A Good Night For Underdogs?

[ Posted Tuesday, April 5th, 2016 – 16:02 UTC ]

We've reached the sparse and arid part of the primary calendar, which means that instead of another multi-state Tuesday, the political world is now focused solely on the Badger State. This follows last week, when (gasp!) no state voted on Tuesday, and will be followed by another two-week gap, before New York weighs in.

Because of the singular nature of the primary results tonight, the temptation in the media is to give far too much weight to what happens tonight in terms of the effect on the overall race. We'll get to all of that in a moment, but first (as always) we've got to update my scoreboard.

The previous round of primaries was a three-state weekend night for the Democrats (Republicans sat this one out). This time around, I was too pessimistic in feeling the Bern, as I correctly called Washington and Alaska for Bernie Sanders, but was mistaken in predicting Hillary Clinton would win a surprise upset in Hawai'i. That didn't happen, and Bernie swept the night.

This gives me a 2-for-3 score for the night. When added in to the running totals, my percentages didn't change (the adjustments were too small to move the numbers), so I wound up with the following:

Total correct 2016 Democratic picks: 25 for 34 -- 74%
Total correct 2016 Republican picks: 29 for 39 -- 74%
Total overall correct picks: 54 for 73 -- 74%.

With that out of the way, let's take a look at tonight's matchups. And seeing as how we only have one state to call this time around, we're going to give each party their own section heading.


Wisconsin (Democrats)

Once again (thankfully), we actually have lots of polling to look at in Wisconsin's races. For the Democrats, this polling is incredibly close, but Bernie Sanders seems to be averaging out a small lead (of perhaps three points or so). He hasn't led every poll, however, as a few show Hillary Clinton with a small lead. So even with the availability of data, it boils down to which polls you choose to believe, really.

Geographically, Wisconsin sits right between two states Bernie won (Minnesota, Michigan), but also just north of a state Hillary won (Illinois). Demographically, you could make the case that it'll go either direction, as much of the state's population lives within the Chicago area of influence, but also that the overall makeup is very similar to Minnesota and Michigan. So, once again, it boils down to which argument you believe.

I'm going to go with a historical bias, personally, and say the state goes for Bernie based on its long and storied progressive and populist history. Actually, that should rightly be "Progressive and Populist" -- since both were strong "people's parties" here, roughly a century ago (see: "Fighting Bob" La Follette, for instance). Wisconsin liberals are proud of this history, and proud of not sitting back and waiting for change but rather demanding it in bold and brash strokes. I think the state will continue this history tonight, and give Bernie a solid win. Not overwhelming, perhaps, but let's say around five (up to maybe seven) points.

Hillary Clinton doesn't really need to win Wisconsin, and has already decamped from the state -- which is usually a sign that a candidate's internal polling shows a likely loss. Why invest time and resources on a lost cause, after all? A Clinton Wisconsin win might just seal the deal for her in New York, but she might manage that even without such a wind at her back.

Sanders, on the other hand, really does need a win tonight. He is absolutely going to need a tailwind heading into New York, due to Clinton's home-state advantage. I think he's going to achieve this, and arrive in the Big Apple having won seven of the last eight contests.

Wisconsin doesn't have a whole lot of minorities in its population, and heavily-white states have been favoring Sanders so far, but what I will find most interesting is how Bernie does among the few African-American voters who do live there. I have seen at least one poll showing Bernie was actually leading Hillary among this crucial Democratic demographic, and if he does manage to win a majority of the black vote, it may be the first time he will have done so. This, much more than just a victory in a Midwest state, might be the real crack in the Clinton firewall. So I'll be very interested to see the breakdowns in the exit polling tonight.


Wisconsin (Republicans)

Will the underdogs in both parties win the night? That's what the conventional wisdom seems to be predicting, but even among the Republican polling there is some muddiness. Ted Cruz has led most of the recent polls, sometimes by double digits. However, Donald Trump might actually be in the midst of a very late-breaking surge, as he came out ahead in the final poll published before the voting began. So you can either believe the averages which put Cruz up, or you can listen to the Trump surge trendline -- if it even exists.

