OPINION & COMMENTARY
June 4, 2012
As recently as a week before Ronald Reagan’s landside win over then-incumbent President, most national polls showed Reagan with the slimmest of leads and no discernible trends as to how undecided voters would break. Then, after a late presidential debate held exactly one week before the Nov. 4, 1980, General Election, undecided voters began to make their choices. History shows they overwhelmingly decided on the challenger.
Similarly, Thursday’s debate between incumbent Republican Gov. Scott Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, his Democratic opponent in the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election, may turn out to be another case where the incumbent snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by giving voters a look too late in the game for his own good.
Based on projected voter turnout, Barrett’s fiery debate performance and former President Bill Clinton’s recent visit to Wisconsin, The Punditty Project is going on record as predicting a razor-thin win by Barrett – but one that won’t be confirmed until all the absentee ballots are counted.
Wisconsin officials are predicting a turnout of 60 to 65 percent, according to a June 4 report in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, much higher than the 2010 total of 49.7 percent. Walker defeated Barrett in November of 2010, 52.29 percent to 46.52 percent. Registration by party is not required in Wisconsin, but the state last voted Republican in a presidential election in 1984, choosing Reagan over Walter Mondale.
More than 206,000 absentee ballots have been issued, which could come into play in a tight race. In his 2012 win over Barrett, Walker received 1,128,941 votes to Barrett’s 1,004,303. Some 231,000 early ballots were cast in the 2010 contest, but Wisconsin officials say that because some county clerks do not use the statewide computer system to track absentee ballot filings, the final number of absentee ballots could exceed the 2010 totals.
Wisconsin voters will also determine the fate of Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch and four state senate seats. The outcome in the senate races will determine who controls the legislature between now and when the November winners take office.
If you like writing about U.S. politics and the 2012 campaign, enter "The American Pundit" competition. Allvoices is awarding four $250 prizes each month between now and November. These monthly winners earn eligibility for the $5,000 grand prize, to be awarded after the November election.
SOURCES & RESOURCES:
Barrett says race tightening, dead heat, Chippewa Herald, June 4, 2012
Wisconsin recall battle finally goes to voters, Associated Press, June 4, 2012
Absentee ballots in Tuesday’s recall race could top 2010 Walker-Barrett race, WTAQ.com, June 4, 2012
Walker’s lead in recall election tightens in new poll, Yahoo News, June 4, 2012
In Wisconsin recall vote, it’s TV ad spending vs. boots on the ground, Washington Post, June 4, 2012
The gloves come off in Wisconsin’s final gubernatorial debate, watchdog.org, May 31, 2012
It’s all good for walker in latest Marquette poll, wisconsinreporter.com, May 30, 2012
1980 U.S. Presidential Election, Wikipedia entry
Harris survey indicates Reagan is clinging to a three-point lead, Youngstown Vindicator, Oct. 27, 1980
Carter’s rating up, cuts Reagan’s lead, Pittsburgh Press, Sept. 10, 1980 (column by pollster Louis Harris)
Additional sources linked to in text.