A funny thing happened on the way to “Red State Wisconsin”

Here’s something I said here back on September 21:

“Since Scott Walker won the right to complete his term in a June recall election and Congressman Paul Ryan was selected as the GOP’s vice presidential running mate for Mitt Romney later on this summer, some have tried to make the case that Wisconsin will continue along the path of becoming a red state this November. My take: that’s very doubtful. While it might be tempting for hardcore conservatives to pretend they’ve been running the table in the Badger State, it just ain’t so.”

And with the election now behind us, that opinion has been validated. Paul Ryan was unable to bring Wisconsin’s electoral votes to the Romney ticket. While he managed to retain his congressional seat with millions of dollars in advertising to support his campaign, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel pointed out that he “was crushed in his hometown of Janesville by challenger Rob Zerban (D), 55% to 44%. Ryan had never lost Janesville in a re-election campaign before. In addition, the Obama-Biden ticket defeated Romney-Ryan ticket in Janesville by a whopping 25 points, 62% to 37%.”

Democrat Tammy Baldwin beat Republican Tommy Thompson with a 5.6 percent spread in Wisconsin’s U.S. Senate race.

The thing about White House and U.S. Senate races is that you can’t gerrymander them. Either most of the people are on your side or they aren’t. And for the GOP in Wisconsin, they weren’t. (In fairness, you can’t gerrymander a governor’s race either, but the presidential election every four years turns out more voters. Still wondering why the GOP works so tirelessly to suppress voting?)

Closer to home, I was obviously pleased to see Mandy Wright elected to the Wisconsin State Assembly in her open seat race against right wing radio talk show host Pat Snyder. While the seat has been in Democratic hands for as long as just about anyone can remember, it is part of a Wisconsin Senate district (29th) that went GOP in 2010 with the defeat of Russ Decker. Popular Democratic Assembly Rep. Donna Seidel’s attempt to retake it in the June recall wasn’t all that close and the numbers from the 85th didn’t point to it being an easy race for Wright, either.

But Wright and her team worked very hard and her winning margins in some city districts overcame the natural GOP advantage that exists in many rural areas. Something that I’m particularly proud of is that County Board District 1 — the district that I represent and which also includes Mandy Wright — produced 36 percent of her winning margin, even though it represents a single-digit percentage of the district’s population. That’s what’s called showing up.  (Marathon County, as a whole, backed the Romney-Ryan ticket, along with Tommy Thompson in the U.S. Senate race.)

So where does all of this leave Wisconsin’s GOP? Well, it leaves them pretty much in the same place that it finds them nationally: wrong on health care, taxes, immigration, women’s reproductive rights, the environment and a lot of other things, measured against what most voters appear to be saying. Will they take any of that to heart? Don’t bet on it.

Thanks to their success at redistricting and pouring money into competitive districts with a fire hose, they managed to retake the majority in the Wisconsin Senate, after briefly losing it in the last round of summer recalls, which were run using the old districts. Their next test will be the low-turnout, non-partisan (cough-cough) Wisconsin Supreme Court race in April. But judging by the incredible amounts of money that have been required to prop up Republicans in Wisconsin and their abject failure at the top of the ticket in 2012, despite working from an advantage — both here and elsewhere — it might be wise for them to slow down with their attempt to dial back decades of social change.


NOTE: Rachel Maddow gave the best summation of the November 2012 race that I’ve seen and it’s well worth the 15 minutes to watch it:


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