Oh, allow me a short interlude here, if you will. Everyone (or, more correctly, "everywonk") has their own favorite web resources for election data, of course. We all go to different sites to watch the returns come in, and then we all browse around for the best ways to see "what it all means" afterwards. But, while looking for some mundane facts (the full primary calendar), I stumbled across a dilly of a primary results map on (of all places) Wikipedia. Check out this map of the Republican race, so far. It shows colored results broken down not by state, but actually by county. It is nothing more than a composite of all the individual state maps we all love to watch change colors on election night, and it is a fascinating way to see the Republican race. So much so that I wish the companion page for the Democratic race had the same map (sadly, it doesn't). In any case, just thought I'd toss the link out there for fellow map-loving data wonks.

Where were we? On Wisconsin! The cheesehead showdown, perhaps?

Looking at that county map, it is tough to predict which way Wisconsin will fall. Donald Trump did well in Michigan and Illinois, but not so well in Minnesota. Ted Cruz showed strength in Iowa and Minnesota, and Wisconsin is where these two tides will clash. Even with such a microscopic geographical layout, it's hard to predict which will prevail.

The smart money is on Ted Cruz, and I'm going to go ahead and agree with it. I think a "perfect storm" of conditions has happened in Wisconsin, by which I mean a confluence of events which will may prove to be very hard for Cruz to replicate in other states, but which will combine to become unstoppable here.

First, there has been enough time since the establishment wing of the Republican Party decided to collectively hold its nose and vote for Cruz (call it the rise of the "NeverTrump" movement). Stopping Trump by boosting Cruz was so distasteful for so long that it hasn't really had an effect on any of the races yet (except perhaps in Utah, with Mitt Romney's Cruz endorsement). But now time has passed, and more and more big Republicans are reluctantly backing Cruz. In Wisconsin, the biggest endorsement prize of all -- Governor Scott Walker -- has been actually sounding pretty enthusiastic for Cruz. Walker is still well-liked and respected among Wisconsin Republicans, so his voice carries some real weight.

Secondly, Wisconsin has its own small universe of right-wing talk radio stars, and they have generally decided that Trump is not a man to vote for. They've been aggressively pumping up Cruz and shooting down Trump for a while now, and Trump blew a few local interviews he gave, which didn't help him at all. It's hard to say how much a factor this will be, but it is leaning pretty heavily towards Cruz.

Thirdly, Donald Trump has not been having a good few weeks. He's been on the ropes in several instances, which detracts from his "winning" message. He had to issue a (for him, rare) retraction of his position on abortion, and then actually took several positions to refute his original take (that "women should be punished"). His performance was resoundingly panned, from the left to the right. To me, this was kind of odd -- reminiscent of when Republicans were denouncing Trump's stance on waterboarding and torture -- since Trump didn't really say anything all that different than what is in the actual Republican Party platform. But whatever the details, Trump has had a pretty bad week, and that makes him look weak -- which is not good, considering his persona.

And lastly, Wisconsin Republicans are a little more down-to-Earth and solid than their counterparts elsewhere. They see through glitz, to put this another way -- even right-wing glitz. Take a look at the chilly reception Sarah Palin recently got in the state if you don't believe me -- she kept waiting for all that applause to happen, and instead she heard a stoic silence. Now, both Trump and Cruz are glitzy in their own particular ways, but given the choice, I think they'll take the Texas glitz over the New York glitz.

I don't, however, see a blowout for Cruz. I think Trump will keep him within five points or so, as those two waves of county-level demographics roil the waters in Wisconsin. Trump will pick up enough support from enough districts in the state to prevent Cruz from grabbing all the delegates -- that's my prediction, at any rate.


So there you go. A big night for the underdogs, as Bernie Sanders and Ted Cruz emerge victorious from the Badger State. However, having predicted this (in line with most of the conventional political wisdom), I also predict that Wisconsin's influence on the rest of the race will be vastly overstated, starting tonight. This is due to one thing and one thing alone -- the primary calendar. Wisconsin is the only big race within roughly a four-week period. To put this another way, for the last two weeks the horserace pundits have had nothing to do but speculate about Wisconsin. For the next two weeks, they will have only two subjects: New York, and how Wisconsin absolutely changes the race to being a whole new ball game with the contest shaken up and totally up in the air.

