Three Counties That Always Pick the Winner

It’s become a trend after an election to analyze the results and see which areas of the state voted for each candidate and what that may mean.  A lot of stories have been published showing that Democrats are strong in Dane and Milwaukee County and Republicans are strong in the ring of counties surrounding Milwaukee.

Other stories have even analyzed the the counties have have swung back and forth between Republican candidates and Democratic candidates.  Some pundits have called these swing counties schizophrenic, apparently because they don’t vote the same way every time, supporting George W. Bush, then Barack Obama and then Scott Walker.

But when you look for the list of counties that pick right, the list is quite short.  Three counties have correctly chosen the winner of each Presidential and Gubernatorial election dating back to 1990.

Richland County, Lincoln County and Forest County have each voted for; Tommy Thompson, Bill Clinton, Thompson, Clinton, Thompson, George W. Bush, Jim Doyle, Bush, Doyle, Barack Obama, Scott Walker and Obama.

Lincoln and Forest picked the loser in 1988 when they supported Democrat Michael Dukakis for President.  But Richland County has picked the winner dating back to Republican Ronald Reagan in 1984.   The last time Richland County voted for the loser was when they picked Republican Terry Kohler over Democrat Anthony Earl in in the 1982 race for Governor.

The string of picking winners for these three counties covers 22 years and 12 statewide elections.  They voted for 6 Democrats and 6 Republicans.

When you add in the races for U.S. Senate their record is nearly as impressive.  All three have perfect records dating back to 2000, voting for Herb Kohl, Russ Feingold, Kohl, Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin.

Not only have these counties voted for an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, but they have even split the tickets when you add in the U.S. Senate races.  In 2000, they voted for Herb Kohl and George Bush.  In 2004 they voted for Russ Feingold and George Bush.

How is it that these three counties voted for the winner so many times in a row?  I have no idea.  Richland County is located in southwest Wisconsin.  Lincoln and Forest Counties are in the northwoods.  They all rely on elements of agriculture and tourism for their income, but that includes much of the state.  They are all different sizes.  In the 2012 Presidential election, Forest County cast 4,643 votes, Richland County cast 8,636 votes, and Lincon County cast 15,152 votes.

The one element they have in common is a willingness to cross over between parties on the ballot. In recent years Forest and Lincoln County have helped elect both Democrats and Republicans to U.S. Congress, Republicans to the Assembly and Democrats to the state Senate.

In recent years Richland County has helped elect both Democrats and Republicans to the state Assembly.  They have elected a Democrat to the U.S. Congress and the famously moderate Republican Dale Schultz to the state Senate.

In 2014, we should look to these three counties to get an idea of who will win.


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