democrat Sara Rodriguez of Brookfield beat incumbent Rep. Rob Hutton of Brookfield. A good news story for a Democratic party hard-pressed to overcome GOP gerrymandering.
Winner: Election Drop Boxes: the 15 “Fort Knox” boxes in the City of Milwaukee were secure and convenient, and far more trustworthy than the mail for absentee voters. They have changed voting for the better.
Loser: Ron Johnson: In an attempt to help Trump’s reelection, Johnson put all his marbles on the crazed conspiracy theories of Rudy Giuliani on Joe Biden and Ukraine, largely based on Russian disinformation. Bad enough for Johnson to swallow this, but he turned his Senate Homeland Security Committee and the Republican Party into a laughingstock for “investigating” this nonsense.
Winner: James Wigderson: The editor of Right Wisconsin offered an election non-endorsement that excoriated Donald Trump for “a chaotic foreign policy that is run for the president’s personal benefit… the continuing corruption of a petty kleptocrat… sheer incompetence in confronting the Covid-19 virus” and “a continuing destruction of any common political culture to the point where opposition officials have to fear for their lives.” And that’s just a small sample of his take.
At this point it looks as though Trump will lose his reelection effort. And that will be in part because of those conservatives and Republicans who took a principled stand for democratic values over party loyalty. One of those was Widgerson, with a column that took courage to write.
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