Don't Let the Tail Wag the Dog: Why Wisconsin will Lose if Democrats Chase Political Polling

Hi Folks,
 
We’re in election mode right now, which means we’re spending a lot of Super PAC money on billboards and radio ads to get the vote out for Governor Tony Evers and U.S. Senate Candidate Mandela Barnes.
 
I will touch on that at the end of this missive, but I wanted to spend this Sunday writing about something that scares me:  Democratic candidates chasing opinion/political polls that have been shaped by Republican messaging, and how that takes attention away from the existential issues of saving our democracy and getting women’s reproductive rights back.
 
Think about it.  What are some of the Republican gimmicks that have DOMINATED the news but are relatively WAY less important than Trump almost getting away with stealing an election and Roe being overturned?

  • DeSantis/Abbott shipping migrants to Martha’s Vineyard/ VP Kamala Harris’ house.
  • Calling to for the FBI to be abolished because they raided Trump’s house to take back stolen documents.
  • Blaming inflation on Biden/Evers when it is a global problem caused by pandemic-related supply chain issues and the Russian oil embargo.
  • Linking Evers/Barnes to increased crime, even though Wisconsin ranks fourth lowest violent crime rate in the Midwest and 20th lowest nationwide.
  • Blaming Evers on declining student test scores after a pandemic that disrupted education across the globe, Republicans defunding public education for over a decade, and screaming anti-mask lunatics attacking teachers and disrupting school board meetings across the state for months.
  • Creating a boogeyman out of “Critical Race Theory” --a subject that doesn’t even exist in K-12 curricula.

All of these gimmicks are ways to deflect attention away from the dominant issues of our time—an authoritarian cult of personality threatening to destroy democracy, and a movement to take control over women’s bodies.
 
The problem is, it’s kinda working.
 
Every time I pulled up Instagram in the last few weeks, I saw Mandela Barnes defending his position on crime. By doing this, he has allowed himself to be framed by Republican rhetoric that plays on fear and racist tropes linking a black candidate to urban crime. 
 
What I would love to see is for Mandela to KEEP REMINDING the voters in Wisconsin that Ron Johnson agreed to hand over a fraudulent slate of electors from Wisconsin and Michigan to Mike Pence, played a criminal role in Trump’s conspiracy by repeating the "Big Lie" about election fraud, and supports Wisconsin’s 172-year-old law banning abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. 
 
I think the Evers’ campaign is doing a pretty good job because he’s largely framed his own issues.  His campaign has reminded voters that he has kept his promise to fix Wisconsin’s roads and helped small businesses rebound from the pandemic through the Main Street Bounceback Grant program.
 
But just like Barnes, Evers’ has responded defensively to his opponent attacking him on education even though everyone knows he started out as a science teacher and has probably worked more passionately for public education than any other governor in America. What I would like to see for him is to never play defense and instead beat the drum that his Trump-backed opponent refuses to acknowledge that Wisconsin’s elections were legitimate and supports Wisconsin 172-year-old abortion ban.
 
Why aren’t Evers and Barnes laser-focused on these two issues?  It's possible they are letting their pollsters get into their heads too much about what Wisconsin voters care about.
 
What do voters care about? Unfortunately, too many of them care about the issues that show up in their social media echo chambers and from the news media they consume.  So if they’re hearing more about inflation or crime than the “Big Lie” or abortion because that’s the rhetoric they’re being fed, how do you think they will respond when a random pollster asks them what they care about?
 
This is called the “tail wagging the dog.”  Somehow along the line, the Republican Party figured out that they could create issues out of whole cloth if they just told a lie or half-truth and hammered away at it for months at a time.
 
The problem is that IF Democratic candidates in Wisconsin tailor their campaigns to talk about the issues their pollsters are telling them matter to voters the most, they too often fall into the trap of talking about issues created out of thin air with lies by Republican misinformation campaigns.
 
That’s why I’m wary of spending too much time listening to polls. Not only do they often reflect issues framed by Republicans, they are often WAY OFF.  Below is a graph showing that the polls predicting that Biden would win in Wisconsin were off by 7% points, and Biden only won the race by less than 1%.

It’s no secret that our country is on the precipice of becoming an authoritarian state and that women will suffer throughout our country now that Roe has been overturned.  We don’t need polls to tell us this.
 
I’m truly hoping that Wisconsin democrats focus on these two existential issues throughout election day, November 8.
 
Our Super PAC is laser-focused on these two issues, and we’re putting them out in radio ads in areas where gerrymandering all but guarantees Republican wins for most offices on the ballot—like Merrill, Medford, Amery, Hayward, Richland Center, and Wisconsin Rapids.  These areas all have or will get soon getting new progressive radio stations that we've mentioned in past emails--a godsend for rural Wisconsin.
 
Why are we focused on areas where Democrats can't win very easisy? Because the Democratic Party of Wisconsin can’t really spend a lot of money in these places when they’re trying help Democratic candidates get elected.  But what so many people forget is that in all of these areas, there are still PLENTY of Democratic voters who might stay home on November 8 because they see Trump/Johnson/Michels signs on every corner and feel overwhelmed.  If we can show them that they’re not alone and help them realize that their vote is essential to holding Wisconsin’s democracy together, I have no doubt Evers and Barnes will win their races.

Last week, you collectively donated over $12K with an average donation of $42 for this effort.  That’s awesome, and we can run a lot of ads with that money.  We’re hoping to raise $80K between last week and the first week of November to be able to keep these ads rolling in rural Wisconsin.  If you’d like to help, here’s link to donate.
 
Thanks for reading, and thanks for sticking with us.  We all need to do something during this election cycle. We can’t sit this one out.  Our neighbors in Wisconsin and the rest of America need us to get involved.
 
Together, let’s remember our state's progressive roots, dig a little deeper, and deliver honest and good men to Wisconsin's Governor and Senator's office—one beer  at a time.

Kirk Bangstad
Owner, Minocqua Brewing Company
Founder, Minocqua Brewing Company Super PAC