Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What's in store for WI come 2012?

Originally posted at

With the political defeat of Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold, we're left to wonder: what's next for Wisconsin come 2012? First, we're going to see a larger electorate. This year's election was crippled by the fact that just under one-half of eligible voters bothered to show up. In 2008, nearly 70 percent of Wisconsin voters who could vote did.

Those voters were widely influenced by the presidential election -- and their votes for other offices trickled down respectively. Democrats running for federal as well as state offices cleaned house, riding on the coattails of Barack Obama as he coasted easily to electoral victory.

In 2012, strong Republican districts held by Paul Ryan, Tom Petri, and Jim Sensenbrenner will likely stay Republican. The same can be said of strong Democratic seats held by Tammy Baldwin and Gwen Moore. But expect Wisconsin's 8th Congressional district to once again be up for grabs -- and to be influenced by whichever party wins the presidency.

And which party might that be? Believe it or not, it's likely to be the Democrats. Barack Obama should have a relatively easy re-election campaign, especially considering who his GOP rivals might be. The further to the right the GOP goes, the more likely Obama will win -- especially if the GOP picks Sarah Palin, who very well could win the nomination (she has a favorable rating among Republicans of 82 percent, the highest among all GOP contenders). But Palin's favorability among voters overall is dismal -- more than two-thirds of Americans don't think she's qualified to be the next commander-in-chief.

With that in mind, let's return to Wisconsin: Herb Kohl, Wisconsin's other senator, will have to face re-election himself come 2012. Rumors abound that Kohl might retire rather than face another election (the aging senator will be 77 when the 2012 general election rolls around).

Incumbents generally do better than challengers, so if Kohl stays in it's likely he's going to keep his seat if Obama carries the state as well. If Kohl drops out, it becomes a tighter situation, and depending upon how far left the Democratic candidate goes versus how right the candidate for the Republicans is, it could be anyone's game in my view. In short, the senate seat will lean Democratic, with it favoring the Democrats more if Kohl stays put and/or if the Republicans field extremist candidates in both the presidential and senatorial campaigns.

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