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How will late deciders break today in Wisconsin:
Will they reject the incumbent or repudiate the recall?

Posted by B. Daniel Blatt at 4:54 am - June 5, 2012.
Filed under: American History,State Politics & Government

Ever since I wrote a paper about the election of 1948 for an American history seminar in high school, I have been fascinated by late deciders, those voters who wait until the last minute in an electoral contest to make up their mind.  Normally, late deciders break against the party in power, but in the contest I studied, they broke overwhelmingly for the incumbent, then-President Harry S Truman.

The last Gallup poll that year, taken as I recall from my paper, two weeks before the election showed then-New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey defeating Truman by a comfortable margin.  This chart says it was 6 points; Wikipedia reports that the Democrat “had reduced Dewey’s 12-point summer lead in the Gallup Poll to just 5 points“.

Seems the momentum was truly in Truman’s favor.

Will we see the same thing to do in Wisconsin?*  Or will late-deciding Badger State voters revert to type (for late-deciders, not Wisconsinites) and move toward Barrett.  Given that some polls shows Walker hovering at 5o percent, that movement combined with a first-rate Democratic/union Get-Out-the-Vote effort today could allow his Democratic opponent to eke out a narrow victory.

Or, showing “recall fatigue,” those currently undecided voters, still uncertain about their governor, could vote for the governor more to repudiate the recall rather than to rally ’round the Republican.  This isn’t the first election since Walker put forward his bold reforms that his fellow Wisconsinites have voted.

“Voters,” Walker said (as paraphrased by the National Review’s Robert Costa “are fed up with the Left’s temper tantrum, which has sustained a fiercely partisan climate of perpetual campaigns.”  This recall, writes Wisconsinite Ann Althouse . . .

. . . is an unwelcome intrusion on the people of the state, and we have reason to be angry about it. Those who pushed for the recall felt angry, after losing the regular election, and this anger took them as far as it did, but it set up a newer occurrence, which was to outrage the people who expected to be left alone until the next regular election.

One of Jim Geraghty’s readers, attending a Milwaukee Brewers game, asked the couple seated next to him why people had booed when a picture of a man “holding up a ‘Vote Barrett’ sign”; “Barrett’s got no chance” flashed on the Jumbotron; they replied, “People are sick of this thing.”

People are sick of this thing.  And Wisconsinites uncertain about or indifferent to the incumbent governor may choose to vote for him just to oppose Barrett, the candidate who lost to Walker in the regularly scheduled gubernatorial election in 2010 — and who is backed by those favoring the recall.

*In more ways than one.   Scott Walker seems to have the momentum in this race, but hasn’t built up the same head of steam that the Missourian did nationally in 1948.



  1. I’m thinking most voters are going to support the idea that Walker won this election already and the recall is sour grapes by a party they might otherwise support.

    Comment by Richard Bell — June 5, 2012 @ 7:23 am - June 5, 2012

  2. Truman was running for President in a regularly scheduled presidential election cycle. The difference between the extremely rare recall election in a state and the presidential election cycle can hardly be compared.

    Wisconsin is not all about popularity or approval numbers. Wisconsin is a test on getting out the vote in a special election on a recall topic that has morphed so radically that it is likely the average citizen can not “recall” what motivates the “recall”.

    The Wisconsin recall people have made assess of themselves on TV and even trashed their capitol building. They have imported thugs and for all intents and purposes the issue has been boiled down to “don’t try to ‘dis’ the unions.”

    Unions are not held in the high regard that union thugs in shiny jackets think they are and people in the quiet of the secret ballot really don’t like bullies and thugs.

    Truman and Dewey may be wonderful study material from the basically pre-TV days, but each election has its own dynamic and the pollsters and those who study polls are forever having to prognosticate on “what happened” when the votes are actually counted.

    Comment by heliotrope — June 5, 2012 @ 10:13 am - June 5, 2012

  3. I am very surprised Scott Walker doesn’t have a massive lead in the polls, considering his successful record, the ugly way the left is behaving, and the fact that this is a recall election that many people don’t agree is necessary.

