During the back-and-forth between supporters of Demcoratic gubernatorial candidates Kathleen Falk and Tom Barrett, supporters of Falk have pointed to her showing in the 2006 Attorney General election against J.B. Van Hollen as proof of Falk’s statewide electability. Case in point is this comment posted on Blogging Blue yesterday:
But an interesting comparison is the 2006 AG’s race between Falk and VAn Hollen, and the 2010 Walker/Barrett race. In 2010 Barrett won 13 counties. In 2006 Falk won 31 counties. Yes 31 vs. Barrett’s 13. In 2010 Barrett got 1,004,303 votes; in 2006 Falk got 1,056,594. Barret won 47% of the vote; Falk 49.2%. These facts don’t support a conclusion she would do worse than Barrett statewide.
While Falk’s showing in the 2006 Attorney General race certainly seems to bolster the case that she’s more electable (especially in comparison to Tom Barrett’s showing in the 2010 gubernatorial race), it’s important to remember that 2006 was a wave year for Democrats nationally, while 2010 was very much a Republican tsunami year.
In the 2006 election, Democrats in Wisconsin won 5 of the state’s 8 seats in the House of Representatives, while Democratic Sen. Herb Kohl coasted to reelection. In the gubernatorial race, incumbent Jim Doyle easily defeated Republican Mark Green 53% to 45%. In the legislature, Democrats held a majority of 18 seats to only 15 for Republicans following the 2006 election, and though Democrats didn’t hold a majority in the State Assembly, they did gain 8 seats in that body as a result of the 2006 election.
In stark contrast, the 2010 election was an absolute bloodbath for Democrats in Wisconsin. In the U.S. Senate race, Republican challenger Ron Johnson defeated incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Russ Feingold 52% to 47%, while Republican Scott Walker defeated Democrat Tom Barrett 52% to 47% in the gubernatorial race. Republicans also won 5 of the state’s 8 seats in the House of Representatives. In the legislature, Republicans regained the majority in the State Senate (19 seats to only 15 for Democrats) and they also gained a large majority in the State Assembly (57 seats to 38 for Democrats, with 1 independent).
While it’s true that Tom Barrett garnered fewer votes statewide in his gubernatorial race in 2010 than Kathleen Falk did in her 2006 Attorney General race, the conditions under which Tom Barrett ran for governor in 2010 were far less favorable to Democrats In fact, I’d argue that Kathleen Falk underperformed in the 2006 Attorney General race, given how good a year 2006 was for Democrats here in Wisconsin and across the nation. Instead of bolstering the case for Kathleen Falk’s electability as opposed to Tom Barrett, I’d argue that Kathleen Falk’s performance statewide in 2006 just underscores her weakness as the Democratic standard-bearer in the 2012 recall election against Republican Gov. Scott Walker.