Obama supporters who voted to keep Scott Walker

It’s easy, these days, to adopt a simple paradigm of two warring tribes in the U.S. electorate, Dems and Repubs, red and blue, who agree on almost everything within the tribal unit and disagree on almost everything across the tribal divide. Yesterday’s Wisconsin recall vote provides an opportunity to complicate our thinking.

So Scott Walker beats Tom Barrett by 54-46, and the same electorate on the same day (according to exit polls) favors Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by 51-44.

A very significant chunk of those who said they support Obama said they voted against the recall. Hard to reconcile that with the simple paradigm in the first paragraph above.

Some of it must be a backlash against the recall itself. A substantial number of Dem leaners – or at least Obama supporters – didn’t approve of the effort to use the recall process to overturn the result of the 2010 election of Walker less than two years into his four-year term.

Exit polls also suggested that not all Obama supporters are as pro-labor as the stereotypical Democrat is supposed to be. There are Dems and Dem-leaners who have bought into the Repub view of unions – and maybe especially public employee union that get paid with tax dollars, as overpaid, underworked and or unwilling to do their share to help governments balance their budget. (Yes, I know that the unions were prepared to make most of the substantive concession that Walker demanded. I don’t know if the Dem-leaners are all thinking that through. It’s just necessary to acknowledge that the bond between unions and the Democratic party has become a two-edged sword.)

Back to the simple paradigm. One of the fundamental disagreements between red and blue is the disagreement between those who think low taxes and government austerity are the best way to address the nation’s (or a particular state’s) economic struggles and those who favor a Keynesian stimulus approach (or a “balanced” approach, as the current Dem lexicon has it). On many days, for those who pay close attention, this seems to be one of the fundamental divides between the parties and the two tribes.

 But if voters were thinking about their choices that way, it’s hard to believe that Walker could win big in an electorate in which Obama has such a commanding lead. Like I said, an invitation to complicate your thinking.

Update: The exit poll numbers above were updated after this post was originally posted. The numbers above are corrected to reflect the latest numbers.

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Comments (23)

  1. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 06/06/2012 - 12:02 pm.

    I’ve said it before, you can’t trust liberals

    I’ve seen this so many time over the last 40 years. Liberals get a chance to do something and they talk themselves out of it with lame indecision or anxieties. Then of course they keep running lame candidates. This is another example of Democrats defeating themselves.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/06/2012 - 12:05 pm.

    Exit polls in Wisconsin

    Didn’t they also predict Barrett & his public union supporters would pull off a win?



    Best of luck in November to the Hopey/Changey Brigade.

    • Submitted by Jackson Cage on 06/06/2012 - 03:36 pm.

      Speaking of predictions…

      Swift was spouting “Best of luck in November to the Hopey/Changey Brigade” back in the fall of 2008 and we see how well that turned out for him.

  3. Submitted by Aaron Hutchson on 06/06/2012 - 01:12 pm.

    I don’t think the Keynesian approach is considered the “Balanced” approach. If I recall things correctly the “Balanced” approach included both some tax and spending cuts in certain areas of the budget and increased spending in others. A straight Keynesian approach would be to just pump a bunch of money into the economy. Granted I might be splitting hairs here but I think it’s important to note that Obama’s plan is balanced when compared to the Republican plan and Keynes model.

    • Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 06/06/2012 - 02:11 pm.

      You’re conflating things

      The balance of spending cuts and tax increases is in regard to how to balance a budget. The gulf is over wither austerity or stimulus is the way to dig out of a recession. Our state and local governments, like the Europeans, have gone in for austerity. Our federal government balanced that out with stimulus, while Europe has no balance. As weak as our recovery is, at least we haven’t dived back into recession like Europe. Austerity has thrown much of Europe into depression. I can’t fathom how this is still a debate anymore. We have a pretty clear experiment going on, with pretty clear results. Austerity in a weak economy weakens the economy more, and doesn’t even fix the budget deficit.

  4. Submitted by Tim Walker on 06/06/2012 - 01:24 pm.

    Yes, the GOP has been very effective at making public sector unions the scapegoats for budget deficits.

