Tuesday, September 14, 2004

Strategic Voting

by Tom Bozzo

The polls have just closed for the fall primary. Here in the Wisconsin 2nd, essentially all the Democrats ran unopposed, including incumbent Rep. Tammy Baldwin and Sen. Russ Feingold. Meanwhile, the other party had a four-way race for the U.S. Senate nomination and a showdown between Alan Keyes wannabe Ron Greer and probably-more-moderate-guy Dave Magnum (not his original name). Wisconsin has nonpartisan voter registration, and anyone can vote in either primary -- just not in both.

What's a boy to do? Sabotage, suggests UW philosopher Harry Brighouse over at Crooked Timber. Vote Greer and Michels.

For the congressional race, the logic is easy enough. After two close races against moderate opponents (and a bit of help from redrawn district boundaries), the very liberal and openly gay Baldwin took 66 percent of the vote against the right-of-Keyes and openly homophobic Greer. In a rematch, Baldwin would almost certainly get to spend "another ineffective two years in Washington championing a far-left agenda of universal health care and similar pipe dreams" as the fine State Journal editorialists put it (do they look out their windows?).

Feingold's case is trickier. His approval and re-election ratings were fine in the most recent (mid-summer) polling I've seen, and his campaign should be much better funded than the '98 squeaker win versus former WI 1 Rep. Mark Neumann. The big issue the Republicans hope to hit Feingold with is his lone vote against the USA PATRIOT Act, which seems less radical in hindsight and a likely non-winner (though I'm a fuzzy liberal Madisonian, so what do I know). Harry's suggestion is based on the theory that Michels will have a harder time running to the center and is somewhat less well known, but he has an Inspiring Personal Story (TM) of small business wealth, military service, and family life, on which he has been campainging with some success. The Republican primary campaign has been very expensive, and none of the campaigns are currently well funded, though that will undoubtedly start to change as of tomorrow.

So I'm nervous about Michels, but remember Dennis Mueller teaching me, back in the day, that there was a vanishingly small probability that my vote would actually be decisive, and I held my nose and bit. Suzanne ended up voting sensibly, to ensure that a write-in for D. Duck wouldn't foul the Democratic side of things. Turnout in our ward was very light -- I was voter #332, with less than 1/2 hour to go in the voting. (The probability that I could determine the Madison Ward 66 outcome is perhaps not so small.) By comparison, there were 1,279 votes for president in the ward in 2000.

Bedtime Update: With about half the vote in, it looks like we'll get our "way" with Michels but not Greer. The big loser is car dealer Russ Darrow, who had name recognition and far outspent his opponents. Act of contrition if necessary: I will applyconsider applying a Feingold bumper sticker to my car's paintwork if it's going to be close.

Breakfast Update: Michels didn't need the "help." I can't say I'm sorry for Greer. Lest Magnum's win seem like a shift towards moderation, Mary Panzer, the state senate majority leader, was dumped by her constituents by a nearly 4 to 1 margin for not bankrupting state and local government fast enough.
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