So take a deep breath, everyone, while listening to all of this pour forth, and realize that political pundits absolutely hate foregone conclusions, and absolutely love conflict. And we're smack in the middle of a month-long window with very few actual data points to talk about. So no matter what happens tonight, don't believe the hype. The race probably won't fundamentally change all that much on either side after the Wisconsin returns are in. The frontrunners will still be Trump and Clinton, and they'll still be heavily favored to win. If Trump loses Wisconsin tonight, it won't be the first state he'll have lost to Cruz (there are actually nine others), so take all those "Trump Is Finished!" stories with a grain of salt, to put this another way.

In any case, those are my predictions for tonight -- what are yours? Let me know, as always, down in the comments, and happy return-watching tonight to everyone!


[Previous states' picks:]

[AK (D)] [AK (R)] [AL] [AR] [AZ] [CO (D)] [FL] [GA] [HI (D)] [HI (R)] [IA] [ID (D)] [ID (R)] [IL] [KS] [KY (R)] [LA] [MA] [ME] [MI] [MN] [MO] [MS] [NC] [NE (D)] [NH] [NV (D)] [NV (R)] [OH] [OK] [SC (D)] [SC (R)] [TN] [TX] [UT] [VA] [VT] [WA (D)] [American Samoa (D)] [American Samoa (R)] [Puerto Rico (R)] [Democrats Abroad (D)]

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


28 Comments on “A Good Night For Underdogs?”

  1. [1] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Results starting to trickle in...

    Bernie and Ted up so far, but early days (all results from SE corner of state)


  2. [2] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Whoops, looks like bold tag open problem is back... lemme get on it.

    HuffPost posted that Bernie won, but I have to wonder whether they did so prematurely or not. Here's the link:

    Nobody else seems to have called it this early, may have prematurely posted a pre-written article?


  3. [3] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    OK, bold problem fixed. The perils of cutting and pasting...

    Mea culpa.


  4. [4] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Cruz wins, according to some...


  5. [5] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    CBS just called it for Sanders...

    Boy, that was quick! Over before it began, almost...


  6. [6] 
    goode trickle wrote:

    Perusing all of the LSM outlets they seem to have already called for Cruz and Sanders.... I guess they found some fuel for the next 25 hour news cycle.

    Now the interesting question is going to be if Sanders will see any positive and meaningful media exposure, or will it all continue to be in the tank for the HRC.

    I guess we can all count on some intense stories on polling data for NY, or as I like to call it "wonk porn"...

  7. [7] 
    Michale wrote:
  8. [8] 
    Michale wrote:

    Crap.. Premature submission.. It's a problem for older guys such as myself. :D

    Take heart, GT...

    This is how the FBI destroys Hillary: The 10 questions that could end her White House dreams
    These questions, if answered honestly, would most likely hand the Democratic nomination to Bernie Sanders

    Hillary is NOT going to survive the FBI...


  9. [9] 
    John From Censornati wrote:
  10. [10] 
    Michale wrote:

    Another week, another "TRUMP IS TOAST" proclamation...


    Let's see what's for breakfast.. Oooo Pizza!!!!! :D


  11. [11] 
    Mopshell wrote:

    JfC [9]-

    Trump is toast.

    Way to go to prove Michale right.

    I want you to know, Michale, that I see this as nothing more than wishful thinking on JfC's part. Salon has been wrong before and I'm betting they're wrong this time too.

    The fact is, at this point in time, Trump is very definitely NOT toast and is, in fact, the only GOP candidate with any possibility of getting to the magical 1237 delegate total.

  12. [12] 
    nypoet22 wrote:


    agreed. trump is still the most likely GOP nominee, with or without 1237.