    That’s the power of unfettered money and staying on message!

    But an examination of the facts would reveal that these unions are really just a small part of the picture.

    But who has time to examine facts?

    • Submitted by Logan Foreman on 06/06/2012 - 02:46 pm.


      It is indicative of a society that does not pay enough attention to polical issues and to politicians who represent them. Or perhaps society has just become less intelligent.

  5. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/06/2012 - 01:56 pm.

    Yes, it’s a conundrum…

    I’ve read elsewhere that Walker’s campaign spent 88 percent of the money to get 53 (now 54) percent of the vote. Conversely, Barrett’s campaign spent 12 percent of the money to get 46 percent of the vote.

    One of those is pretty cost-effective, the other demonstrates the political application of Colin Powell’s military doctrine of “overwhelming force.” Proof positive, in some circles at least, that if you spend enough money, you can convince voters of almost anything, including the notion that their employees are their enemies. Logically, it makes no sense at all.

    But logic rarely plays a significant role in political campaigns. I’m inclined to think of Obama’s approach as a more “balanced” one than a Keynesian one (in agreement with Aaron Hutchson), but ideologues on the right will see almost any government spending that’s not devoted to defense is unnecessary, while plenty of people on the left will insist just as strongly that much of what’s being devoted to defense is itself unnecessary, and makes the society being defended less worthy of the effort.

    Not sure if “…you can’t trust liberals” is actually true, but I certainly agree with Paul Udstrand that the Democratic candidate opposing Walker was “lame” by comparison. Falk would have been better, at least in my view, or someone entirely new, perhaps from the state legislature. In any case, woulda, coulda, shoulda doesn’t change the outcome. Still waiting to see if control of the state senate has passed to the Democrats. If it has, and especially in this era of polarization, Walker’s agenda may well come to a halt even though he won the recall.

    In the end, I can’t argue with Tim Walker’s comment. Public sector employees are a pretty small part of the employment/benefit picture, and union membership is lower now than at almost any point in the last hundred years, so making unions the scapegoats for everything wrong with the economy shouldn’t work – the facts would seem to argue otherwise – but it continues to do so. I think that’s not likely to change unless/until Democrats manage – if they can – to get “on message” to the same degree as Republicans, or at least the Republican right wing, and to find a way to raise enough money to support their own media blitz.

    Frankly, I’m tempted to simply turn off the television completely until a few days after the November election.

  6. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/06/2012 - 02:46 pm.


    still has its advantages.
    And the fact that at least some voters who might otherwise have voted against Walker were not comfortable in removing him from office might be cold comfort in a regularly scheduled election.
    I would agree that given the massive funding differential Barrett probably did better than would be expected.
    Finally, the fact that Walker had five times as much money to spend as Barrett does not mean that five times as many people contributed to his campaign. The differential was a few large corporate donors.

  7. Submitted by Simon DeRuyter on 06/06/2012 - 02:49 pm.

    I am certainly one of those Obama supporters who was pulling for Walker in this election. I lean left on most issues, but certainly understand that public sector unions are a conflict of interest to the taxpayer and that the teachers union is the biggest obstacle preventing the improvement of our broken educational system.

    Unions have always served a purpose in this country, a way to ensure fair distribution of profits and a safe and healthy work environment and schedule. They ensure the worker is not unfairly exploited by the greedy company owner.

    Public sector unions do not serve these purposes, however. There is no greedy owner here, no profit to split up. They work for the very organization that ensures a safe, healthy workplace. Government workers do not need these union protections.

    Once teacher unions are out of the way, we can go about fixing the sad state of education. Whats needed is longer school days and years, fewer children per classroom (which means more teachers), and the ability to hire the best available teachers and rid the system of the poor ones (which means paying good teachers more). Thats going to take lots of extra tax money. Thats an investment worth making, but throwing money at the issue now isn’t improving anything, its only lining the pockets of the union and the weak educators that they protect.

    • Submitted by James Hamilton on 06/06/2012 - 04:44 pm.

