5 things to watch: Wisconsin

If you do believe the demographic trajectory of the election, you may believe that Wisconsin is  a state that could potentially flip to Donald Trump.  I’m not sure I really buy into it.  I think that Wisconsin, even with the voter suppression tactics that are happening in Wisconsin, as I write this, it stays comfortably in Clinton’s column.  Plus there’s the idea of more opposition research dropping (I’m writing this on October 28th and I’m pretty sure that there’s more coming).

  1. US Senate race: Russ Feingold is one of my favorite politicians in my lifetime.  Feingold helped author a campaign finance reform bill with Arizona maverick John McCain, that ended up being struck down in Citizens United.  He opposed the Iraq War.  He opposed the USA PATRIOT ACT.  All in all, was a great Senator.  He lost in the 2010 wave election for the Republican Party to Ron Johnson, a TEA Party darling.  Johnson has voted as fairly right wing which is out of step for the state of Wisconsin which has a slight liberal lean.  Feingold is probably not the most representative, either.  He is much to the left of his constituents, as well. Most polls show that Feingold is a near lock to return to the Senate.  For many people who were “feeling the bern” Feingold is a person that you can easily latch onto.  I can’t quite be objective about this Senate race because of my love for Feingold. So I’m watching this Senate election with a closer eye than most of the Senate races.
  2. U.S. House of Representatives, Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District: If Democrats are going to take back the House of Representatives, they’re going to have to win districts like this one.  Cook’s political rating has this district as lean Republican.  If it does potentially flip, the reason will be that Clinton and Feingold are able to overperform the current polls. In 2012, this district voted for Republican Reid Ribble with 55.9% of the vote winning by 42,000 votes.  In 2014, he did even better with an 87,000 vote advantage.  But Ribble’s incumbency advantage is not coming into the 2016 election.  The Democratic Party nominated Tom Nelson to run against former Marine Captain Mike Gallagher.  Gallagher is a veteran adviser to the ill-fated Scott Walker Presidential campaign but will test how much influence Walker has in this district.  People are split on how much of an influence Walker has (he more or less has underperformed in 2010, 2013, and 2014) and how much of an influence the conservative talk radio has in Wisconsin.  At any rate, it will be an interesting thing to watch going forward.
  3. Wisconsin State Senate District 18: Democrats in Wisconsin have an outside shot of being able to retake the State Senate in Wisconsin.  If they want to do that, they will have to take Senate District 18, to do so.  The seat is currently held by Republican Rick Gudex.  He was able to win the seat in 2012 against the Democratic incumbent.  Gudex won the election by 600 votes.  This is not an insurmountable edge for the Republican Party.  Combine that without an incumbency advantage and a belief that Feingold and Clinton outperform the current polling and I think this State Senate district is definitely one worth watching.
  4. Wisconsin State Assembly District 51:  Unlike the State Senate, there is almost no chance that the State Assembly is able to be flipped to Democratic control.  In 2012, this district, went to the Republican incumbent, Howard Marklein with 51.9% of the vote.  He received just over 1,000 more votes than his Democratic challenger.  In 2014, with a Libertarian candidate running to help spoil the election for the Republican Party, Todd Novak won the election with 47.5% of the vote  winning by 65 votes over the Democratic opponent.  There’s not a libertarian party candidate on the ballot for this district this year, which should provide additional help for the Republican.  I’m interested in watching if it can flip without the Libertarian Party candidate trying to spoil the election.
  5. Wisconsin State Assembly District 85: Another example of the Libertarian Party more or less giving the election to a Democratic politician.  Mandy Wright won the 2012 election in this district with a 900 vote lead over the Republican, Patrick Snyder.  In 2014, this seat flipped from Wright to Republican Dave Heaton.  Heaton won the election in 2014 by 85 votes.  So for 2016, there’s a rematch of the 2012 election between Wright and Snyder.  There is not a Libertarian Party candidate on the ballot in this district this year but it seems to be shifting to the left so it may be somewhat of a victory for Wright even without a Libertarian helping her out.