Wisconsin, a Microcosm of the United States
If Wisconsin used an electoral college by county, Scott Walker would have won last month in a landslide similar to Reagan’s victory. Walker took 56 of the 72 counties in the state, almost 2/3. However, in terms of the popular vote, Walker won 52.3% to 46.6%, reflecting the real degree of polarization.
What does this mean for conservative and libertarian Republicans in 2016? The history of the last two presidential cycles strongly suggests that unless the majority of voters in both camps coalesce fairly rapidly around one or possibly two candidates, the establishment candidate is likely to win again: a Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, or Mitt Romney could be the Republican candidate with a plurality of the vote.
To recap the consequences of the last “plurality” candidate the party ran, sizable numbers of libertarians and Evangelicals stayed home. Some of the former camp had hoped for Ron Paul; some evangelicals stayed away because Romney is a Mormon. As a result, we have a second Obama term.
It is too early to know who the actual Democratic candidate in 2016 will be. Whoever it is, if he or she is elected, we can expect a continuation and consolidation of the previous eight years, which will be impossible to undo. For that reason, and because the country’s situation is so much like Wisconsin’s, it may pay to look to the Reagan/Walker example in picking a Republican candidate.