What we witnessed in Wisconsin yesterday something that extraordinary from my perspective as political strategist. People are wondering why Gov. Scott Walker won the election and avoided a recall. We have heard and seen so many people protesting Walker's administration for over a year. So how come Gov. Walker won? From my perspective, it happened in the following areas.
Too Much Hate
If you looked at the commercials, and the people going into communities to recall Gov. Walker, you will note that there was more hating Walker, rather than looking at the issues. Everything about this recall campaign was disliking Walker at the surface level. This will counteract the purpose of getting a message across, and will result in people voting for the opposite person because they are rejecting the negativity and vitriol.
Relying On Two Counties
The recall campaign focused efforts too narrowly on Dane and Milwaukee Counties. Though campaign pushes were held elsewhere as well, the main focus was mostly on Dane County, home of Madison, and Milwaukee County, home of Milwaukee. The media mostly focused on showing the outrage of those in Dane County, where the capitol is located. Milwaukee is another area that generally trends Democratic, although the the Milwaukee North Shore is highly Republican. McCain carried the North Shore area, or 5th Congressional District, at 95% in 2008. The Northwoods, the collar counties around Milwaukee County, and the western side of Wisconsin, ended up helping Walker. These areas are Republican counties that Walker also carried in the 2010 election. Both counties make up 45% of the state's income.
Weak Democratic Candidate
I will be blunt. Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett is a weak candidate for Governor. During my time in Milwaukee, I've had the opportunity to see Barrett in action, and yes he is a charismatic man that speaks well and looks good on camera. But Barrett does not speak to certain state issues, such as environment and rural economy. Barrett is the mayor of Milwaukee, and as such he knows hyper-local issues, despite the fact he served on the Wisconsin General Assembly, Wisconsin State Senator, and was a Congressman in the 5th District. All of the races he was in previously, were in areas that he knew only in the Milwaukee area. How could Barrett speak to a farm family in Virquoa? Or the Schlitz family logging company in Tomahawk? All that Barrett could promise during the recall campaign is that he was not Walker. That's it? There has to be more.
Reflecting on what caused this defeat for opponents of Gov. Scott Walker, it is easy to blame outside forces. We can point to the fact Walker outspent Barrett, as well as this was yet another showing of the Tea Party. Those things are true, but you also have to look at what did the campaign do in order to cause this recall in favor of Gov. Walker, too.