In addition to polling data that shows Tom Barrett would be in a more favorable position to run for governor than Barbara Lawton, Bruce Murphy gives another compelling reason why Barrett is the logical nominee for the Dems: he’s from Milwaukee.
Murphy begins with the conventional wisdom that Democratic statewide candidates must win 60 percent of Milwaukee County to win an election. Therefore Walker, the County Executive, would have an advantage over Lawton, who is an outsider.
This analysis is too simplistic. The conventional wisdom is there for generic candidates, and does not make up for other regional ties a Democratic candidate may have that will make up for the shortfall in Milwaukee. Lawton may have an advantage in the Green Bay area from the three and a half decades she spent there as a community activist. If her ties to the area remain strong she may be able to pick up votes that would otherwise go to a Republican. In addition, Lawton would have the support of other Green Bay types, such as Rep. Steve Kagen, whereas Walker is despised by much of the Milwaukee political establishment, and depending on how the county budget pans out, Walker could actually face a backlash locally. Moreover, Milwaukee is much bigger than Green Bay, but Walker is not going to be able to play the “favorite son” card in most of the city, much of which sees Walker as a suburbanite – an outsider.
Granted, Murphy’s claim that Barrett would make a better candidate than Lawton is hard to refute at this point. Barrett would be a much more convincing “favorite son” than Walker. First off, he is mayor, which has a political and symbolic purpose that every voter understands. Second, the press he got after trying to save the grandmother from a drunken lunatic has earned him an enormous amount of sympathy and admiration from even the most cynical voters.
However, the Democrats do not need Milwaukee to win. Obama could have lost the county and still carried Wisconsin comfortably. And presidential elections are the closest example of elections where the “generic” candidate analysis applies.