25-0. That is the record of Democratic senate, gubernatorial and presidential candidates who win at least 60 percent of the major party vote (no Perot or Nader) in Milwaukee County in the last 30 years. 0-8. That is the record of the Democrats who won less than 60 percent. The Journal-Sentinel has a cool graphic and an even cooler map which demonstrates the point.
Can Walker be held to 40% in Milwaukee County after winning three elections for county executive here, the last two with 57% and 59% of the vote? It seems unlikely.
If not, can Barrett make it up by overachieving elsewhere in the state? That's what it may come down to. The fact that Walker lost so many outstate counties to Mark Neumann in the Sept. 14 GOP primary suggests the Republican has his work cut out for him in the land beyond southeastern Wisconsin. But so does Barrett, who carries the same baggage of being a Milwaukee candidate.
This would be a convenient time for a Democrat to talk about how the "Fox Valley is changing." Perhaps it is. Obama certainly did much better than Clinton in the Northeast. But Barrett's low poll numbers, which pollsters attribute to a lack of motivation within the Democratic base, suggest that Barrett's big problem may be that he can't get his Milwaukee voters to the polls in the droves that a Democratic victory requires.
Of course, the race is not just Tom Barrett against national trends. There is a Republican candidate named Scott Walker, who happens to be the two-term executive of Milwaukee County. How visible is that position? Having never lived there, I can't authoritatively comment, but Walker's two gubernatorial bids certainly haven't hurt his cause. Moreover, his headline-grabbing cuts to county government have gained him a following in the more conservative parts of the city and suburbs. Those are the people who are coming out this year.
However, I wouldn't expect Walker to do anywhere near as well in the governor's race as he has done in the races for county executive. This is the first time he has a very strong and visible opponent. Furthermore, the non-partisan county races are different. Against Barrett, Walker will be facing a "Democrat," a term that many Milwaukeans vote for instinctively.
In the end, I think Barrett will get less than 60 percent of Milwaukee County, and I think he will lose the governor's race.