President Obama wasn't on the ballot in Wisconsin, but Gov. Scott Walker's decisive victory in last night's gubernatorial recall is a stinging blow to his prospects for a second term. The re-election was a telltale sign that the conservative base is as energized as ever, that the Democratic GOTV efforts may not be as stellar as advertised, and that the Democratic-leaning "blue wall" Rust Belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania will be very much in play this November.
Walker won by a bigger margin than he did in 2010, and with more overall votes. He carried 38 percent of union households - a slight improvement from his 2010 midterm tally -- a strikingly strong number given how he's been cast as the villain of labor. It's a sign of the cultural divide between national Democrats and blue-collar whites, one that is particularly acute for the president.
Obama's team is taking consolation in the fact that exit polling showed him leading Mitt Romney, 51 to 44 percent. But that's hardly good news: with near-presidential level turnout (and notably higher level of union turnout), Obama is running five points behind his 2008 performance. Replicate that dropoff across the board, and all the key swing states flip to Mitt Romney.The Obama datum overstates his chances since the exit poll understated the Republican vote. Relying on the exit poll, the media said it would be a 50-50 race and a long night. But it was a big win -- about the same percentage by which Obama won the national popular vote in 2008 -- and a short night. Larry Sabato explains:
Could we all make a note to discount completely the topline results of the November 6 exit poll — and the news media’s breathless projections derived from them? I recollect how wrong they were on Election Night 1992, forecasting a big Clinton victory when it turned out to be a quite modest 43 percent. There was that snafu back in 2000 with the exit poll in Florida — does that ring a bell? I recall the exit poll in 2004 that created the Kerry administration for several hours. Truth is, Republicans disproportionately distrust the media and pollsters, and won’t be interviewed coming out of the polls. Apparently, there’s no good way to correct for this. Solution: Use the group breakdowns but not the topline data. This matters, because inaccurate projections made early on the East Coast has the potential to affect voting in other time zone