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Trying to explain the Wisconsin results

Trying to explain the Wisconsin results

Winners and losers

On the face of it, answering the question as to what happened in the GOP primary in Wisconsin seems like a no-brainer. As Edward Morrissey writes, Trump shot himself in the foot—dissing popular governor Scott Walker, and flubbing abortion questions—and ended up losing by 13 points, 35 to Cruz’s 48.

To shore up this argument about a Trump reversal in Wisconsin, Morrissey cites a Wisconsin poll from late January and one from late February, the first of which had Trump leading by 6 and the second by 10. So the narrative seems to make sense—that is, until you actually look a bit deeper, when you find that something additional might have been going on.

That “something” was named Marco Rubio, who dropped out between those two polls and the primary. His leaving the scene meant that it narrowed down to a Cruz/Trump race with Kasich far behind, instead of the three-person Trump/Rubio/Cruz race it had been (there were other candidates too, back in January and February, but they were far back in the pack, and at that point Kasich had been almost invisible in the state). On the day of the primary, Trump actually received a higher percentage of votes than the scores he had gotten in either of those two earlier polls, the first of which had him at 24% and the second at 30%. In the primary he got a 35% share of the vote, which represents a significant increase, not a decrease.

But that January poll with Trump at 24 had also featured a higher combined Rubio/Cruz total of 34. In the February one had where Trump had led with 30, Rubio and Cruz also had a higher combined total, 39.

Therefore it appears that only a small portion of the voters who had supported Rubio (and the other candidates who dropped out during that period) ended up joining the Trump camp by primary time. They went in significantly greater numbers to Cruz and Kasich, and that seems to have accounted for Trump’s loss as well as for the magnitude of his loss. This doesn’t invalidate what Morrissey wrote in terms of the possible reasons that Trump failed to pick up the votes of the dropout candidates and close the deal; he certainly might be correct about that.

If you look at this poll from about a week before the primary—when Rubio had left the scene and it was just Cruz, Trump, and Kasich—you’ll find that although Trump had achieved the 35% that he actually received during the primary, Cruz was only one point higher than Trump, and Kasich was at 19% (that’s 5 points more than he got in the primary). So the movement between then and the primary was all in the Cruz and Kasich dimensions, up for Cruz and down for Kasich. And this poll, taken about two weeks before the primary, shows something similar: Cruz 36.2, Trump 31.4, and Kasich almost at 20.8.

In that poll Trump was within the margin of error of his final share of the primary vote, Kasich considerably further off, and Cruz the farthest of all, with Cruz gaining considerable votes by primary time and Kasich losing some.

It is risky to extrapolate too much from Wisconsin to other states; New York, for example, is shaping up to be a very different story. But in recent months there does seem to have been considerably less movement in Trump’s totals in each state than in the vote share of the other candidates. For Trump that’s true in both the positive and the negative sense: lately he doesn’t seem to have lost many of his supporters, but he doesn’t seem to have won all that many new ones, either.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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casualobserver | April 8, 2016 at 1:21 pm

I am not a political junky, so I don’t follow all of the details that closely including polls. But didn’t Trump perform as polls predicted and weren’t the polls pretty consistent over the last month or more? Maybe Trump didn’t improve his position in WI with his choices (Walker) and gaffes. But I don’t think he necessarily hurt himself either.

And that seems to be the core of the Trump phenomenon. He cannot erode his core/base. But at times he can improve his standing with proper choices. Will his new hires facilitate more “proper” choices in the future? Guess we’ll find out.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to casualobserver. | April 8, 2016 at 6:10 pm

    Several polls leading up to WI had Trump up by about 4 pts. One outlier had him up 10 pts. Several polls had Cruz up by 10 or so. Final result, Cruz by 13 pts.

    That’s about as accurate as polls get. Since so many polls are taken and published in important races, some of them will be close and sometimes a poll or two is dead on, while others will be way off. These variances are what you’d expect based on coincidence alone, sort of like ‘guess how many jelly beans are in this jar’. If enough people guess, somebody’s going to be be close, and once in a while somebody hits it dead on, but it’s statistical odds and/or coincidence at work.

    The problem is one cannot tell which poll is accurate until after the votes are counted – and polls no longer mean anything.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to casualobserver. | April 8, 2016 at 6:13 pm

    RE: the Manafort/Lewandowski swap-out, each of these guys has their respective supporters within the campaign org, and you just can’t know if they’ll jell and move forward, or fight with one another. This is true of any campaign that changes horses in midstream. It’s a wait and see.

As good as the Wisconsin election results were there were still a few perplexing results at the local level. The reptilian elements that still control local education have taken to circumventing the ACT 10 reforms through school district spending referendums. Capital improvements and ongoing facilities maintenance are being offloaded from operating budgets even where enrollments are declining. More than a couple of districts in the suburban red ring surrounding Milwaukee even had the balls to offer up separate referendum questions on undefined annual spending increases with NO SUNSET. Most of the capital improvement referendums passed and one community even passed the perpetual undefined annual increase proposition. They actually gave their school district the ultimate blank check. Voted for either Ted Cruz or Donald Trump and tossed the tools of ACT 10 all on the same ballot.

Progress has been made in Wisconsin, but we still have so very far to go.

    Henry Hawkins in reply to Merlin. | April 8, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    Early into his effort, when Walker was first elected, I heard him in an interview responding to a reporter’s question about expected timelines for getting his reforms through. In essense, Walker said that after such a long time under liberal Dem control of state gov, it was sort of like turning an aircraft carrier around. First you slow it down, then you stop it, then you turn it around, then you increase speed. He said some reforms would happen fairly quickly, some within a few years, but others wouldn’t come to fruition until after he was out of office, if ever.

The big winner being voter ID. All of those poor helpless people that needed their hands held to vote, somehow made it to the polls with their picture ID in hand. Big hurrah for an honest voting process.

Help save pixels…. just cut and paste any of the last 50 or 60 Trump/Cruz threads here and go have a beer.

Friday beer is the only proven climate change answer…. if you can remember the question.

The parts of Wisconson that are similar to New Hampshire, hollowed out former towns hit hard by the death of US industry, voted heavily for Trump.

The suburban Chicago part of Wisconson, reacting to the Chicago riot, voted for Trump.

The Germanic/Scandinavian demographic of WI, similar to Minnestota, but additionally situated on Rich farmland and dependent economically on low wage Mexican labor… Those areas voted for Cruz, as did the UW town, Madison.

Trump’s huge support among independents (over 50% in polls that included the Democrat choices too) allowed Republican voters to outnumber Democrat voters, which is very unusual in a Blue state primary. Republicans got some down ballot wins as a result.

Of course, if Trump goes these voters go too. But as one cannot be both pro and against an economy based on low wage Mexicans, one group of Republicans will sit home in the general election and WI will stay blue.

That’s basically it.

    Estragon in reply to rotten. | April 9, 2016 at 2:27 am

    Anyone who deserts the GOP because we didn’t nominate a liberal Democrat populist was never really a Republican in the first place. Good riddance.

    Our Party is open to those who share our principles – despite the purge efforts of some of the Purity Police who believe all Republicans must adhere to a strict movement conservative line, even if it means we win fewer seats in blue and purple states. But we are not open to a takeover by a bunch of people who believe their anger trumps common sense and the rights of those of us who built the GOP into what it is today.