A tidbit to those who argue Kathleen Falk’s 2006 AG race showing proves she’s more electable

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.


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38 thoughts on “A tidbit to those who argue Kathleen Falk’s 2006 AG race showing proves she’s more electable

  1. You forget to mention that in 2006 the hardcore base that supported Peg Lautenschlager stayed home. They were upset that she primaried one of our own and so did not vote for her. right or wrong that is an important fact because had they done so she would have been the AG.

    It was either poor research or an intentional attempt at being disingenuous to say she has no statewide experience.

    1. Kathleen Falk has statewide experience! That’s not up for debate. She was Public Intervenor for the entire state for 12 years.

    2. Jeff, how many hardcore Lautenschlager supporters stayed home instead of voting for Falk?

      Give us a number to back up your assertion. I’d argue that the fact that Falk got more votes statewide in 2006 than Barrett did in 2010 completely and totally undermines your argument about Lautenschlager supporters staying home rather than voting for Falk, because if that were the case one would expect to see far lower vote totals for Falk in 2006.

      The fact is, you’re pulling stuff out of your derriere (unless you have statistics to prove your assertion).

      1. Sure….look and see how many votes in Dane County that Falk received less than Doyle, then look at the difference between she and JBVH.

            1. Yeah, because Joanne Kloppenburg and Kathleen Falk are the same person!

              Jeff, what are you going to do when Falk loses on Tuesday?

              1. You wanted proof that the run against Peg cost her the election….I supplied that.

                I look forward still to Governor Falk, lets have the vote and see what happens.

                1. So Jeff, how do you know for certain that Falk lost her AG race in 2006 because Dane County supporters of Lautenschlager stayed home?

                  Could Falk have gotten fewer votes than Doyle because some voters simply viewed her as a poor AG candidate?

                  It’s also worth noting that Van Hollen got roughly 80,000 more votes in the AG race than Mark Green did in the gubernatorial race, so perhaps my point is valid – voters simply felt Kathleen Falk was not the best choice to be AG.

  2. 2006 was a wave year for Democrats, but because the dynamics of Falk’s race were different in her home territory (Dane Co), it wasn’t the same for her. 6 years later, with a different race and with more executive experience under her belt, Dane County is behind Falk. She’s our strongest candidate to face Walker.

  3. The argument over who is the strongest candidate to face Walker should focus, at least a little bit, on who is the best campaigner. Barrett is still to present himself as anything more than the luke warm campaigner who lost to Walker in 2010.

    Despite that, I believe either of these two will beat Walker, and that either of them will make for a fine Governor.

  4. Zach, yes, it was a wave election but the criticism I hear most is not just that she’s “‘not electable” – it’s that she can’t pull votes outside of Dane County. That talking point is clearly wrong when you look at the 2006 county by county data. In fact, I think the margin of victory for JB was almost identical to the number of people who voted for Doyle but didn’t vote for Falk in Dane due to the Peg primary issue.

    So, while I agree that the 06 Falk vs 10 Barrett numbers don’t necessarily mean she would get more votes in 2010 than he did or in 2012, it is relevant in ending the myth that she just won’t get any votes outside of Dane.

  5. The difference is in who is enthused and who is feeling abused. Which year will June resemble? If Barrett is the nominee, it’s more likely to look like 2010 when the Dem base was blase.

    In 2010 Democrats were dejected for a number of reasons. A big reason, I think, is that Obama ran on cutting the deficit, not growing the economy and creating jobs. It was terrible economic policy and bad politics.

    That is, he was an accomodationist to Republican policies. The same strategy is pursued by Tom Barrett as he floats reopening the mine bill, supported part of Act 10 and adopting Republican talking points and code words. In the runup to the 2010 election, Barrett also loudly opposed the Clean Energy Jobs Act (before mutely supporting it after it was changed).

    Here’s a hint to Democrats: The base does not get fired up over candidates who run away from them or oppose their values. Barrett will probably Sistah Souljah labor a few more times, they will probably crank up the fear a bit more and maybe even demand even more no criticism of Barrett — all while lobbing bombs at Falk and Labor.

    If Barrett wins, we must maintain our movement because he will take a lot of work to get him to do the right thing. (And, yes, I will work to defeat Walker).

  6. In 2010 Barrett was top of the ticket. While Democrats did do poorly nationwide, Wisconsin way underperformed the national trend and was worst in the country. The inept Barrett campaign was a drag to the lower ballot campaigns.

    By contrast, Falk was lower on the ticket running in a low interest office. In addition, Republicans also always over perform in Attorney General campaigns.

    1. “In addition, Republicans also always over perform in Attorney General campaigns.”

      Clearly….just ask former Republican Attorney Generals Linda Van De Water and Jeff Wagner.

