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News from the Votemaster

Walker Makes History: Survives Recall Attempt

Wisconsin's controversial governor, Scott Walker (R-WI), became the first governor in U.S. history to win a recall election. Both of the previous recall attempts--North Dakota governor Lynn Frazier in 1921 and California governor Gray Davis in 2003 were successful. Walker's margin over Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett was 53% to 46%.

The election was one of the first real tests of a partisan election in the post Citizens United world. Outside money flowed like water, the vast majority of it to Walker. The race was the most expensive in the history of Wisconsin, with Walker raising and spending $30 million to Barrett's $4 million. We may have entered a new era in which wealthy out-of-state donors can effectively buy elections by simply writing large checks.

The election also showed how much the power of unions has withered. The recall was triggered when Walker signed a law greatly reducing the power of the state's public employees' unions. They rose up against him and got enough names signed to petitions to force the recall. Then they went all out on the ground to defeat him, but it wasn't nearly enough.

The gender gap in this election was enormous, with exit polls showing Walker winning men by 19 points and Barrett winning women by 5 points. As the Republican Party slowly becomes a party of older white men, it is eventually going to hit a demographic wall, but for the time being, the formula works.

Many pundits are no doubt going to read something about the November presidential election into these results, but they should be very cautious. As we pointed out here yesterday, not many voters vote a straight party-line ticket any more. Furthermore, the exit polls showed President Obama beating Mitt Romney by 12 points, which agrees with the most recent polling in the state showing him way ahead. Obama carried the state by 14 points in 2008.

Democrats Appear to Have Won the Wisconsin State Senate

To further emphasize the point that many voters split their tickets, it now appears that Democrat John Lehman has ousted incumbent Republican state senator Van Wanggaard, giving the Democrats a razor-thin majority in the state senate. The practical consequence of the state senate election is that Walker will be severely limited in what he can do until November because the Democrats will block his every effort in the state senate. Three other state senators faced recalls yesterday as well and all of them won.

California Runs a Jungle Primary

California held its first statewide primary yesterday under the new rules the voters mandated by passing Proposition 14 in June 2010. Instead of there being separate primaries for each party, as is the case in most of the country, in California now all candidates for an office are listed on a single ballot and all voters can pick any one of them. The two candidates with the most votes move on to the general election, regardless of which party they are in.

For the Senate seat currently held by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), there were 23 candidates, including Feinstein, the "Queen of the Birthers," dentist and lawyer Orly Taitz, and a raft of small-time players. Feinstein came in first, as expected, but #2 was a totally unknown autism activist, Elizabeth Emken. Feinstein got 50% of the vote to Emken's 12%, which is likely to translate into a landslide for Feinstein in the fall. Taitz came in fifth, with 3% of the vote.

Elsewhere in California, the downside of the new rules became abundantly clear. In CA-30, the top two finishers, Brad Sherman and Howard Berman, are both Democrats, and they will face off one-on-one in November. Republicans in this district will not have a candidate to vote for. The new boundaries of the district, drawn by an independent commission, make it hard for any Republican to win it. Nevertheless, one can imagine that Republicans in it would at least like to have a candidate they can vote for, even if it is a steep hill for their candidate to climb.

Martin Heinrich Will Face Heather Wilson in New Mexico

Both parties had primaries for the Senate seat being opened up by the surprise retirement of Sen. Jeff Bingaman, who could have easily cruised to reelection in this increasingly blue state. The Democratic primary pitted Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) against state auditor Hector Balderas. Heinrich won. The Republican primary featured former representative Heather Wilson against tea partier Greg Sowards. Wilson won it, so now she will face Heinrich in the fall.

Clinton Defeats Obama

Make that Bill Clinton, not Hillary Clinton, and this is 2012, not 2008, and it was a proxy fight, not a direct contest. Redistricting in New Jersey threw two Democratic congressmen, Bill Pascrell and Steve Rothman, into the same district this year. Pascrell was backed by Bill Clinton because Pascrell supported Hillary in 2008. Obama supported Rothman because Rothman supported him in 2008. Pascrell won by a big margin: 61% to 39%, even though the new district contains more voters from Rothman's old district than from Pascrell's old district. Make no mistake: the big dog is still immensely popular among Democrats and will no doubt be out on the campaign trail continuously from now until November. Clinton's popularity will be further enhanced by the rare spectacle of a presidential race in which neither major-party candidate likes campaigning at all.

Romney Sweeps the Primaries

Five states held presidential primaries yesterday: California, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and South Dakota. Mitt Romney won them all. The only remaining primary is in Utah in three weeks. Romney is favored to win that one, too. Here are the results of yesterday's primaries.

State Romney Santorum Paul Gingrich
California 80% 5% 10% 4%
Montana 69% 9% 14% 4%
New Jersey 81% 5% 10% 3%
New Mexico 73% 11% 10% 6%
South Dakota 67% 12% 13% 4%

Today's Presidential Polls

State Obama Romney   Start End Pollster
Florida 50% 46%   May 31 Jun 03 PPP

Today's Senate Polls

State Democrat D % Republican R % I I % Start End Pollster
Virginia Tim Kaine 46% George Allen 44%     Jun 03 Jun 03 Rasmussen