The Wisconsin Primary Game Day Thread!

After a week’s respite from actual voting, we’re back with a legit primary today in Wisconsin! The Badger State has always been a bit of an iconoclast, politically. It’s the place where the far left progressive ideals of Republican (yes, that’s right kids “far left”, “progressive” AND “Republican”, all in one sentence) governor, senator, and presidential candidate Fightin’ Bob LaFollette found widespread support. (Fightin’ Bob was Bernie Sanders 100 years ago, basically). Conversely, it’s also the home state of public union busting conservative governor Scott Walker, and 2012 VP candidate (and perhaps Cleveland wildcard candidate in 2016), house speaker Paul Ryan.

What’s at stake? For the Republicans, 42 delegates will be awarded today. For the Democrats, 86. The Democrats are awarding them proportionally as usual. On the Republican side, it’s winner take most. If a candidate can clear 50% of the vote and/or win each of Wisconsin’s congressional districts, he’ll walk away with the whole pie.

What’s really going on?

Wisconsin looks like the exam that will prove the notion that it’s all about momentum, except it isn’t, especially when demographics are involved. Say what now?

OK, consider that there are two possible motive forces that–beyond policy and campaigning–may help explain why voters vote the way they do. One is a bit of a timeworn cliche that frankly looks weaker with each contest, momentum. The other is demographics, which looks more and more like the factor to explain how we got to where we’re at, and what is likely to happen in Wisconsin voting today.

More specifically, on the Republican side Wisconsin has never looked like a super strong Trump state. He’s led in some polls there in the past few months, but once the serious polling of the state started two weeks ago, his vulnerability has been apparent. The 30-35% he’s polled there looked good when it was against a field of Cruz, Kasich, Rubio, and Jeb!. It looks a lot worse with the field winnowed to just two opponents.

And Wisconsinites seem like a pretty skeptical group. Heck, northern plains voters in general seem to not particularly like Donald Trump very much (remember that neighboring Minnesota delivered Marco Rubio his one victory from an actual state in 2016). And…Trump’s weird attacks on Heidi Cruz and a media that seems to have turned on him have created a steady drumbeat of negative stories in the last few weeks. Momentum, all bad for Donald, all good for Cruz…

Or is it momentum? Wisconsin, as stated, always looked like a tough sell for Trump. His polling’s stayed about where it was. The difference? Maybe it’s just the reduction of the field of opponents. But, as Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight pointed out yesterday, will we still be talking about Trump’s lost “momentum” when he sweeps through the heavily populated east coast states in two weeks? That’s where the demographics favor him, after all. Momentum versus demographics. Demographics versus momentum. Today in Wisconsin for the Republicans, pick your favorite theory and shout if from the rooftops if you like, but in reality it’s probably some amount of both of those things, though perhaps not equally divided.

Democrats, next post!

What’s going on on the Democratic side?

Once again, it’s all about the momentum, except maybe it’s really about the demographics.

As far as momentum goes, give it its due. If Sanders isn’t ringing up resounding victories two weeks ago in western caucuses, it’s unlikely he’d be polling so strongly in Wisconsin after all. But he did and he is. Momentum, Bernie’s got it. Clinton was polling 5-10 points ahead in ancient Badger State polls, but more recent polling puts her consistently 5-10 points behind Sanders in Wisconsin. Momentum. She wishes she had some.

Except…maybe its not about momentum at all! Maybe it’s about demographics and money instead.

As mentioned, Hillary had a lead that ranged from 3-10 points in Wisconsin a few polls taken months ago…but especially after Michigan, those numbers looked dubious at best. Sure enough, after racking up his big wins two weeks ago, polls in Wisconsin showed an aggregate of a Bernie lead, and a growing one at that.

So that’s momentum, right? Well, kinda. I mean, it’s an easier task to get people fired up to vote coming off a win, and folks are flocking to the polls today in the Badger State on both sides. So there’s definitely something to that.

But, from a strategic standpoint, Team Clinton is playing an interesting game here. They’re working with a different money engine than Sanders is. Hillary raises her funds from a smaller pool of deep-pocketed donors who end up getting limited by federal campaign fund donation ceilings–$2700 for the primary campaign by an individual. Bernie’s wide net of small donors is more like Obama’s funding in 2008. Think of her as depending on venture capital angels, think of him as running on crowd sourcing. Both have their good points and bad.

But for HRC, she’s gotta be remembering 2008, when she found herself out of money after Super Tuesday and essentially conceding contests and delegates for a month while she re-raised funds and took out a personal loan (one that didn’t get paid back for a while, too.) Hillary 2016 has been much more frugal.

Another thing at work is this: most of Hillary’s donors are Democratic party regulars. When they donate to her, the folks sending the funds are expecting them to be trickled to down-ballot voters. That’s a necessary tax she has to pay on incoming monies. So…even though she’s got a lot of money in the bank for her campaign, she’s got to be careful about how she spends it. For Sanders, his wide net of small donors is like an ATM machine that won’t quit. He can play hard in every state for ad buys.

