Blue-Collar Wisconsin and the Left

by Henry Olsen

Last month I penned a piece for NR that argued the Wisconsin judicial election contained omens that the GOP was losing credibility with the blue-collar Democrats whose votes fueled the 2010 wave. Yesterday the Badger State fired another warning shot across the Republican bow when a Democrat won a special election for Wisconsin Assembly seat 94, replacing a Republican appointed to Governor Walker’s cabinet.

This election is ominous because it was held in La Crosse County, a western Wisconsin county that is traditionally a Democratic area that swung to Walker in 2010. As I wrote in my piece, 14 of the 23 white-dominated counties that voted for John Kerry in 2004 voted for Scott Walker in 2010; eleven of them opposed Justice Prosser in April’s special. La Crosse was one of those counties, giving 49 percent of its votes to Walker but only 41 percent to Prosser. The Republican candidate received 46 percent yesterday, only slightly above the 45.5 percent received by President Bush.

The news is even worse, though, because President Bush easily carried the portions of La Crosse County in AD 94. The GOP then lost a strong Republican seat in exactly the rural, blue-collar region of the state they swept in 2010.

Turnout was also relatively high for a special election at 38.7 percent of registered voters and was not tilted toward Democratic areas, suggesting the solid Democratic win was not due to greater enthusiasm among Democrats.

The Republican House majority is rightly tackling our fiscal crisis head on. In doing so, though, it needs to take special notice of the blue-collar white working-class voter whose unusually high support for the GOP caused the massive victory. If the House GOP cannot explain why its fiscal program and entitlement restructuring is fair for these voters, it is unlikely 2012 will be as favorable a year for Republicans.

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