Red November?

"Red November?" Continued...

Issue: "On the rails," Oct. 9, 2010

Jury, a long-time administrator at the University of Wisconsin's local branch in Stevens Point, told me this native frugality is why so many Wisconsin voters are angry with Washington. The state has the 10th-worst financial condition in the nation in rankings compiled by Forbes.com, including a debt per capita of $1,429 and unfunded pensions per capita of $16,418.

In the aftermath of Washington's runaway spending, Wisconsin voters, who fell hard for Obama in 2008, are suddenly making life difficult for their veteran lawmakers. "This spending has got to stop," Jury said.

Russ Feingold, the state's three-term Democratic senator who won by 12 points in 2004, now finds himself deadlocked in his race for a fourth term against wealthy businessman and political novice Ron Johnson. Johnson has poured $4 million of his own money into the race. After labeling the race "solid Democrat" at the start of the year, the Washington-based Cook Political Report is now calling the race a "toss-up."

"I am you," Johnson likes to say on the campaign trail, highlighting his political inexperience.

The anti-incumbency mood also contributed to the May retirement announcement of Democratic Rep. David Obey, whose 7th Congressional District includes Stevens Point. Obey has been in Congress since 1969. "He sensed it was going to be much more of a horse race than it has been in the past," Jury said of Obey's decision.

As an independent, Jury is the type of voter who can make or break an election for either party. Dissatisfied with President George W. Bush's foreign policy and John McCain's pick of Sarah Palin as his running mate in 2008, Jury went for Obama.

Voters like Jury helped Obama win the independent vote, which made up almost 30 percent of the electorate, by 8 percentage points in 2008. But independents' disapproval of Obama has reached an all-time high of 57 percent in a September ABC News poll. By a 13-point margin, independents said they would vote for Republican candidates this year.

When asked if he is now feeling voter's remorse, Jury is quick to reply: "Oh yeah. I don't think it has gone as well as people would have hoped."


"I have a trillion point four reasons," Jury replied, alluding to the federal budget deficit, which hit a record $1.4 trillion last year.

"There has been a realignment. People around here are getting used to living on a little less," said Jury, adding that it is time for the government in Washington to learn how to do the same.

Edward Lee Pitts
Edward Lee Pitts

Lee teaches journalism at Dordt College in Sioux Center, Iowa, and is the associate dean of the World Journalism Institute.


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