“‘Numbers Nobody Has Ever Seen’: How the GOP Lost Wisconsin”

This Politico story raises the question of whether WI is shifting left, with the post-Dobbs abortion issue playing a major role:

“We got our butts kicked,” Rohn Bishop, Bachleitner’s predecessor as chair of the Fond du Lac County GOP and, now, mayor of the small city of Waupun, told me. “What the Republican base demands and what independent voters will accept are growing further apart.”…

In the aftermath, even Republicans here are acknowledging that the state has now shifted leftward, and abortion has a lot to do with that. The end of Roe v. Wade last year effectively reinstated Wisconsin’s 19th-century abortion ban, which is already being challenged — and those challenges will likely be decided by the state Supreme Court. That’s why Protasiewicz campaigned heavily on protecting abortion rights, and the election turned almost entirely on the issue. Turnout was staggering. In 2015, in a similar spring election, a liberal state Supreme Court justice won reelection in a contest in which about 813,000 people voted. This year, the total number of voters who cast ballots in the Supreme Court race more than doubled to top 1.8 million….

The day after I met with Bachleitner in Ripon, I rode in the back of a van with Ben Wikler, chair of the Wisconsin Democratic Party and a fundraising juggernaut, from Madison to a lodge in Barneveld, Wis., for a meeting of Democratic Party activists. His 11-year-old son, Mac, sat in the back seat playing Monster Demolition on an iPad.

Up until just weeks before the April election, the state party had been operating on a traditional, lower turnout model — focusing its outreach on the most reliable voters likely to cast ballots in an off-year election. But volunteers kept running into something unexpected when they knocked on doors: Many times, when they encountered someone who wasn’t on their list, they learned those people were planning to vote, too. As a result, the party shifted its strategy, broadening its targets to contact more than a million potential voters as opposed to hundreds of thousands of them…

When I asked Wikler what surprised him the most about the election, he said it was how lopsided the victory was, but also that abortion was so salient not only in Democratic-leaning areas of the state, but in redder, rural areas, too. He referred to an internal Democratic poll conducted after the election, shared with me later by a Democratic operative in the state, that showed abortion, while slightly more resonant an issue for voters in the Democratic-leaning media markets around Madison, Milwaukee and Eau Claire/La Crosse, was the main vote driver for Protasiewicz in every market in the state. It was an issue that wasn’t just working for Democrats in big cities, but in rural areas, too.

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