Voter enthusiasm will be decisive on Election Day.
Woody Allen was right when he said that showing up is 80% of life.
That has never been more true than when it comes to turnout in the race between Mary Burke and Scott Walker for governor of Wisconsin.
If every voter actually showed up and independents split evenly, Burke would be the next governor without much doubt. That's because there are more Democrats than Republicans in Wisconsin.
The problem for Burke is that turnout doesn't work that way. Republicans are much more faithful voters, especially in midterm elections, and when they do vote they stick with their party's candidate more regularly than Democrats.
Every poll since summer has shown the two candidates virtually tied. And we're talking sixteen separate polls by six different polling groups since the beginning of July. And that includes the final pre-election Marquette poll that has so many Democrats in such a funk. That shows Walker pulling away with a 50-43% lead. But you have to read the fine print. Even in that poll, the tally among registered voters is still a dead heat with 46% for Walker and 45% for Burke.
What happened since the previous Marquette poll was that the Republicans rolled out their enthusiasm advantage. Ninety-three percent of Republicans said they were certain to vote while only 82% of Democrats said they'd be there come hell or high water.
In the 2012 recall election, Walker won 94% of Republicans while 91% of Democrats voted for his opponent Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. That's right. Nine percent of Democrats found some reason to vote for Scott Walker.
This accounts for the last-minute attack on Burke regarding how her stint running European operations at Trek ended. It's not about convincing anybody; rather, it's about dampening Democratic enthusiasm. In that way, the real problem with the final Marquette poll wasn't that it showed Walker ahead, it's that it took some of the wind out of the sails of Democrats.
You may read this and think that it's all terribly unfair. If everyone voted, chances are we'd have a Democratic governor. But it's not unfair. If you didn’t go to class, you probably didn't learn much. If you didn’t come to practice, you probably didn't make the team. Woody Allen was right. You gotta show up.