Michael Screnock ran a poor campaign. Let's get that out of the way, because it will undoubtedly be scapegoated by conservatives desperately whistling past what could be the Republican Party's graveyard come November.
Screnock's failure to take full advantage of new Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Dallet's "San Francisco values" gaffe was undoubtedly a major mistake, as was his campaign's general refusal to focus its ad spending on exposing Dallet's obvious liberalism.
Chances are, it wouldn't have mattered. Liberalism won the day because liberalism in Wisconsin is motivated. It's angry, it's vengeful, and it's ready to get its revenge and take out its anger on anyone who has even a tangential tie to the Republican Party. Hate in politics is a powerful motivator, and Democrats in 2018 are more motivated by hate than they have been in decades.
Their opposition to President Trump stems not from policy differences, but an abiding belief that he stole the 2016 election. Hillary Clinton obviously still believes it.
"[E]very day that goes by there’s more evidence and more proof of Russia and fake news and Cambridge Analytica and misogyny and sexism," she told an audience in New York City Tuesday night.
While conservatives laugh at Clinton's bitterness and many Democrats wish she would just go away, it's fairly apparent that her deep-seated belief that the election was stolen from her is widespread. More significantly, it motivated "The Resistance" base of the Democratic Party to turn out in massive numbers for Dallet on Tuesday.
So motivated was that base that in the heart of Wisconsin's Resistance movement, Dane County, a staggering 32% of the voting age population cast their ballots (compared with a more pedestrian and historically average 22% turnout in the rest of the state). That's roughly in line with the county's turnout in the November 2014 midterm and a huge total for a spring election without a presidential primary on the ballot.
What's more, Dallet received 81% of the vote in Dane County--a stunning 107,760 total votes. By way of comparison, that was only 23,000 fewer votes cast in total in Milwaukee County, which has roughly 420,000 more residents.
Were these Dane County liberals so motivated because of their intense love of Rebecca Dallet? Of course not. She was about as standard-issue a liberal candidate as one could possibly be. She was instead merely the beneficiary of intense liberal anger at Donald Trump, at Scott Walker, at every Republican and every conservative that has been building since Election Day 2016.
Donald Trump didn't just win that election, he stole it. Scott Walker doesn't just govern Wisconsin, he's ruined it. That isn't opposition, that's hatred. First it manifested itself as "resistance," and now it has manifested itself as a motivated voting base; perhaps a more motivated voting base than this state has ever seen.
Republicans would be wise to recognize it before it's too late.