      1. I did not say that it is impossible for Democrats to win, but electorally Republicans have an advantage. Say what you will about Van Hollan, but he is exactly what voters look for in an AG, federal prosecutor.

        Of course nothing from anyone about my other point, that Barrett did worse that other Democrats around the country and was a drag on the ticket in Wisconsin.

  7. I still think La Follette or Vinehout would be better choices than those two, even if I’ll vote for Falk or Barrett if they’re the winners. (I realize those two don’t really have a chance against big money.)

  8. John- Did you think Republicans “did better in attorney general races” when Jim Doyle was getting elected and re-elected in years Tommy Thompson won the governorship?

    C’mon Falkies, DO BETTER. You know she underperformed in 2006, badly. She got beat by freaking J-B VAN HOLLEN, who can barely string two sentences of judicial consistency together. I also caught Jeff’s lame attempt on Capper’s blog, and it makes me say “Stop it. You’re just embarassing yourself at this point.”

    Just run classy and strong these last 5 days, and feel free to vote Falk if your heart desires. But after the results roll in on Tuesday, we’ll all join up and kick ass between May 8 and June 5. Can you do that without whining or conditions?

  9. Yeah, let’s happily vote Barrett in and watch him do NOTHING once he gets to Madison. Is that what the movement and all the hard work was about over the past year? What a waste…. A line of good is being sold, and lots of people are buying.

    1. Can I borrow your crystal ball?

      Or is it a magic 8-ball that you’re using to predict the future?

      What about your time machine…can I borrow that? Is is a DeLorean just like in the movies?

      The fact is, you can’t predict the future with any more accuracy than anyone else, so you don’t know what Tom Barrett would or wouldn’t do as governor.

    1. Barrett wanted it applied equally; there’s a difference.

      It’s worth noting that the “equal application” argument worked pretty well for the public employee unions in federal court; that’s one of the reasons parts of Act 10 were overturned.

    2. Barrett wanted labor laws applied fairly to all public workers. So did their unions.

      But Falk is against that? Against fairness to all? I had no idea! So that’s good to know now, as we don’t want another governor whose agenda to hurt some workers is not evident until after the election. Thanks.

  10. Say what you will, but I don’t know that you can truly believe in your heart of hearts – and your brain – that Governor Barrett would fight as hard to overturn things as Governor Falk would. I guess everyone needs to reconcile that with themselves as they vote next week and in June.

  11. This whole thread is pretty petty, from beginning to end. Vote for whomever you wish, but get rid of this pettiness, please.

  12. Why is it petty to assess the electability of the two leading candidates? It seems to be one of the few tangibles that might separate the two? I think this analysis here is Spot On. I have said so on the blog http://www.forwardseeking.com as well. WI Democrats need to make sure that they learn how to become Winners, and not Principled Losers. Winning does not guarantee that one loses one’s focus or values, but it does mean that candidates and platforms have to appeal to enough voters to tip the scale! I wanna WIN this thing, Dems all over the country want us to win, and Pres. Obama wants WI to have a new Democratic governor. If the recall fails, we will have to see whether Sen. Vinehout runs against Mr. Walker when is current term expires. I would certainly encourage and support her efforts, now, and later.
    Mr Barrett, and especially Ms Falk will be relegated to the Harold Stassen Memorial Political ScrapHeap upon either of them losing this historic contest.

  13. Zach, why are you so in the bag for Barrett all of a sudden and have such vitriolic hatred for Falk? Your postings on this campaign have gotten more and more bizarre.

    1. John, it’s not “all of a sudden,” and I’m curious about your definition of “vitriolic hatred.”

      1. Yeah, “in the bag” and “vitriolic hatred” is pretty strong, I’d agree. The vitriolic hatred may be in place for some, but that’s for a different guy in the race…..

  14. Yeah, I just went into detail on the 2006 race vs. 2010, and it makes Falk’s underperformance look even worse than I thought. I forgot that Jim Doyle beat Mark Green by more than Walker beat Barrett, and Falk did worse than Doyle by almost 8%, which indicates that it was Falk herself that was the problem (it sure wasn’t D-B Van Hollen’s electric personality and scummy ethics).

    If Barrett can stay within 6% of Walker in a year when everything broke the GOP’s way (and it did, from voter turnout to media coverage), it’s obvious he’ll be in really good shape when GOP failures have been made apparent and Walker’s arrogance/ incompetence/ corruption is now known statewide, as it is in 2012.

    1. Wisconsin was the worst state for Democratic performance and Barrett was top of the ticket. Barrett did worse that what the national trend was.

      1. And Kathleen Falk did worse than what the national trend (and the statewide trend) was for Democrats in 2006.

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