And so this is the interesting strategy I’m finally getting to. Team Clinton took a look at the close race in Wisconsin two weeks ago…and decided not to play too hard there. They’ve spent about $900k over the last two weeks on ads, including a paltry $60k two weeks ago. Senator Sanders, by comparison, has spent $2.4m there. Bernie’s progressive appeal likely explains why he’s doing so well in Wisconsin, but that gap in spending helps explain why his lead seems to be widening there.

So why didn’t HRC compete there? Well…forget momentum. It’s all about the demographics, stupid! Hillary is looking at contests in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Connecticut, and Delaware coming up this month. The demographics in those states are MUCH more favorable to her on a variety of levels, from the racial diversity angle to the affluency of white liberals in some of those states. And so it looks like her campaign took a look at Wisconsin, took a look at these upcoming states on the east coast later in the month…and decided to (kind of) punt today. Wisconsin’s demographics skew more liberal/progressive and with much less diversity than those east coast states.

And that’s the fascinating part, to me. Team Clinton is all in on the demographics side of the demographics versus momentum debate. In baseball terms, they looked at this as a world series, and decided to throw their rookie number five starter today in a game on the road so they can pitch their aces at home. As any baseball fan will tell you, that’s a bit of a high risk/high reward way to do things, but that’s what we’ve got. I will say this: for Clinton, if she holds her coalition of voters together, this race is all but over. She’ll clean up on delegates on the east coast and win handily in California. If Bernie makes inroads and starts to chip away at it…you know, through momentum (there’s that word!) then Clinton may actually have to start looking over her shoulder.

Trigger warnings for grumpy poll haters

Polling for both sides:

The highly respected Marquette Law poll came out two weeks ago and gave Cruz a +10 (40-30) over Trump. Other polls in the state from reputable folks have found Cruz to have a 6-8 point edge today.

Marquette also gave Sanders a 6-point lead last week. Other (reputable) polls have reinforced that, too, with a weekend Emerson poll (reasonably reliable) finding Bernie holding a nearly 9 point gap.

fearlessly bad predictions time…

Cruz 48, Trump 34, Kasich 16 Cruz may take all 42 delegates here.

Sanders 54, Clinton 44, and Bernie narrows the gap to about 200 pledged delegates or so.

One of the most interesting stories out of the GOP primary over the past few weeks has been Cruz’s delegate games: in states where state conventions elect delegates, like North Dakota, he’s been cleaning up, and in states like Tennessee, where delegates are only bound on the first ballot, he’s been succeeding in stuffing the delegations with delegates who will stick with Trump precisely as long as they are bound by law to do so, and no longer.

Trump, of course, is complaining about being outmaneuvered, but if the trajectory of the GOP race remains as it is—difficult to say, obviously—Cruz is looking increasingly likely as a second-ballot winner.

I moved, so I have to register, this is such an ordeal. Though, more my laziness than the actual system.

Just a reminder, Wisconsin gave us both Russ Feingold and Joe McCarthy. Today’s gonna be… interesting!

Maybe a better analogy is 1864.

The South has lost the war and everyone knows it but the war keeps still has to play out. There is always the possibility, however unlikely, that Lee will somehow discover and capitalize on a tremendous mistake by Grant and win an overwhelming victory that changes everything. The more likely outcome is that Lee will get ground down by attrition. All Grant has to do is not-lose, rather than win.

Hillary has “won” in the sense that her numbers show her winning. Sanders isn’t going to be able to do much to get the kind of overwhelming victory he needs to pull off an upset at this point. Of course, anything can still happen. Hillary can start spouting Nazi theology while drunk at a public event attended by the leaders of the Democratic party. She can get handcuffed and thrown into jail by the FBI for some politicalized reason. She can completely screw up in some unforeseen way, giving Sanders the opportunity to win. Likely as not, that’s not going to happen. So at this point all she needs to do is not-lose, and the voters vote the way they’re predicted to vote, and the contest is over.

The more entertaining primary is still the Republican primary. At this point they’re just jockeying to see which one of them will step over Caeser’s body when they murder him at the RNC. The most interesting thing to me is what they actually do with his message and voters; do they go back to business as usual, ignoring his populist talk as just so much clown car nonsense, or do they realize there is a demographic he represents that need addressing? Both parties look to “all the boats rise” solutions to what i’m calling Poor White Problems; Democrats because they can’t countenance addressing white male problems directly before everyone else’s so they look to systemic solutions, and Republicans because selling poor whites on tax breaks for their rich friends is their whole modus operandi. Will either party take the Poor White problem seriously this election, seeing Trump’s rise as a warning, or just sweep it back under the rug for another cycle? That’s what i’m interesting in seeing play out.

Feingold was great. So sad he’s gone.