  13. [13] 
    Michale wrote:

    It's nice ta see the acknowledgement.. :D



  14. [14] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Trump is still the most likely Rep. nominee, but his likelihood keeps falling, now somewhat below 50% at Betfair,55% at Predictwise, 58% at Hypermind, and 44% at Predictit. Trump peaked around late Feb. and has been sliding since. Clinton has been dropping a bit at the markets since late March, but she is still way ahead of Sanders.

  15. [15] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Both the Democratic and Republican nomination processes are starting to look like attrition warfare. Clinton is in a much better position to weather this than Trump, but Bernie is proving to be a pretty skilled sapper, having just undermined the Wisconsin Tower.

  16. [16] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Does The Great Powerful OZ use the same hair stylist as The Great and Powerful Trump? Both made their mark in big city real estate, Oz even sold steaks for a while.

  17. [17] 
    Michale wrote:

    Does The Great Powerful OZ use the same hair stylist as The Great and Powerful Trump? Both made their mark in big city real estate, Oz even sold steaks for a while.

    Isn't one of the requirements of being a liberal is that they don't make fun of people's appearance??

    I seem to remember ya'all castigated Trump for that very thing....

    Cue indignant cries of, "well, that's different!"

    It always is...


  18. [18] 
    TheStig wrote:

    It's not really about Trump's hair. It's more about the man behind the curtain and fraud etc. If the foo shits, wear it. Readers can decide, and sometimes I just enjoy a good snark.

    Don't assume I'm liberal or Democrat. I usually vote for Democrats, but this cycle I voted for Kasich. That makes me officially Republican until the next primary. It's not so bad being a tactical Republican, but my knuckles are getting a bit bloody from dragging of the ground. I notice I'm grunting more too.

    Yoinks and away.

  19. [19] 
    Michale wrote:

    It's not really about Trump's hair.

    Or the color of his skin??

    Don't feel I am singling you out. Many Weigantians have made rude and crude comments about appearances of Republicans they don't like.

    I myself have succumbed to the temptation once or twice myself.. Remember Reice = Pinocchio?? :D

    It's just that it's so out of character for Left Wingers to make snide comments about people's looks..

    Kinda like Dick Cheney embracing a muslim terrorist...

    It's just... weird! :D

    but this cycle I voted for Kasich. That makes me officially Republican until the next primary.

    At least you get to vote in primaries..

    Granted, it's my own choice to be excluded from Primaries... I just feel that the ability to vote in a Primary is not worth my soul...



  20. [20] 
    Michale wrote:

    But, regardless of my needling, TS..

    I still like ya... :D


  21. [21] 
    TheStig wrote:

    Aw, right back at yah, you big lug! :)

  22. [22] 
    John From Censornati wrote:


    "I see this as nothing more than wishful thinking on JfC's part."

    Actually, I didn't write that article, Gary Legum did. In addition, I have plainly stated on more than one occasion that I prefer The Orange Thing over all of the other GOP monsters. So, what was I wishing for with my wishful thinking?

    "Salon has been wrong before"

    Interesting. About what?

    "I'm betting they're wrong this time too."

    See TS's comment #14. I think you should probably place your bet at Predictit.

  23. [23] 
    Michale wrote:

    "For young voters, the foundational issues of our age have been the Iraq invasion, the financial crisis, free trade, mass incarceration, domestic surveillance, police brutality, debt and income inequality, among others. And to one degree or another, the modern Democratic Party, often including Hillary Clinton personally, has been on the wrong side of virtually all of these issues."

    Ouch!!! And the ref takes a point away!!! :D


  24. [24] 
    Michale wrote:

    NNL strikes again!!! :D


  25. [25] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    A good night for underdogs? Who can tell?

    One thing is for certain, though ... a bad night for America with countless more to come.

  26. [26] 
    Chris Weigant wrote:

    Michale [10] -

    Don't call it "cold pizza for breakfast"... have some class... call it "Italian cheese toast"!




  27. [27] 
    Michale wrote:

    Touche' :D


  28. [28] 
    altohone wrote:

    Hey CW

    Bernie by 13... funny how the pundits and polling have been so wrong dontcha think?

    And, you forgot Wyoming on April 9th.


Comments for this article are closed.