Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus was particularly gleeful last night, in the wake of Gov. Scott Walker‘s decisive victory in Wisconsin’s recall election.Priebus, a Wisconsin native, immediately sent out a tweet congratulating Walker, and rung the verbal bells of “liberty and freedom” to Fox News host Greta Van Susteren.
Then he shifted his focus to another election.
“You bet it’s a sign for November,” Priebus said. He was, of course, referring to the election coming up between President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.
Priebus is far from the only one that thinks Wisconsin is now up for grabs in November, despite Obama’s 13 point win there in 2008. Priebus’s remarks suggest that the Republican Party now believes Wisconsin is in play as a swing state in November. Walker became the first governor to win a recall election aimed at unseating him.
Romney issued a statement last night, saying “tonight’s results will echo beyond the borders of Wisconsin.” Fox News host Sean Hannity said recently that a Walker win in Wisconsin could tip the balance in November, which would put “this election in the bag.” And Walker himself offered Romney some advice on how to approach what is now a “very competitive state.”
“Paul Ryan and I grew up down the road from each other,” Walker said on Fox & Friends this morning. “We love people like Paul Ryan in Wisconsin, because Paul has the courage to tackle these big issues at the national level. If Gov. Romney wants to be competitive in Wisconsin, I think he can. He needs to tackle those same issues.”
So, was last night a preview of what’s to come in November? Not exactly.
There’s more that has to go into a blueprint of turning a plus-13 blue state into a red one in a single election. For one, the results last night suggest Romney faces significant challenges in the Badger State.
Exit polls from last night showed Obama leading Romney despite the Walker victory. The final tally by Edison Research gave Obama a 51 to 44 lead over Romney.
Photo: Edison Research/New York Times
Even more importantly, Obama got 18 per cent of the vote among Walker supporters. Romney, on the other hand, only got 6 per cent of the vote from Tom Barrett supporters.
But President George W. Bush’s former press secretary Ari Fleischer points out that there is a catch:
Before you discredit the exit polls, though, remember that the numbers are the same as the 2010 exit polls, which showed that 16 per cent of Walker supporters had voted Obama in 2008. So the presumption that the Walker vote can be directly correlated with the Romney vote in November is misguided.
There’s another factor from the exit polls also working in Obama’s favour. In general, voters were dissuaded from ousting Walker in a recall election, and were not comfortable with recall elections in general. 10 per cent of voters said recall elections are never appropriate, and 60 per cent said recalls are appropriate “only for official misconduct.” Walker’s recall fits neither of those scenarios, and that helped him:
Photo: Edison Research/New York Times
And if you don’t trust the exit polls, take a look at the current Real Clear Politics average of Wisconsin polls. Obama’s up 5 points in May polling on average.
Bottom Line: Last night’s vote was a different election from the one in November, said Jim Williams, a polling analyst at Public Policy Polling. The turnout in a presidential election will be different — and larger. More importantly, the conversation will be different — this was about state issues, not federal.
Yes, Democrats will now need to devote a lot more attention to the state for November. But last night was far from a direct preview of what will happen between Obama and Romney. The only referendum the voters of Wisconsin gave last night was to organised labour.
“It will have little impact on November,” Williams said. “The conversation of this election is so different. It’s such a localised conversation. It’s a state-specific issue, and it’s sort of a referendum on Walker. When it’s over, it’s going to be over. By November, the election is going to shift to federal issues.”
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