Bruce Murphy
Murphy’s Law

19 Election Winners and Losers

Beyond the vote totals there were so many other winners and losers.

By - Nov 4th, 2020 04:23 pm
Downtown Madison, WI with the Monona Terrace in view. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Downtown Madison, WI with the Monona Terrace in view. Photo by Mariiana Tzotcheva.

Wow, were the polls wrong. Again. 

On the eve of the election respected poll analyst Charles Cook predicted a nine point win for Joe Biden over Donald Trump. Wrong. 

Real Clear Politics and 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. 

The biggest loser in this election may well have been the polls and polling aggregators. After two straight embarrassments like this, they are left with little credibility. 

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.

Loser: Robin Vos: Along with Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, Vos followed an anti-science approach of Trump and did everything to prevent Evers from taking actions to reduce the spread of COVID-19, turning this state into one of America’s leaders in cases and deaths per capita. Fitzgerald won’t be affected by this ugliness: he just won a congressional seat in a heavily Republican district he can probably hold for life. But Vos has badly damaged his chances of running for governor. 

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. 

Loser: Third Parties: High turnout elections are death on third parties, as Graham Kilmer reported for Urban Milwaukee. They had no impact on this election. 

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 kleptocratsheer 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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Categories: Murphy's Law, Politics

6 thoughts on “Murphy’s Law: 19 Election Winners and Losers”

  1. B says:

    Winner: Urban Milwaukee for offering great local coverage and analysis. Thanks!

    I am glad Fitzgerald is gone from the Statehouse. Now he will be a small fish in a big pond.

  2. lccfccoop2 says:

    I know it looks depressing that the Dems threw so much money into losing State Assembly and Senate races and didn’t get better results. But what they did accomplish was to recruit some new young candidates and get some old ones with some credibility to get their faces and names out there. Hopefully at least half will stay engaged and the Party will support and encourage them to stay involved and give them something useful to do.The Republican smear ads were brutal – and probably effective BUT there were some inroads that could bode well for the future. And they made the Republican incumbents spend money.

    So happy for Robyn Vining and Deb Andracca – who did win.

  3. TransitRider says:

    Bob Dohnal is still alive & kicking? He used to post here all the time, but disappeared from UM a few years ago.

  4. Thomas Sepllman says:

    WOW From the set up ie 3 republican legislatures not allowing early counting WI still did well as the mail in ballots except for Milwaukee for sure and Madison? are sent to the wards where they are checked in and then put in the machine. That means that there was not the lag time that took place in Michigan and Penn. Then you have Trump calling out Phil and Detroit “black” cities and you have the almost perfect storm. Bannon and Miller at their best No small feat to say the least.

    Then the SILENCE of the rest of the Republicans and yet another nail in the coffin to democracy

    4 years of LIES and actually almost 20 years of LIES and this is what happens Any group can only absorb so much before it begin to disintegrate and that is what we are seeing.

  5. Carl Baehr says:


    My guess is that Dohnal quit posting his nonsense when the policy was changed requiring that you must be a UM subscriber to comment. He only spreads his drivel if he can do it for free.

  6. B says:

    @TransitRider – I confirm that I am not Bob Dohnal.

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