Does the June 5, 2012 Republican victory in the Wisconsin gubernatorial election foreshadow the November 2012 presidential and congressional elections?
Democratic and Republican heavyweights participated in the six-month campaign, assuming that Wisconsin would have nationwide implications. Thus, the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, stated that “Wisconsin is a battleground state. ... All of the Obama for America and state party resources, our grass-roots network are fully engaged [in Wisconsin]. ... [Wisconsin is providing] the dry run that we need for our massive, significant, dynamic grass-roots presidential campaign.”
The November 1991 Democratic victory in the Pennsylvania special Senate election paved the road for the November 1992 Democratic victories in the presidential and congressional election.
The May 1994 Republican victories in the Kentucky and Oklahoma special House election — winning districts that were long held by Democrats — presaged the “Republican Revolution” in November, sweeping the House and the Senate.
The November 2009 and January 2010 Republican victories in the gubernatorial elections in Virginia, New Jersey and Massachusetts, provided the tailwind of the unprecedented Republican gains in the November mid-term election.
So what will the nationwide implications of the June 5, 2012 recall election be? Here are a few possibilities:
1. The larger-than-expected Republican victory constitutes a boost for Republican morale nationwide.
2. Public opinion polls underestimated the scope of the Republican vote in Wisconsin, which was swept by Barack Obama in 2008. Gov. Scott Walker won in a larger-than-expected majority, outperforming his 2010 victory.
3. Wisconsin — which Republicans have not carried since 1988 — has become a full-fledged battleground state.
4. While the Wisconsin electorate does not represent the nationwide constituency (nor do other battleground states), and the GOP campaign financing edge in Wisconsin will not be replicated nationwide, the Wisconsin state-of-mind reflects substantial elements in other battleground states — Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania — which are critical for a victory in November.
5. President Obama refrained from active involvement in the Wisconsin election, anticipating a Republican victory, or assuming that his declining popularity could hurt Wisconsin Democrats.
6. In view of unfulfilled expectations, one may assume that not all 2008 Obama voters will vote for him in November 2012, while (at least) all 2008 John McCain voters will vote for Mitt Romney.
7. Independents — who are the most critical group for a November victory — voted for Gov. Walker in higher-than-expected numbers. In 2008, they facilitated Obama’s victory by all-time-high turnout numbers.
8. A decline is expected in the November 2012 turnout, and support of Obama, by independents, moderates, youth, the blue-collar sector, small businesses, Catholics, Hispanics, blacks and Jews. In 2008, they supported Obama in unprecedented turnout and numbers.
9. The vulnerabilities of labor unions were exposed, despite an unprecedented turnout rate in Wisconsin. Labor unions constitute a key pillar in Democratic campaigns, especially in the battleground states of Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
10. The doubling of the price at-the-pump since 2008 burdens Obama’s chances for re-election, notwithstanding the limited power of a U.S. president to determine the price of oil.
11. A relatively low level of voters’ optimism, high unemployment, collapse of home market valuation and opposition to ObamaCare, constitute major hurdles in Obama’s re-election campaign.
12. The history of U.S. politics suggests that, in most campaigns, incumbents — rather than challengers — win/lose elections.
Irrespective of the long-term and severe economic crisis, and regardless of the results of the June 5, 2012 Wisconsin election, November is still five months away. That is sufficient time for unexpected developments — including significant blunders by Obama and Romney — which could determine the outcome of the election either way.