LDI Liveblog: Wisconsin Senate Recalls, Round 1


With election returns completely stalled in Senate District 8 for some time now, and no indication of that changing anytime soon, we're calling it a night here at the LDI Newsdesk. Tonight was a victory for Democrats, no mistake about it. These were seriously conservative districts - Senate District 18, where Democrats successfully recalled State Sen. Randy Hopper, is the 8th most conservative district in Wisconsin. A lot of money poured into these races, and the fake Dem strategy really appears to have paid dividends for Republicans - the extra time they added to the race may have been just enough to combat the narrative. But Democrats have picked up two important seats, have a slim chance of picking up a third, and have demonstrated that the Democratic machine can still turn out voters when they are revved up. The D+3 shift we saw tonight would not be enough to knock off Governor Scott Walker however, and so if Wisconsin Dems are serious about mounting a recall effort against him next year, they are going to really have to be on top of their game, as this shift would've still let Walker win by 3%. We'll have a more complete reflection tomorrow, and be sure to bookmark this page for next week, when Democrats have to play defense in two recall elections. Lastly, this evening was our most successful night, smashing all of our traffic records - thanks for relying on the LDI for your legislative election coverage, and please let us know what we can do to make the experience even better in the future.


Welcome to the first ever Legislative District Index liveblog. Tonight, we're going to providing minute-by-minute coverage of the election returns in the six contested Wisconsin senate seats. it will be fun to get back into the liveblog business - last time I was a part of one was when I covered that odd 10PM tweet from the White House about the President addressing the nation.

First of all, I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you to also open up a page for Daily Kos Elections tonight - I've been going there for all my liveblog needs for some time, and the folks over at SSP Labs have put together some incredible data, which I would strongly encourage everyone take a look at before the polls close.

I'm going to be focusing tonight on projecting election results using the Legislative District Index formula. In the past, I've written about the six senate districts that are going to be contested tonight, but just as a friendly reminder, here's the Wisconsin Senate scores, with the contested seats shaded in grey.

As I've said from the start, this is a serious uphill battle for Democrats, were this any other election. But tonight's election has little precedent - never has a state legislative campaign been conducted with such fervor and outside attention. Part of what we'll be measuring tonight is the progressive shift - the percentage swing we see towards the Democratic candidates away from LDI's expectations. I say progressive because this is fundamentally a campaign being waged over progressive values - collective bargaining, education, progressive taxation, and social programs. The other part that is worth taking note of is the fact that there will be a progressive shift - all the polling of these senate races thus far has shown them to be extremely close, which compared to what results the LDI would project.

So, keep up to date on this space - as soon as the first results trickle in, our projections will pour out

9:07 PM
Polls have been closed for almost 10 minutes now, though there are plenty of reports on Twitter of people still in line to vote - they'll all be allowed to. May be a while before we see our first results. Projections will be going here, at the bottom of the page chronologically, but I'll also be updating the top with a "big board" of results - just need some preliminary numbers to put those up!

9:38 PM
It has taken a while for results to start coming in, but here is what we have so far. Note that there hasn't been enough precincts in District 8 for my model to start using it - remember though that even now, there is a TON of noise in the model, as so few districts are in - I wouldn't take these results to be indicative of anything, but I want to show everyone how I'll be presenting numbers tonight.

9:57 PM
A few more results have trickled in, and now there are numbers for all 6 districts. Right now we're seeing a 10% Republican shift in the districts we've surveyed, but keep in mind - we are expecting rural, conservative areas to report first. If turnout was as robust as some had said, then we could be waiting a while to get to the Democratic pockets in all of these counties.

10:11 PM
Starting to look REALLY ugly for Democrats, as a considerable number of votes are in, and some of these races aren't even close. Republicans are outperforming their LDI score in 4 of the 6 races, the exact opposite of the scenario that Democrats needed. Things need to change, and fast, for there to be any hope of a positive result this evening.

10:22 PM
The game is changing slightly - now I've got Dems outperforming LDI #'s in 4 of the 6 districts, but only enough to win two of the seats (8 & 32). Still, there is reason for optimism.

10:33 PM
Two of the six races have now been officially called for the GOP. What is troubling at this hour is the fact that overall, we are measuring absolutely 0 shift towards Democrats in the recall, which really has been totally unthinkable this entire campaign. Dems continue to outperform LDI scores in 4 districts, and are increasing their margins, but our projections still show 4 nailbiters. The one thing to be hopefuly about is that later returns in 14 continue to favor Dems, and in 18, a huge number of votes aren't out yet in the strongest Democratic area of the district. If there is a Democratic surge within that base, we might be in for a twist.

10:48 PM
A few things have shifted since the last update - the model is now really excited about the pickup opportunity in the 18th district - the only problem is that so much of the vote is still out. The 14th remains close, while the 8th is beginning to drift away from Dems reach. Also, in the 32nd, keep in mind that Kapanke has been seriously outperforming his Senate seat for some time now - so while the shift is only 1% from the LDI score, it is a significant flip from his performance in previous elections.

11:04 PM
A third race has been called for the Republicans, and now things aren't looking good. I can't see any way that the race in the 8th turns around in the Democrats favor - there isn't any part of the district where Democratic numbers seem to have surged. Instead, we appear to be waiting on the proverbial "super turnout delay" that would wind up with us finding a much higher percentage of voters from the remaining precincts than my model imagines. Right now the total shift is only at +2 - incredibly disappointing.

11:11 PM
So we are all down to 2 races - 8 & 18. In 18, the numbers look much more promising - not only does my model project a victory, but across the board Democratic performance has been significantly up. In Senate District 8 however, I'm just not seeing those kind of numbers - we need serious blue ballots to come out of Milwaukee, and that kind of advantage hasn't been established thus far.

11:20 PM
I'm just not feeling all that optimistic about the 8th - I don't have the numbers to back it up. I think the 18th is a lock now - I'd project victory there, but it really is all going to come down to Waukesha - feels like we have said that way too many times in recent history.

11:44 PM
It is all down to the 8th - while I've revised my projection downward in the 18th (due to a little spreadsheet error), more results have come in that have ensured victory over there. All we can do now is wait for the spotlight hogs in Waukesha, and hope for the best

12:10 AM
A lot of Waukesha has come in now, and the result doesn't change the model for Democrats in the 8th. That news is good - the question now becomes whether or not Democrats can rack up a 14,000 margin in Milwaukee. That is doable, but as results have come in across the night, we are seeing Milwaukee county trending away from Democrats, rather than gaining in advantage.

12:29 AM
We're still taking a hard look at the data in the 8th Senate District, where Democrats are going to have a difficult time making a comeback. The numbers from Waukesha County were not terrible for Dems - the fear was that it was going to tilt the county even further in the Republican's favor, but the margin held consistent throughout. It will be extremely interesting to see the results that come out of Menomenee Falls, where they appear to be sitting on the results until tomorrow. There are still 12 outstanding counties in Milwaukee, but this isn't super liberal territory, so finding the votes to flip this race will be incredibly difficult. I'd say there's probably a greater chance at this point of Democrats picking up the seat after a long investigation into the Waukesha County clerk's office rather than winning the vote outright tonight - if the numbers we've been given are true, the votes just aren't out there to be picked up.

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