Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Wisconsin open primary set to be unpredictable


The Wisconsin Primary is coming up on April 3. A recent poll by Marquette Law School shows former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum with a healthy 16-point lead over the next-closest candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

The Wisconsin GOP Primary could be pretty important. Romney will almost certainly win the Republican
nomination regardless of what happens, but Santorum could prove to be another slick spot on the road
to the nomination. Moreover, the contest could be telling for state elections, despite difficulties in
interpreting the results because of the open primary.

Upon looking at a map of the primary results thus far, like this one from The New York Times, it is easy to see who is winning. Romney is
winning not only in total number of states and delegates, but also potential swing states in the general
election. Neither Gingrich nor Santorum has won a potential swing state yet.


A brokered convention is the only possibility that would allow someone other than Romney to be the
Republican nominee. This is unlikely in the first place, but even if it occurs, Romney will probably still be
the nominee. He will have won far more delegates than any other candidate, and it would just be too
controversial to strip him of his frontrunner status so late in the game.

Of course, only so much analysis can be extracted, because there are no Republicans facing Democrats
in the primaries. Still, Romney is worried about losing Wisconsin. This could be an indication that the
state is polarized and its Republicans have moved even further to the right.

If Santorum wins, it could energize the Walker campaign. Rick Santorum is a divisive candidate. Whether
you agree with him or not, he tells it the way he sees it, and that is often controversial and even
offensive. Similarly, despite protests by scores of thousands of people, Gov. Scott Walker brazenly
stayed the course with his budget plan. If Wisconsinites are willing to go for a divisive candidate like
Santorum, that may be a sign of their willingness to re-elect Walker.

Further complicating matters, Wisconsin has an open primary, which means that all registered voters in
the state are permitted to vote in the primaries. This can lead to interesting results in any primary season;
the reasons someone of a different political persuasion may cast a ballot for someone on the other side
can be complicated.

In this rather bizarre primary season, it is no secret that some liberally-minded individuals have been
voting for Santorum either simply to further fracture Republican unity, or because they are confident
Obama would beat Santorum in a general election. An open primary makes it more difficult to try to
extrapolate the primary results to the recall election.

In addition, the Wisconsin voter ID law was just recently struck down by a Dane County judge, so it will
not be in effect for the primary. Many people who would have perhaps been disenfranchised by the new
legislation will be able to vote in the April primary if they so choose. Among the groups most likely to
have been affected by the law are the homeless, minorities and students, especially those from out of state.

On top of all of this, the primary will be held April 3, right in the middle of spring break. Some students may be sticking around Madison and may still choose to vote, but many others will be out of
the state or even the country. Student participation in Republican primaries is probably pretty low on
this campus anyway, but it still means a less representative sample of the population. I do not think it is
too bold to predict that few students would be out at the polls supporting Santorum.

The results of the Wisconsin primary will be tough to predict. If Santorum wins,
the Walker campaign will be encouraged by Wisconsinites’ support of a social conservative like Walker. At first glance, common sense would
seem to support the notion that a more moderate, purple state like Wisconsin would be inclined
toward Romney. However, the open primary changes the game by including registered Democrats and independents, and common sense seems to be in short supply this primary season.

Ryan Plesh ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in philosophy and physics.

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