Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Heavy turnout always favors the Dem. Doesn't it?

It's official. Governor Scott Walker is still governor of Wisconsin. Final numbers have the Republican incumbent Walker with 53.1% of the vote and his opponent--Democrat Tom Barrett--with 46.3% of the vote, a victory margin of 6.8%, slightly better than his margin in the 2010 Election of 5.8%.

The spin-doctors in punditry land are at it in force, with those on the left insisting that the results are mostly a result of the monies spent by Walker (at least $30 million) and mean nothing when it comes to the 2012 General Election, while those on the right are calling it a bad omen for the President and suggesting that the election is largely a referendum on the Obama Administration.

There may be a little truth in both points of view, but overall I think the results indicate something very basic: people don't generally like being told what to do. The turnout for the recall election was huge, with over 350,000 more people voting in this election than in 2010, an additional 6% of the State's total population. Prior to seeing numbers rolling in, the punditry of the left tended to make a basic assumption in this regard: higher turnout is good news for the Democrat, for Barrett. Witness this piece at Salon by Alex Seitz-Wald:
Most observers think greater turnout overall favors Democrats, as the increase will likely come from demographics that generally vote in lower numbers but lean liberal, especially young people and minorities. Higher turnout also suggests the robust union-backed grand game is working smoothly, the thinking goes.  
While there is certainly a strong headwind blowing against Democrats, the latest polls suggested Barrett had some modest momentum. That, combined with greater-than-expected turnout in liberal precincts, could be enough to sway things. Maybe.
I'm guessing Mr. Seitz-Wald would like to retract this piece, because it makes him look clueless. Granted, the "higher turnout favors the Dem" meme is fairly commonplace, so much so that people using it never bother to look at the specifics of a given contest. But that just makes such people lazy thinkers and bad reporters. The truth was out there, all along:
Sixty percent of Wisconsin voters said in CBS News exit polls that recall elections are only appropriate for official misconduct. Twenty-seven percent said they think they are suitable for any reason, while 10 percent think they are never appropriate.
In those CBS exit polls, that's seventy percent of the voters saying the recall was a bad idea. Obviously, some of them on the left went ahead and voted for Barrett anyway, but the key point here is that a great majority of the people who went to the polls thought the whole thing was bad news, no matter whom they ultimately voted for.

The pundits on the left would have us believe the additional 350,000 people that went to the polls were largely bought by the Walker Campaign and represent some weird kind of aberration, when it comes to increased turnout and who that favors. The pundits on the right--many of them, anyway--would have us believe it was unhappiness with Obama and satisfaction with Walker that brought these people out to vote. Me, I'm thinking these people cam out to vote to make a basic statement: Walker was fairly elected and the recall is simply wrong. They're people who are sick of the protests and the whining from last year, sick of sour grapes politics, but mostly sick of other people telling them how to think, how to feel, and how they need to participate in a poorly conceived recall election so their voices will be heard.

Their voices have been heard, alright. Loud and clear.

And again, this is simply not all that unexpected, from the point of view of people like me, of people that understand the frustration of average Americans, particularly when it comes to political shenanigans. And in that regard, look at the final RCP averages for the Wisconsin Recall. PPP (Public Policy Polling) had Walker ahead by only 3 points. As recently as the end of February, PPP polls has Walker trailing Barret by 3 points. Who--in their right mind--would ever listen to the fools there again? They don't know what they're doing or--and more likely--PPP is intentionally manipulating their polls to improve the numbers for candidates on the left (to be fair, We Ask America looks every bit as bad, but this is likely due to their flawed methodology of push-button polling).

Thus, we get moronic analysis on contests like the piece by Seitz-Wald noted above. And we get the proliferation of flawed assumptions like that of high turnout being automatically good news for the Democrat in a race. And I think that this is probably the chief lesson for the Obama Administration, as far as Wisconsin goes: don't take high turnout for granted. It may not be your friend.

Cheers, all.

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