A few thoughts on the New 43rd’s results:
1. A Big Margin. Historically, the Old 43rd saw close races between Republicans and Democrats. No more: this was a 58-42% contest between the winning Democrat Andy Jorgensen and defeated Republican Evan Wynn. How’s that stack up against past races? Andy Jorgensen won the New 43rd with a bigger margin in 2012 than anyone in recent years won the Old 43rd:
Andy Jorgensen 17,600 58%
Evan Wynn 12,883 42%
Kim Hixson 9,448 47.5%
Evan Wynn 10,449 52.5%
Kim Hixson 15,303 51.2%
Debi Towns 14,581 48.8%
Kim Hixson 10,330 50.02%
Debi Towns 10,292 49.83%
Matt McIntyre 12,796 44.4%
Debi Towns 15,960 55.4%
The old 43rd was a swing district; the new one is more solidly Democratic (as is Rock County).
2. Fewer Individual Endorsements. When candidate Wynn ran in 2010, his website listed a fair number of prominent City of Whitewater Republicans as backers. This time around, he listed only one businessman and one officeholder living within the city.
That wasn’t this year’s oversight: some former supporters weren’t as supportive this time around. If they changed their minds on principle, well, that was their reasoned choice. If they withheld their open support because they feared Wynn would be unsuccessful (as I think was true for some of his former supporters), it speaks volumes about how self-interested those former supporters really are.
3. Signs. Whitewater was chock-a-block with signs for Wynn, presumably to create the illusion of widespread support. It was an ineffective strategy, and almost counter-productive. There was no one in the city who thought Wynn would carry Whitewater, and those weren’t ordinary people’s yard signs anyway.
Yard signs would have created the illusion of support, not the much larger Wynn signs, stylish and expensively printed, that appeared on so many commercial properties in the city. The Wynn campaign’s signage strategy was ill-considered, and too fancy by half, so to speak.
In any event, I’d guess that advocacy on the Web has a greater influence.
4. Negative mailers. Wynn did himself no favors with a series of negative mailers describing Jorgensen as though he were a soccer hooligan. No ordinary voter not drunk or disordered thinks of Jorgensen that way – he has a reputation for being friendly and accessible. Wynn would have had a hard slog in any event, but his negative mailers (and his use of the same line-of-attack during a Whitewater debate) did him no good (and probably considerable harm).
Everyone behind the slogans Wynn used in those mailers should reassess his or her suitably for effective political advice. They were both false and embarrassingly stupid.
A Republican could still win in this bluer district, but not that way.
5. Redistricting. Wynn supported not merely redistricting, but secretive redistricting. What he got from the GOP leadership for all his troubles on election night was a new 43rd with a 16 point Democratic advantage. It was a bad deal, on principle and (for him) in consequence.
6. The ‘Sons and Daughters of Wisconsin.’ During an October 30th debate with Jorgensen in Whitewater, Wynn declared that principal Wisconsin college benefits should go only to the ‘sons and daughters of Wisconsin.’ It was a brazen phrase, applied as it was against equal support for minor children who might have resided here nearly their whole lives. He delivered that line boldly, and I’d say with considerable self-assurance of the policy behind it.
This unreconstructed nativism proved unavailing: a decisive majority of actual, voting-age ‘sons and daughters of Wisconsin’ rejected Rep. Wynn’s candidacy.
7. Repositioning. One should run as what one is – no one is fooled by claims of bipartisanship that are false. These have been partisan times. Pretending otherwise convinced no one; hiding one’s political affiliation in mailings did no good at all. An elephant in chiffon is still an elephant. Better to run as what one is, than to insist otherwise.
One can hope, though, that from Tuesday’s result the 43rd will receive accessible, forthright representation. Now, if only everyone would stop worrying about free trade; it’s a good thing…