Kurt Bauer, the President/CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturing & Commerce (WMC), spoke to a full house of Chamber members on Friday at this month’s Eggs & Issues breakfast to discuss the upcoming midterm elections. With Election Day fast approaching, Bauer focused most of his remarks on polling numbers and economic statistics at both the state and federal levels. We’ve provided a few his main points below.
State and National Polling
The latest batch of polls looks unpromising for Congressional Republicans in Washington. Right now, RealClearPolitics is giving Democrats a 7.6% edge in the generic ballot, a key indicator in the battle to control the US House of Representatives, which means they are likely to pick up at least 31 seats across the nation, enough to take control. Bauer believes that Democrat voters have been spurred on by a single fact: that, in most cases, people vote not to reward incumbents of the current President's party, but to oppose them. In other words, members of the minority party often hold more electoral motivation, which, in turn, leads to higher minority-party turnouts. Expanding on this idea, Bauer expressed doubts about the Republicans’ momentum following the divisive Kavanaugh hearings. Sure, he conceded, they might currently be motivated to reward their legislators for staying the course, but that motivation, he added, is likely to fade in the weeks leading up to the election. Because of that, he believes Democrats, who are fueled by oppositional motivation, will have larger turnouts on Election Day.
According to Bauer, the results of the Wisconsin gubernatorial race will likely turn on motivation, too. The primary variable that will affect it, however, will be slightly different. Governor Walker is seeking a third term, and in recent decades, only one other governor has been elected three times. As a result, he concluded that “third terms are hard.” Put another way, he thinks that it’s tough for a long-time governor, however popular, to get energetic supporters to the polls. So instead, those governors must rely on past accomplishments to prove why they’re worthy of four more years, which can often prove challenging when faced with a strong and enthusiastic opponent. Paired with the fact that opposition voters are more motivated, he explained, energizing voters will be a difficult task for Walker to fulfill. Relying on those explanations, Bauer estimated that the polls showing Democrat Tony Evers within one point of Walker are accurate.
The Wisconsin Economy
Since Republicans are basing their campaign messages on economic success, Wisconsin residents have likely been told that the economy is booming. So Bauer spent some time answering a simple question: is the economy actually that great? He said yes, and he used statistics from WMC’s Return on Reform initiative as evidence. For instance, he cited the shrinking unemployment rate and the growing labor-force participation rate. The Wisconsin unemployment rate currently sits at 2.9%, which ranks 6th in the nation, and puts it below the rates of any year since Tommy Thompson’s tenure. Likewise, the labor-force participation rate is 66.8%--the 5th best in union and far higher than the national average. Because of those rates, Bauer explained that Wisconsin is in a unique position. Although many employers are looking for workers, they can’t fill all of their open positions. If Congress passes legal immigration reforms, he noted, those open jobs could lend to even more economic success. But if legislators fail to find a solution, he continued, the economy could become unbalanced and stagnate. Overall, he indicated that the Wisconsin economy is truly prospering, and that it’s a great time to invest in the Badger State.
Posted by Nathan Kane, Governmental Affairs Intern
Eau Claire Chamber
The Eau Claire Chamber of Commerce has more than 1,200 members.