Monday, July 25, 2011

Wild Cards in the 2012 Wisconsin 1st Congressional District Race

Ryan's 2012 re-election not a given in tense climate. (Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, 7/24/2011)

Excerpt: The district. The 1st District has voted Republican for president only once in the past six elections. Ryan likes to cite that history as proof of his crossover appeal. Democrats like to cite it as evidence that the district is winnable for them.

But it's a fairly misleading statistic.

The truth is that population trends and redistricting have combined over time to shift the Ryan seat from 50-50 to Republican-leaning. Much of the district's recent population growth has come in the more conservative communities west of I-94 in Racine and Kenosha counties. Ryan also shed Democratic Beloit in redistricting 10 years ago. That map made his district a few points more Republican. Much less of a factor is the new redistricting plan passed this month by Wisconsin Republicans. It gives Ryan more of Waukesha County, but its net effect on the district's partisan makeup is pretty marginal.

Conservative Supreme Court Justice David Prosser got 56% in Ryan's district on April 5 (six points better than he did statewide). Walker topped 58% in the district last fall (six points better than he did statewide). George W. Bush got 53.5% in 2004 (about four points better than he did statewide).

Yes, Democrat Barack Obama won the 1st District in 2008, but his share of the vote (51.3%) was below his national percentage (52.9%) and almost five points below his statewide number (56.2%).

"I think it's more of a swing district . . . I think it's winnable," says Zerban.

"Certainly, there are areas that are more Republican," he says, but
he says a fired-up Democratic base will be critical, "which we can thank Scott Walker for doing."

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