While there are primaries in a number of states, most prominently California, the unquestioned main event tonight is the gubernatorial recall in Wisconsin, which pits Republican incumbent Scott Walker in a rematch against his 2010 opponent, Democratic Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, once again. Most polling has shown Walker hovering right at the 50 percent mark; if Barrett has a shot here, it'd have to be that polling is missing likely voters who have gotten activated through the Democrats' ground game but who aren't answering the phone.
If Barrett's going to eke out that last few percentage points, let's see what that would look like on a county-by-county basis. The 2010 election provides easy guidelines to work with, so I'm using that instead of the 2008 presidential election as I usually do when putting together pre-game benchmarks: compared to today's election, it was between the same guys, it was similarly close, and it had some minor candidates eating up a couple percentage points. This model shows what the county-by-county total would be if Barrett could push his percentages up by a uniform 3 percent per county, so that he could get his statewide total to the magic 50 percent mark. (There are, of course, other ways to play this—for instance, Barrett could push turnout in Madison-area Dane County higher than 10 percent of the state's total while hoping turnout in Milwaukee suburbs like Waukesha County stays lower than 8 percent of the total, but this is the simplest approach.)
Wisconsin is unusual in that the rural parts of the state are fairly friendly to Democrats, much more so than in most states (the state's rural Congressional districts, WI-03 and WI-07, are Democrat-leaning; counties in those districts that are on the table below include La Crosse, Eau Claire, Marathon and Portage, all of which break around 50-50). Instead, what keeps it a swingy state is the sheer redness of Milwaukee's outer suburbs (the so-called "Circle of Ignorance" in Waukesha, Washington and Ozaukee Counties), which serve to almost balance out the blue concentrations in Milwaukee County proper and Dane County. Barrett will need well over two-thirds of the vote in these latter two urban counties, while getting at least one-third of the suburban vote, to have a shot at winning this.
|County||% of 2008
share in 2010
share in 2010
to hit 50%
|Fond du Lac||1.8||35||64||38|
Feel free to use this as a predictions thread, not just for Wisconsin, but the myriad primary races (which we've previewed elsewhere). Polls close tonight at 8 PM ET/5 PM ET in New Jersey and South Dakota, 9 PM ET/6 PM PT in Wisconsin and New Mexico, 10 PM ET/7 PM PT in Iowa and Montana, and 11 PM ET/8 PM PT in California.