      With all due respect

      you give the voters far too much credit. Public workers are as easily exploited as private workers. Profit has nothing to do with unions. As for government as the protector of workers and the guarantor of workplace safety, check the number of times local governments and states are cited by higher authorities for such violations.

      If you want to weaken public unions, do it by restricting the ability to strike and requiring binding arbitration or some other form of dispute resolution that brings both sides to the table.

      As for teachers: if I have the right to engage in collective bargaining, then my [public] employees should have that right. Are there problems? Absolutely. But eliminating unions or their rights to collective bargaining, as opposed to restructuring our relationship with them, isn’t the answer.

    • Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/06/2012 - 04:52 pm.


      “Once teacher unions are out of the way, we can go about fixing the sad state of education. Whats needed is longer school days and years, fewer children per classroom (which means more teachers), and the ability to hire the best available teachers and rid the system of the poor ones (which means paying good teachers more). Thats going to take lots of extra tax money. Thats an investment worth making, but throwing money at the issue now isn’t improving anything, its only lining the pockets of the union and the weak educators that they protect.”

      Where have you been all this time?

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/06/2012 - 05:05 pm.

      Which is why

      European and Asian countries have unionized education systems that do a far better job than ours does.
      On the other hands, students in those countries don’t spend most of their energy on competitive athletics.

  8. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 06/06/2012 - 04:19 pm.

    Ya really have to admire leftists…

    “If only everyone was as smart as us, we’d all be eating rainbow stew” is a wonderful way to keep a harsh reality at arms’ length.

    …and much less tiring than sticking ones fingers in ones ears and chanting “lalala, I can’t hear you”.

  9. Submitted by Jon Kingstad on 06/06/2012 - 07:18 pm.

    People are very confused

    about what’s been happening in this country. It’s not too surprising that they might be attracted to an authoritarian type leader, even when he’s bringing in a wrecking crane to “fix” things that aren’t even broken. Despite the strong polarization in this election, there are many voters who consider themselves “independents” which I think means they think they are voting for the candidate and not any ideology. This is so even though their votes perpetuate the ideology of the right.

    The Democratic Party has no ideology. It is just a loose confederation of individuals who identify from center right to far left. Collectively, such a Party has no single voice or message. So, it’s not too surprising that people who voted for Walker might also vote for Obama. These are the “independents” who swing with the wind and the last thing they heard about someone. They might yet all vote for Mitt Romney.

  10. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 06/06/2012 - 09:19 pm.

    Wasn’t this Barrett fellow the same candidate that Walker beat in their previous encounter? Wisconsin still prefers Mr Walker over Mr Barrett. That’s about the size of it, I think.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/07/2012 - 09:21 am.

      Bills coming due

      The question is how long Walker’s smoke-and-mirrors accounting will let him get away with saying he’s doing a good job of managing Wisconsin’s finances. When Wisconsin’s public employees have to pay more of their health care costs out of lower salaries they’ll have less money to spend, further dampening that state’s economy. Of course, he’ll blame it all on business leaving and avoiding the state, even though the facts don’t support it.
      If and when the voters get around to reading the details he’ll be gone.

      • Submitted by william laney on 06/07/2012 - 12:55 pm.


        and by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, Walker’s current biennium will result in 3.1 billion deficit, about what he inherited. Now, if he would take a couple of billion from the Kochs and pay down the debt with it, even I would consider voting for him.

      • Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/07/2012 - 11:26 pm.

        But the money they save

        on their property taxes might make it a wash as the local government entities save money. Reducing some spending might work, but I’m not sure if the state actually reduced overall spending or went the way of Minnesota and increased spending (again).

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/08/2012 - 09:23 am.

          Who saves?

          Communities will save money on property taxes only if they gut their services (fire, law enforcement, schools, etc).
          Nationally, municipal governments are in trouble because state and federal governments are cutting spending and passing the costs down to them, which results in increases in property taxes.
          Local savings are a Ryan fantasy.

  11. Submitted by william laney on 06/08/2012 - 02:40 pm.

    Replace all taxes with a 1% flat tax on financial transactions. Problem solved. http://simonthorpesideas.blogspot.com/

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