My preview of the Wisconsin presidential primaries and the Wisconsin Supreme Court race

AUTHOR’S NOTE: Donald Trump is NOT supporting JoAnne Kloppenburg for Wisconsin Supreme Court…and that’s a good thing. An earlier version of this blog post did not make it clear as to whether or not Joe Donald or Donald Trump had endorsed Kloppenburg; Joe Donald has endorsed Kloppenburg; Donald Trump has, to my knowledge, not endorsed a candidate for Wisconsin Supreme Court.


On Tuesday, April 5, Wisconsinites will go to the polls to vote for major-party (Democratic and Republican) presidential nominees and a state supreme court justice. Additionally, there are numerous local offices on the ballot in Wisconsin, including a couple of high-profile local races in Milwaukee (Milwaukee Mayor and Milwaukee County Executive), although this preview will focus on the three statewide races in Wisconsin on April 5.

Democratic presidential primary

Democrats Hillary Diane Rodham Clinton and Bernard “Bernie” Sanders are seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination, and 52 pledged delegates allocated by congressional district, 5 alternate delegates allocated by congressional district, 19 pledged delegates allocated on a statewide basis, and 10 pledged party leader and elected official delegates allocated on a statewide basis are up for grabs (delegate plan here). Wisconsin also has 10 superdelegates, who can vote for any presidential candidate they wish. Currently, 4 Wisconsin superdelegates are supporting Hillary, while 6 Wisconsin superdelegates have not endorsed a presidential candidate; however, superdelegates can change their preferences at any time up until the vote for the Democratic presidential nominee at the Democratic National Convention.

All recent polling in Wisconsin has shown Bernie with a slight lead either within the margin of polling error or just outside of the margin of polling error, with Bernie’s lead averaging around four percentage points. Due to proportional allocation of pledged delegates, either Bernie or Hillary would need to win by a large margin to get the vast majority of Wisconsin’s delegates. Bernie has about a 65% chance of receiving more votes statewide than Hillary.

Bernie is expected to run up a big margin in Madison, whereas Hillary is expected to run up a big margin in Milwaukee. The race is going to be decided in the Milwaukee suburbs (which, despite being one of the most Republican areas of the entire country in general elections, delivers a surprisingly high number of Democratic primary votes), as well as the rural northern and western parts of Wisconsin. To get a rough idea of the geographical dynamic at play in the Wisconsin Democratic primary, one could draw a line from Manitowoc to the middle of Lake Winnebago to Fond du Lac to Fort Atkinson to Janesville to Beloit, and anything south and east of that line should go to Hillary by a wide margin outside of some pro-Bernie pockets of support, and anything north and west of that line should go to Bernie by a wide margin outside of some pro-Hillary pockets of support. If Bernie is winning both the Milwaukee suburbs and the rural areas in the north and west of the state, then Bernie is likely winning statewide. If Hillary is winning both the Milwaukee suburbs and the rural areas in the north and west of the state, then Hillary is likely winning statewide. It’s worth noting that the expected swing areas in the Democratic primary are areas that tend to vote for Republican candidates in the general election.

Democratic congressional district delegates are allocated as follows:

  • 1st CD (Janesville/Racine/Kenosha/Lake Geneva) – 6
  • 2nd CD (Madison/Beloit/Middleton) – 10
  • 3rd CD (La Crosse/Eau Claire/Stevens Point) – 6
  • 4th CD (Milwaukee/Shorewood/St. Francis) – 9
  • 5th CD (Waukesha/West Bend/West Allis/Port Washington) – 5
  • 6th CD (Oshkosh/Fond du Lac/Manitowoc/Sheboygan) – 5
  • 7th CD (Wausau/Superior/Hudson) – 6
  • 8th CD (Green Bay/Appleton/Sturgeon Bay) – 5

Regarding the Democratic alternate delegates, the 2nd, 4th, 6th, 7th, and 8th congressional districts are allocated one alternate delegate each, whereas no alternate delegates are allocated for the 1st, 3rd, and 5th congressional districts.

