DE PERE — Democrats who thought their fortunes had finally turned around in Wisconsin leading up to the 2020 presidential election have another thing coming.
The Democratic Party and its always-compliant partners in the news media thought they had Republican Judge Brian Hagedorn dead to rights in the statewide Supreme Court election April 2. But they called this race wrong just like they did Donald Trump’s victory in the state in 2016.
Hagedorn prevailed over liberal Judge Lisa Neubauer in what can only be viewed as a harbinger of things to come.
Conservative-backed and Trump-aligned Judge Hagedorn took the election in a stunning upset. Talk of a recount stretched the election out. But Neubauer conceded Wednesday. Now the message is clear — the political momentum in Wisconsin has flipped.
The result is a shocking 12-point shift to the conservative candidate compared to last year’s statewide Supreme Court race. It also comes just months after Wisconsin re-elected Democrat Tammy Baldwin to the U.S. Senate with an improved margin and unseated Republican Gov. Scott Walker, the winner of three previous gubernatorial elections.
Hagedorn’s performance is even more impressive in light of Neubauer and her allied groups spending a lot more money on the race than Hagedorn’s side.
In fact, most national conservative groups wrote off the election, not wanting to waste money on what they deemed a hopeless race. To Democrats’ delight, the squishy, anti-Trump wing of the Republican establishment jumped ship.
Hagedorn proved them all wrong, and won by a margin of nearly 6,000 votes.
This conservative victory was driven by a groundswell of Wisconsinites who, after getting a taste of the way Democrats govern, felt they could not afford to give liberals more influence over their Supreme Court. It’s the same coalition that put Donald Trump in the White House, and it’s clearly back in action.
Hagedorn’s apparent victory ought to totally reshape the way people view the 2020 race. It wasn’t simply a matter of Trump’s stubborn conservative base turning out for Hagedorn while more fickle urban voters stayed home. Turnout was up significantly, increasing by more than 20 percent compared to last year.
The Democratic stronghold of Dane County, home to the state capital of Madison, turned out huge, delivering more votes and a wider margin for Neubauer than her 2018 predecessor. Neubauer actually beat Hillary Clinton’s 2016 result in Dane County by nine percentage points. Turnout was healthy in Milwaukee, too, with Neubauer nearly matching Clinton’s margin in Milwaukee County.
Despite that enthusiastic support from her Democratic base, Neubauer still lost.
Even more significant was the distribution of Hagedorn’s wave. Compared to last year, the biggest shifts were in the Green Bay and Wausau markets — exactly where Hagedorn’s allies spent the most money on ads explicitly tying him to President Trump and U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
Meanwhile, the suburban voters around Milwaukee, many of whom fled to the Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, turned out in force for Hagedorn. Those results are stunningly reminiscent of Donald Trump’s equally shocking victory here in 2016, the first by a GOP presidential nominee since 1984.
In Ozaukee, Waukesha, and Washington counties — the key Milwaukee collar counties that Republicans rely on for statewide victories — Hagedorn actually blew away Donald Trump’s 2016 margins.
Liberals tried to make this election explicitly about Trump, with national Democrats such as former Attorney General Eric Holder throwing their support — and millions of dollars — behind a candidate who participated in an anti-Trump rally. They thought that would wrap things up for them.
Instead, they got a flashback to their 2016 nightmare, and a sobering reminder that Hillary Clinton didn’t lose Wisconsin; Donald Trump won it by running on a platform of tax cuts, deregulation and record job creation from new trade deals, all of which appeal to voters throughout the Badger State.