Key Benchmarks in the Governor’s Race

I was playing around and trying to create a reasonable starting point that provides a guide as to how voting in our Governor’s race will shake out.

My key points of reference were the Walker win in 2010, the Walker recall election, and the Obama/Romney race.  I’m just looking at R and D votes and ignoring the rest.

If you assume the turnout for Burke vs Walker will be the average of those 3 races, that would come to 2.58 million in total, which is just a bit more than the recall election.  (Note: I’m also averaging the totals for each county individually and assuming that is the turnout distribution we are working with).  Further assume that  the % voting for Burke by county will be the average of the % Barrett got in the recall and the % Obama got vs Romney, the result would be a race that Burke wins by 0.02% (less than 500 votes out of the aforementioned >2.5M cast).

This is somewhat interesting in itself but helps us to back in to some metrics that could be quite useful on election night.  In this simulation that is basically a dead heat, Burke wins Milwaukee county by around 130k votes and Dane county by about 108k votes.  If she significantly exceeds or comes up short of those numbers, that could be a useful indicator as to how things are going.  Walker, meanwhile, wins Waukesha county by 86k, Washington county by 32k, Ozaukee by 18k, and Brown, Sheboygan, and Fond Du Lac all in the 10-12k range.  Significant deviations from that could be signals that Walker is hitting the numbers he needs or that he’s in trouble.  Finally, Racine should be a good bell-weather county to watch.  There project to be about 90k total votes there (again, all these numbers are just Walker/Burke votes, so excluding 3rd party candidates), and Walker is projected to win it by just 1100 votes.  So if Racine county is going for one candidate or the other at a 55%/45% clip, that could be a strong indication of a bad night for whichever candidate is struggling there.

This is not a perfect science.  Given Burke’s background vs Barrett/Obama’s (whose results we are weighing in this), it may turn out that she wins Dane by more than we are projecting and Milwaukee by less, so don’t over-react to any one metric in itself.  I’m just trying to give a rough picture of what an even race consists of so we can have some idea of what a strong night for Burke or Walker might look like.


  1. Randy in Richmond says:

    Thanks for the info Ryan as this race is all even with the pollsters too. If you’re right this will be closer than Prosser/Kloppenburg with about a million more votes cast. I would assume the unions are using all their resources to get people to the polls. Next Tuesday is a big day in lots of ways.

  2. To be clear, I am not predicting a 500 vote Burke win. I just was surprised that such simple assumptions resulted in that close of a race and I think it is useful to use that scenario as a starting point. If Brown county is one of the first counties tabulated and Walker wins it by 15000, we know that is a good sign for Walker. If he wins it by just 8000, that is a good sign for Burke. The goal is just to get a baseline expectation of what a really tight race would look like so we have something we can quickly compare to the actual results on election night to try to get a feel of who is winning and how long of a night it is going to be. 🙂

  3. I can’t help but believe that Walker’s ambition stands in the way of his success. This race wouldn’t be so close if Wisconsin thought they could depend on him to serve instead of campaign.

  4. Oh, and I think it might be a mistake to use presidential year numbers in a mid-term assumption.

    For your next assignment, will you check out how early voting is holding up in Dane and Milwaukee counties? (I’m riding a serious lazy streak lately, and you are so good at it!)

  5. There was a chart in the JS a few days ago that showed how the last 5 presidential elections and the last 5 elections for Governor in Wisconsin (including the recall) have each had higher turnouts than the last. So I averaged 2010, recall, and 2012 together and came up with a result that keeps that pattern going, but just barely (I really don’t think turnout for this election will be much higher than the recall, and it could even be lower). I wasn’t really thrilled about putting much weight on the presidential result either, but since the result made sense to me, so I’m going with it.

    Dean retweeted this: #MKE Election Commission says 5,913 in-person absentee ballots cast last week in Milwaukee during the first week of early voting.

    Since I’m projecting over 400k total votes in Milwaukee, this seems pretty low to me, but I don’t really have any context of what is typical early voting there. Haven’t seen anything for Dane, Waukesha, etc.

  6. Yes, it seems low. But, and this is a big one, they tightened early voting hours. I think this is the first time we’ll see a difference out of MKE county. Blacks were not herded onto buses after church this past Sunday and wrangled into a voting line.

    Fine. Yell all you want, but that’s what was happening in the past. It will be interesting to see if the numbers compare to past mid-term elections. That’s the whole reason Obama will be in MKE tomorrow – to rally the black voter.

    Republicans are not supposed to talk about race in voting because Dems have perfected the game in black communities and they don’t want it revealed.