In 2008, Barack Obama won Wisconsin with 57% of the vote and won 62 of 72 counties in the state. In such a decisive victory, many opined that Wisconsin would never vote Republican again and that the state had become deep blue over the last several decades. In 2012, Obama again won the state with 53.5% of the vote, however, his county count dropped to just 39, a loss of 22 counties. Additionally, Obama lost 56,226 votes from his 2008 total, while Romney gained 145,576 votes over McCain’s 2008 showing. McCain and Romney were both cut from the same cloth, that is, political moderates sold to the base as appealing to moderates, yet both lost and Romney performed better. Is that as a result of Romney? The answer to that is likely, no. Voters just happened to shift to the right (much like they did in Michigan).
In 2016, Trump won the state with 51 of 72 counties, a further loss for Democrats of 18 counties in the Badger State. To add insult to injury, Clinton lost an additional 238,449 voters from Obama’s 2012 performance, or a 294,675 vote loss since 2008, while Trump lost only 2,685 votes over Romney’s 2012 performance or a 142,891 vote gain overall since McCain’s 2008 turnout. Additionally, Trump won his counties with an average of 59.14% of the vote, while Clinton won her counties with an average of just 51.21% of the vote.
What has been happening since 2016 then? Since we can show a shift in the electorate in favor of Republicans from electoral results, there would need to be a triggering effect (beyond “Orange Man Bad” Syndrome) that would shift the electorate back in the other direction, and indicators that is occurring. Unfortunately for Dems, that isn’t happening.
Again, Wisconsin is another one of those states that don’t register according to a political party. Voters simply register as a voter, and not a Republican or Democrat voter. This makes tracking voter data a bit harder, but when we look at the counties won by these candidates, we can gather data that suggests a certain direction or result. For instance, when we look at counties won by Clinton in 2016, those counties have lost 97,915 voters over the course of the last 4 years, a 5.3% drop compared to those counties 2016 registered numbers. In counties won by Trump, they lost only 47,963 voters, or a 2.5% loss since 2016, a 2 to 1 advantage for Trump counties. This continues to follow the trend of other battleground states, showing 2 to 1 and sometimes 3 to 1 margins in favor of Republicans.
To highlight that this isn’t just a 4-year-fluke if we take a look at counties won by Obama in 2012, the counties have lost 114,481 (5.4%) voters since 2016, while Romney counties have lost just 31,397 voters, a 2.7 to 1 margin in favor of Romney counties. When factored for population, that number rises to a 3.5 to 1 margin in favor of Romney counties. There is definitely a trend.
So what does this mean for 2020? I think Trump not only wins Wisconsin but does so someplace in the 53% range. The state has shifted 3 to 4 points each election since, directly correlated to the voter registration numbers that preceded those shifts. With another similar result in voter registration, I believe the state shifts another 3 to 4 points to the right again in 2020. Biden doesn’t excite voters the same as Trump, and stats coming out of Trump rallies show massive numbers of “shy voters” showing up. Kenosha’s unrest did no favors for Biden and Trump has capitalized on this with his “law and order” march since that time. Biden’s slip in the last several days, his loss in the debate last week, and the unfolding Hunter Biden drama lead me to conclude that Trump wins Wisconsin.