    Comment by Rattlesnake — June 5, 2012 @ 10:41 am - June 5, 2012

  4. With the advent of instant media and the saturation of polls, especially when compared to the snail slow tech of the time, I’m not sure a 1948 type thing can happen. That said, Prop 8 here in California was expected to lose, and seemed to be polling in that direction, so maybe I’m wrong. The difference in that case was that the coverage of Prop 8 was probably inaccurate all around because the media really really wanted, and expected, it to fail. Plus, at the same time, The One was on the ballot, and everyone just assumed that if you were voting for him, you would automatically vote “No” on Prop 8. On 1948, if I remember correctly, the press was not exactly enamored with Truman, which could have lead to a pro-Dewey bias. But it’s been a very long time since i studied the details of that electing, and I may be wrong there.

    Comment by sonicfrog — June 5, 2012 @ 12:11 pm - June 5, 2012

  5. I am continually appalled…and alarmed at times…by the apathy of the voting-populace. Reports are touting “Presidential level” voter turnouts of 60-65%…well, we’ll see if they’re even close.

    The NC Gay Marriage vote was carried by less than 20% of the registered voters voting “for” the ban on SSM…over 18% voting to block it. Yet everyone’s vocal in complaining about this politician or that public-policy, but did they vote?

    Here in NJ we’re having our state-wide Primary Election. I took my Father to vote…since the County failed to send him his mail-in ballot…and we were #4 and #5 Republican voters in our precinct of 600-800 registered voters….and the polls had been open for 4-hours. And I figure that two or all-three of the previous votes had been by the precinct election workers manning and observing the polling station.

    For the last Township and County election, I voted just before the polls closed at 8pm, and I was Voter #15! Out of 600-800 registered? And you figure there’s probably another 100-or-more eligible who don’t register trying to avoid Jury Duty or for other reasons

    Our Federal Republic was created with safeguards for the opinions and rights of the Minority….rather than simply the Mob Rule of the Majority. But at what cost if even small minorities can carry electoral-decisions against the perceived-but-apathetic Majority?

    Comment by Ted B. (Charging Rhino) — June 5, 2012 @ 12:39 pm - June 5, 2012

  6. Ted B,

    The Democrats fully understand the apathy of the voter in both parties. That is why they round up people to vote and engage in cheating. As Hugh Hewitt wrote: If it isn’t close, they can’t cheat.

    Republicans can nearly never win by being honest in tight contests.

    Comment by heliotrope — June 5, 2012 @ 12:54 pm - June 5, 2012

  7. Richard, your analysis accords with that ofNate Silver:

    Mr. Walker’s performance ratings have improved, with his approval rating exceeding his disapproval rating in most surveys. It is difficult for an incumbent to lose with a net-positive approval rating under any circumstances, and it is probably more so in the case of a recall election, when some voters might give Mr. Walker the benefit of the doubt to allow him to serve out his term.

    Emphasis added.

    Comment by B. Daniel Blatt — June 5, 2012 @ 1:52 pm - June 5, 2012

  8. I am reading reports of extraordinary turnout in Commie precincts. The gangsters and thieves may well take this one.

    Comment by V the K — June 5, 2012 @ 6:27 pm - June 5, 2012

  9. V the K:

    I don’t know if you have any religious sympathies, but if you do PLEASE PRAY. And if you know anyone in Wisconsin, call them and MAKE SURE THEY VOTE. The right way, of course. 😉

    Comment by Bastiat Fan — June 5, 2012 @ 8:04 pm - June 5, 2012

  10. Most people probably know this (it’s on HotAir, etc.), but just for the record: MSDNC and Fox have both called it for Walker.

    With about half the votes counted and most of the Soviet Union Madison yet to come, the spread will narrow from here… but still, the networks think it is too big for Barrett to overcome.

    Comment by ILoveCapitalism — June 5, 2012 @ 10:58 pm - June 5, 2012

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