Based on the delegate allocations for each congressional district, here’s my predictions for the pledged congressional district delegates:

  • 1st CD – Hillary 2, Bernie 2, Hillary Favored 1, Up For Grabs 1
  • 2nd CD – Hillary 2, Bernie 6, Up for Grabs 2
  • 3rd CD – Hillary 2, Bernie 2, Hillary Favored 1, Up for Grabs 1
  • 4th CD – Hillary 5, Bernie 1, Hillary Favored 1, Up for Grabs 2
  • 5th CD – Hillary 2, Bernie 2, Up for Grabs 1
  • 6th CD – Hillary 2, Bernie 2, Bernie Favored 1
  • 7th CD – Hillary 1, Bernie 3, Hillary Favored 1, Up for Grabs 1
  • 8th CD – Hillary 1, Bernie 1, Hillary Favored 1, Bernie Favored 1, Up for Grabs 1

That’s a total of 17 Hillary, 19 Bernie, 5 Hillary Favored, 2 Bernie Favored, and 9 Up for Grabs in the congressional district delegate pools, representing anywhere from a 35 Bernie-17 Hillary to a 33 Hillary-19 Bernie delegate spread in regards to the pledged congressional district delegates. Anything outside of that range would surprise me. I have no clue as to how the alternate delegates would be allocated to the candidates.

Here’s my predictions for the two statewide pledged delegate pools:

  • Statewide pledged – 6 Hillary, 7 Bernie, 2 Hillary Favored, 2 Bernie Favored, 2 Up for Grabs
  • Party leader and elected official pledged – 3 Hillary, 4 Bernie, 1 Hillary Favored, 2 Up for Grabs

That’s a total of 9 Hillary, 11 Bernie, 3 Hillary Favored, 2 Bernie Favored, and 4 Up for Grabs in regards to the two statewide delegate pools, representing anywhere from a 20 Bernie-9 Hillary to a 18 Hillary-11 Bernie delegate spread in regards to the two pools of pledged statewide delegates. Anything outside of that range would surprise me.

Based on my pledged delegate predictions and not counting alternate delegates, anywhere from a 55 Bernie-26 Hillary to a 51 Hillary-30 Bernie delegate spread in regards to pledged delegates is possible. Anything outside of that range would surprise me, and, if I were to guess, the actual result is likely to be closer to the middle of that range than either end of the range.

Republican presidential primary

Republicans Rafael Edward “Ted” Cruz, Donald John Trump, and John Richatd Kasich are seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, and 24 pledged delegates allocated by congressional district, 15 pledged delegates awarded on a statewide basis, and 3 Republican National Committee (RNC) delegates bound to the statewide primary winner are up for grabs.

Recent polling in Wisconsin has shown Cruz with an average lead of four percentage points, with even larger leads in some of the more recent polls, so Cruz is favored to win the Wisconsin primary and win most of Wisconsin’s Republican delegates, although Trump and Kasich may also get Republican delegates from the Wisconsin primary. Additionally, polls have shown Trump in second place statewide, with Kasich in third place statewide. Cruz has about a 90% chance of winning at least a plurality of the vote statewide and about a 3% chance of winning every Republican delegate at stake in Wisconsin.

In Wisconsin, the Republican presidential candidate who receives a plurality of the statewide Republican vote receives all 15 of the statewide pledged delegates and all 3 of the RNC member delegates, and the Republican presidential candidate who receives a plurality of the popular vote within a particular congressional district receives all 3 of said congressional district’s delegates.

For Cruz to win a statewide plurality, he would need to run up a large margin in the 5th, 1st, and 6th congressional districts, win or narrowly lose in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th congressional districts, and the 7th and 8th congressional districts wouldn’t play a factor for Cruz in regards to the statewide delegates. If Cruz were to receive at least a plurality of the vote in all 8 congressional districts, he would win either all 42 delegates.

For Trump to win a statewide plurality, he would need to run up very large margins in the 3rd, 7th, and 8th congressional districts (he would probably need to win the 7th by 40+ percentage points over the second-place candidate in that district), win by more than a handful of votes in the 2nd and 6th congressional districts, and not lose badly in the 1st, 4th, and 5th congressional districts. Trump doesn’t appear to have any chance of winning all 42 from Wisconsin; Trump’s best-case scenario would have him winning 30 delegates (statewide + 4 CDs).

