Analyzing the election results
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Amy Loudenbeck thanks supporters last Tuesday night. Loudenbeck, a Republican from Clinton Township, was re-elected, this time to the 31st Assembly District seat. She defeated Democrat Ryan Schroeder of Delavan. Photo by Dan Plutchak.
With Election Day results beginning to settle in, we asked three local political experts to give their insight about last Tuesday’s voting.
Question: What message, if any, did the voters send with the re-election of President Obama?
“I always try to be careful about interpreting the message too soon,” said Susan M. Johnson, chairwoman of the political science department at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. “If you want to take a message from it, it’s that people who supported the president feel the country is going in the right direction, they believe the policies that he’s put in place to help get the country out of the recession have been successful … and giving him a chance to finish what he started.”
However, Jason Mielke, chairman of the Republican Party of Rock County, said the close popular vote for president sends a different message.
“The popular vote was rather split and not that far off between the left versus the right,” Mielke said. “We see a country that is deeply divided right now and maybe that’s the message … the country doesn’t really know what direction it wants to go in.”
Johnson said the president’s re-election was a response to Mitt Romney’s conservative approach to government.
“As was witnessed by some of the races for the U.S. Senate … where very conservative candidates in states where they probably should have won, didn’t,” Johnson said. “I think that to a certain degree it was a repudiation of the right-ward push of the Republican Party.”
Question: President Obama on Tuesday night vowed to work with both sides of the political aisle. However, with Democrats still in control of the U.S. Senate and Republicans controlling the House, will there be a sudden surge of bipartisanship?
“Do I anticipate a warm bipartisan environment, no,” Johnson said. “On the other hand, there are some serious things they’re going to have to address (like this fiscal cliff) … I believe that perhaps John Boehner and the House is going to have a little more incentive to be cooperative with the president than before.”
Question: Are you surprised Paul Ryan didn’t help Romney win in Wisconsin?
“While those of us in the southeast corner of the state are quite familiar with Paul Ryan, he wasn’t as well known as people down here think he was, around the rest of the state,” Johnson said, adding that polls had shown Ryan’s favorable rating and unfavorable rating as very close numbers in Wisconsin.
While Ryan failed to win the vice presidency, he did retain his seat in Congress by defeating Democratic challenger Rob Zerban.
Mike Southers, deputy chairman for the Democratic Party of Rock County, said Zerban’s strong showing should be a wake-up call for Ryan.
“This is a calling card to (Ryan) to say, ‘You need to reconsider what you’re pushing for policies because if you keep pushing these measures of austerity by supporting the Tea Party, we’re out here, we’re ready.’”
Question: While Obama won in Wisconsin, the Republican Party won back control of the Wisconsin Senate, while maintaining its majority in the state Assembly. What’s your take?
“I think it speaks to the split in the state that we’ve seen over the last half decade or so,” Johnson said. “In terms of the legislative races, the districts were drawn by the Republican Party, and therefore ... there’s a greater likelihood that the party in charge is going to be successful.”
Mielke said that wasn’t the case in every district, referring to the 43rd Assembly District, where incumbent Republican Evan Wynn lost to Democrat Andy Jorgensen.
“That district was drawn to be a Democratic advantage,” Mielke said, adding that the new boundaries included the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater campus and a portion of Dane County.
“(Evan) really got a hodgepodge of communities that leaned the other way. He’s a fighter, but he was unable to retain the seat.”
Mielke said Wynn and Republican incumbent Joe Knilans, who lost the 44th Assembly District race to Deb Kolste, were both affected by this year’s political climate in Wisconsin.
“The difference between the 2010 (election) and now is double recalls and a lot of political battles at work … that helped out the Democrats.”
Southers said Democratic Assembly winners Kolste, Jorgensen and Janis Ringhand have sent a strong message to their Republican counterparts in the state Legislature.
“As far as the issues of the Republicans that (Gov.) Walker and Rep./Senator (Jeff) Fitzgerald were pushing, Rock County soundly said, no, that is not where we stand,” Southers said.