Presidential Politics And Election Returns
Last Updated July 14, 2003
Wisconsin has been seriously contested in six of the last seven presidential elections, and probably will be again in 2004. It was one of 10 states which voted for Michael Dukakis over the older George Bush in 1988, and came within 5,709 votes of voting for George W. Bush over Al Gore in 2000. In the process, some historic patterns were reversed. The younger Bush carried metro Milwaukee, which casts about one-third of the state's votes, by 49%-47%, thanks to big margins in the suburban counties, where he ran well ahead of his father's showing--the opposite of the pattern in most very large metro areas across the nation. But Gore carried many historically Republican or marginal counties in western Wisconsin, just as he carried many rural counties across the Mississippi River in eastern Iowa. Indeed, this was the only rural part of the country where Gore carried large numbers of counties and ran ahead of Democratic norms. Gore's biggest percentage margins were in Madison's Dane County and in Menominee County, which is an Indian reservation. Bush carried the Fox River Valley, though not by as big a margin as his father had, and ran well ahead of Republican norms in the far north, as he did in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and northern Minnesota. The eastern half of the state, with its high precision manufacturing base humming during the 1990s and welfare rolls dropping toward zero, has become fairly solidly Republican. Western Wisconsin, with ailing dairy farms and an economy not so dynamic, has become the Democratic bastion of the state, with metro Madison providing the big Democratic majorities that metro Milwaukee no longer provides in the east.
Wisconsin once had one of the nation's most influential presidential primaries. It knocked Wendell Willkie out of the race in 1944, helped John Kennedy establish his lead over Hubert Humphrey in 1960, and prompted Lyndon Johnson to withdraw as Eugene McCarthy was about to beat him here in 1968. But now Wisconsin's primary, even after it was moved from April to March, tends to get lost--so in 2003 the legislature moved the date up another month to February 2004. The national Democrats, incidentally, have allowed Wisconsin to continue its open primary (that is, there is no party registration), one of Bob LaFollette's reforms.
|2000 Presidential Vote|
|2000 Republican Primary|
|2000 Democratic Primary|
|1996 Presidential Vote|
For 1992 and 1996 presidential results in Wisconsin, please see the Almanac 2000 online.
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