For Kasich to win a statewide plurality, he would need to run up an extremely large margin in the 2nd congressional district (probably by 40+ percentage points over the second-place candidate in that district), win the 3rd congressional district by a very large margin, win the 6th and 7th congressional districts by more than a handful of votes, win or come in a close second place in the 1st, 4th, 5th, and 6th congressional districts (Kasich would probably lose at least three of these in his best-case scenario). Kasich doesn’t appear to have any chance of winning all 42 delegates from Wisconsin; his best-case scenario would have him winning anywhere from 30 to 33 delegates (statewide + 4 or 5 CDs).

Justice of the Wisconsin Supreme Court – Seat 6

Although seats of the seven-member Wisconsin Supreme Court bench are not officially numbered, I’ve chosen to number them based on the last digit of the year in which they are up for election. Since there is one Wisconsin Supreme Court seat up for election in 2016, seat 6 is up for election this year. The seat was held by moderate justice N. Patrick Crooks (I’ve never been able to find Crooks’s full first name) until his death in September of 2015. Republican Governor Scott Walker appointed Rebecca Lynn Grassl Bradley, a ultra-conservative who Walker has appointed to judgeships at every opportunity, to fill the vacancy on the state supreme court. Seat 6 would have been up for election this year regardless of whether or not the seat became vacant.

A non-partisan top-two primary, in which the candidates with the most and second-most votes advance to the non-partisan general election, regardless of whether or not one candidate receives a majority of the primary vote, was held in February of this year (primary results here). Bradley received a 44.61% plurality of the primary vote, with progressive candidate JoAnne F. Kloppenburg (I do not know what Kloppenburg’s full middle name is) receiving 43.16% of the primary vote. Joe Donald (not sure of full name) received 12.12% of the primary vote and failed to advance to the general election, with “scattering”, which is how Wisconsin classifies invalid write-in votes, receiving 0.11% of the primary vote. Bradley and Kloppenburg are running in the state supreme court general election, which is being held in conjunction with the Wisconsin presidential primaries. While the race is officially non-partisan, Bradley is the de facto Republican and Kloppenburg is the de facto Democrat.

I’ve created a spreadsheet here as a guide showing detailed primary results (including a Kloppenburg + Donald total from the primary, with red shading <45%, yellow shading 45%-55%, and green shading >55%), shading indicating Bradley plurality (light red), Kloppenburg plurality (light blue), Bradley majority (red), and Kloppenburg majority (blue) from the primary, the partisan lean of each Wisconsin county based on the Bradley and Kloppenburg + Donald results from the primary, and county-by-county baselines for a tied race between Bradley and Kloppenburg based on the Bradley and Kloppenburg + Donald results from the primary.

Here are several important points about the Wisconsin Supreme Court race:

  • Although Wisconsin voters can opt not to vote for a presidential candidate, but vote for a state supreme court candidate, very few Wisconsin voters will do that.
  • Bradley is going to get the vast majority of the Republican primary voters, and Kloppenburg is going to get nearly all of the Democratic primary voters.
  • Joe Donald has endorsed Kloppenburg, Hillary Clinton has publicly criticized Bradley, and Bernie Sanders has stated that he hopes that large voter turnout will help Kloppenburg win.
  • If an equal number of Democratic and Republican primary voters show up, Kloppenburg would need to get approximately 56% of Donald’s voters to vote for her in order to win.
  • If more Republicans show up to vote than Democrats, Kloppenburg would need an even higher percentage of Joe Donald’s voters, as well as Kasich/Kloppenburg and possibly Trump/Kloppenburg voters to win.
  • Bradley and her campaign have tried to tie Kloppenburg to Hillary and have attacked Kloppenburg for opposing big-money politics and supporting equal rights.
  • Bradley was found to have authored a series of hateful columns for the Marquette University student newspaper and student magazine during the early 1990’s.
  • Bradley has falsely compared contraception to murder.

I’m not going to attempt to make a prediction in the Wisconsin Supreme Court race. The most recent poll (a Marquette University poll) had Bradley ahead of Kloppenburg by five percentage points, although there were a lot of undecided voters according to that poll.

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