Momentum schmomentum. There’s the baseball saying that momentum is as good as your next starting pitcher. I suspect the same applies to primaries and demographics. Whatever happens today, Clinton and Trump are poised for a whole bunch of wins going forward.

Rumors of Russ Feingold’s political death may have been greatly exaggerated. Lotta polls have him running reasonably ahead of Ron Johnson in Wisconsin to take back that senate seat.

Yeah, he can count on my vote this fall. How in the hell did he ever lose his seat is beyond me, one of the most even handed, willing to work across the aisle, upstanding senators in the last few decades. Gets voted out because he is a “lawyer” (the people that you know, deal with laws) and R(wisconsin symbol)n Johnson (This is referring to his awful campaign signs replacing the O with a wisconsin outline) gets voted in and promptly does nothing in the senate for years, is a Benghazi truther, inspired this awesome tumblr, and generally does nothing but tow the GOP line… although he is starting to feel the heat at home, and says he might vote in the Obama nominee…

He is going to be a one and done, he ran on “shaking things up” in the senate, and then nothing was accomplished for 6 years. When you set out to do something, and don’t do it, it looks bad no matter the party. I hate that our state voted out Russ Feingold, and I really hope we can vote him back in, to end this nonsense.

Ha. Junior Senators can’t shake anything up. Even the majority leader can’t do much of anything in the Senate. But on the other hand one Senate term is more than enough to lock up plenty of patronage influence for the rest of his life, so that was a win.

It just occured to me how Hillary Clinton might lose! It just struck me like a bolt out of the blue. Maybe the only way she can lose.

Panama Papers.

And you’re still doing it, even though you’ve already vastly changed your narrative on the relative lack of accuracy on polls. I’m sorry you took the disagreement to heart, and I’m sorry that acknowledging my point has made you have to passively aggressively strike out at me every time you post about polls - but move the hell on already. I look forward to you being similarly incorrect in your earlier prediction that the long wait to the Wisconsin primary would most likely hurt Sanders.

So far you’ve had tens of posts on the importance of polls and momentum (including how many posts on Sanders not having the necessary momentum or having lost his momentum?) only to be proven wrong again and again.

I think the idea is that he kind of ran on a quasi tea party line, like, we are going to change government, and all those lawyers can leave! And then, they kind of just fell in line with the GOP completely. If they actually had used their large number of seats to have some influence over the GOP, maybe something would have happened, but it didn’t.

Anyhoo, glad it is looking like Feingold really has a shot. He is a long time native wisconsin resident, not really a typical “big city liberal” they painted him as.

It is really going to cost the GOP this fall, running on the premise that America is faltering, when there is a majority of the GOP in the senate and house. Seems counter-intuitive to me.

Yep. Also, the economy is not really faltering.

I think that once the GOP gets out of the bubble, in which everyone believes that Tyrant Obama has ruined America, they will discover that most of the country rejects all their premises.

Aw, bless your heart. Here’s a long distance dedication from me to you!

Oh, and also kedaha, I said that I thought the stretch between primaries might hurt Bernie. You could even look it up! And then I cited his fundraising prowess as the reason for thinking it at least gave him an advantage.

(Then I said we should probably wait and see if that’s correct.)

And, gap or no, Team Clinton actually did treat it like a compressed schedule primary by choosing not to spend much of their war chest there, which was sort of the point all along: Bernie can spend money wherever he needs to on the campaign, and Hillary Clinton has to be more careful and may even be gunshy about doing so after 2008.

In the end, it appears as if the spate of Sanders wins, and the margins of those victories, convinced someone with HRC’s strategy team to go ahead and spend their money more in an east coast firewall strategy, rather than fighting Bernie yard for yard going forward…which is the same momentum effect as if the primaries were compressed.

At any rate, you seem to have conflated in your mind that an opinion forum with enthusiastic amateurs is somehow the journalistic equivalent of the New York Times. It isn’t, but for some reason you seem to think that when I post, it is.

EDIT: Never mind, I’ll continue being distressing.

“Forget it, Jake. It’s P&R”

I was just watching Halperin and Heillman on MSNBC. They pointed out that, to win the nomination, Bernie has to win 66% of the remaining pledged delegates.

Short of Hillary’s name showing up in the Panama Papers or some similar blockbuster, I don’t think that’s even remotely possible. She ran up too big a lead in the south, and the Democrats don’t have the winner-take-all states that allow for such sweeping victories.

As a practical matter, Bernie is a message candidate and emergency spare.

Ha. Fair enough. I should know enough by now.

I can definitely see this. In fact, a lot of the folks from Politico, Cook’s, and the NYT have mentioned that they think it’ll take an “ex machina” moment to really change the outcome of those late April primaries.

I will say this, though, Team Hillary is going to have to exercise some better campaign discipline. It doesn’t wear any better when she complains about Bernie’s campaign being negative in 2016 than it did when she complained about Obama being negative in 2008. Just…run the race. I think she’s much better at throwing elbows against Republicans than she is at Democrats.