Despite Democrats capturing a State Senate seat they haven’t held for four decades, a Green Bay-based Republican strategist rejects the notion that the results of a pair of legislative special elections Tuesday foreshadow a “blue wave” of Democratic dominance coming in the fall elections.
Earlier this year Mark Graul said Republicans were facing strong headwinds in November, driven in large part by liberal animus toward President Donald Trump. At the time Graul was pointing to surprising Democratic wins in Wisconsin’s 10th state senate district and in races in other states.
Graul told Media Trackers Tuesday that he is much more optimistic about Republican chances following a Republican victory in the 42nd Assembly district race and a Republican defeat in the 1st state senate district race. Graul understands why Democrats are celebrating Caleb Frostman’s win over Rep. André Jacque in the 1st; it’s been held by a Republican for 40 some years. But Graul says the facts on the ground don’t support Democratic giddiness:
“I certainly don’t believe there is evidence of a ‘blue wave’ last night. Obviously the (Republican) win in a Madison area assembly district, if there was a blue wave, you think we would have seen it there. Not only did the Republican (Jon Plumer) essentially hold the same numbers that Trump got in the 2016 election, he may have even improved upon them a little bit.
“And in Northeast Wisconsin, while yes Democrats have lots of reasons to celebrate and they should take a little bit of a victory lap today, it’s going to be short lived. And it was an incredibly close election. I think a lot closer than a lot of us expected, considering what I think was a pretty overwhelming spending advantage that Frostman had in part one here. We’ll see what happens in the rematch (Frostman and Jacque will likely square off again for the seat in November).
“It’s going to be a much different electorate. About half the number of voters that voted last night are going to be voting in November, so you’re going to have 30,000 more people voting. It may result in the same result or it may result in a different result. But certainly with how close that race is, I think there is zero evidence of a blue wave. And for really the first time in a while here in Wisconsin I think Republicans have reason to have optimism today about looking towards November.”
As for Jacque’s prospects of unseating Frostman in in about four and a half months, Graul believes the key would be for Jacque to become better known in two areas of the district: Door and Calumet Counties. Most observers are pointing to Frostman’s lopsided win in Door County as the determining factor in the race. Graul argues that while that’s where Frostman won the race, Jacque lost it in another area of the district:
“But what really was telling to me was in a traditionally Republican area, that 3rd Assembly District…Andre really under performed there. We can look at Door County and definitely that’s where Frostman won the race, but maybe André Jacque lost the race down in that Calumet, Outagamie County area.
“If I was André Jacque, I’d be living down in those wards in Appleton and in Calumet County where he under performed, where I think if he does the right things in the next few months here, he can get his name ID back up to where it needs to be. Connect with those folks, tell them about what he’s done about his time in the legislature, and all the good has come from the Republican reforms that we’ve seen, and I think he can do much better there this fall.”
Graul says while Jacque can’t ignore Door County, he says there is no doubt Frostman will win it. Graul believes Jacque needs to narrow the margin of defeat in Door County and become much better known to voters in the Republican-friendly 3rd Assembly District. And Graul believes it is very possible Jacque can do both things before November.
You can hear Media Trackers Communications Director Jerry Bader’s full interview with Mark Graul here: