Mordecai Lee Shares Predictions For 2014

Home » Here and Now » All Episodes » Mordecai Lee Shares Predictions For 2014

Mordecai Lee Shares Predictions For 2014

Premiere Date: 
January 3, 2014

The UW-Milwaukee political science professor predicts what will happen in state politics.

 

Episode Transcript: 

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, 2014 is already shaping up to be an interesting year. It's an election year. Republicans control the highest levels of Wisconsin government and democrats want their voices heard. Mordecai Lee, a governmental affairs professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, is one of our regularly featured guests on "Here and Now." We invited him to provide us on his insights for year ahead with an eye on the rearview mirror, and what happened this past year. Mordecai, thanks very much for joining us.

Mordecai Lee:

You’re welcome. Although I’m not sure I like being in this position of having to hear my old predictions and make new ones.

Frederica Freyberg:

Yes, well, that’s the position we've put you in, so thanks for doing it. But so every year this time we ask you to look back and look ahead, and let's take a look back to the end of 2012 and listen to a prediction you made then. You said this is about the budget that would pass.  

Mordecai Lee:

I think his budget is going to be a real rock 'em sock 'em policy document. It’s going to be a real unpeeling of the status quo we had, but not about the hot button issues. He's already told us that he's going to have an income tax cut, so the fight will probably be who benefits from the tax cut, the upper income or the middle income.

Frederica Freyberg:

So you were right. We got a $651 million income tax cut and there was kvetching on the part of the minority about whom it benefits most. Does that messaging on the minority's part resonate with voters, though, do you think?

Mordecai Lee:

Well, for some reason it didn’t really gain traction during that debate. Presumably they're going to try to raise it next fall. But I think my prediction was also on target in the policy level. For example, Governor Walker suggested repealing residency requirements. He suggested expanding religious school choice. Those were two very firm Democratic positions and he got them repealed and expanded. So I think it was as much a policy document as it was a financial document.

Frederica Freyberg:

Even though –

Mordecai Lee:

I'll give myself an A for that prediction.

Frederica Freyberg:

Oh, good. And I will, too. But don't they always say, no policy in the budget. And then that's what it becomes.

Mordecai Lee:

Yeah, usually you hear the minority party say, no policy in the budget. But in fact, when joint finance this year started working their way through the budget, they deleted a whole bunch of policy items. But then as the process went on they reinserted or added new stuff.

Frederica Freyberg:

As for Scott Walker, the big question kind of is, will he or won't he? It seems plain as day that he's jumping into the race for the White House, but he's being pretty coy about it. Is this kind of standard operating procedure, though? Is this how people do that?  

Mordecai Lee:

It is, and it's a shame. Because it's perfectly fine to run for president. It's perfectly fine to run for re-election and then run for president. I think Hillary Clinton had the absolute best answer. She was running for re-election as a US senator from New York. People assumed she would run for president two years later. And asked her if she'd make a commitment to serve her full term. She said they wouldn't. If that was an issue that was important in the mind of some voter, if that would be part of their mental calculus, fine. And really left it at that. To a certain extent Governor Walker is doing the same thing.

Frederica Freyberg:

You know what's weird to me? When national journalists list potential Republican candidates, Scott Walker's name is almost never on that list and yet they interview him all the time about his new book and he definitely gets mention for his policy. How does he stack up, do you think?

Mordecai Lee:

Well, you know, in Washington it's a pretty closed circle, and you have to be mentioned by the great mentioner. This is other reporters talking to each other. They just know the Washington types. They know Senator Rand, Senator Cruz. They don't know the governors very much. So I think that's one of the reasons that the DC-centric reporting doesn't cover him. There's no doubt that he's a fabulous politician. He's got the skills for a national race. He's already exhibited it in the last couple of weeks.

Frederica Freyberg:

How much of how he governs Wisconsin will likely be informed by his potential run for the White House?

Mordecai Lee:

I think he's going to have to make a choice over the next year or two. Does he want to continue to be a kind of talk radio Republican, a no compromise, go for ideological purity, or does he want to try to moderate his image a little bit. Does he want to get a little to the right of some of the Tea Party people? I’m guessing that he's going to stick to the tried and true. He's going to be a talk radio Republican. He’s not going to be a moderate. He’s not going to be interested in compromise. That will be a very good base for him to run for president on.

 

Frederica Freyberg:

Does his national stature of late kind of help or hurt his only-announced challenger for governor, Democrat Mary Burke?

Mordecai Lee:

Because Governor Walker wants to run for president, that makes his opponent for governor subject to more national attention, more interesting, higher visibility. I suspect we'll see her being trapped if only as a way to measure against Scott Walker's potential as a presidential candidate.

Frederica Freyberg:

On Mary Burke, she's kind of playing the I'm-not-a-politician card, ala Ron Johnson. Is that a winning talking point for her?

Mordecai Lee:

It looks to me like her strategy is essentially to lay low and to sort of be the no-name Democrat. In other words, she's not trying to win every 24-hour news cycle. She's not trying to get in a comment for every issue that comes up. She's just sort of lying low. And she's shown serious discipline when she's been interviewed. I think it's her policy to be a kind of standard issue Democrat.

Frederica Freyberg:

Here's the really hard question, then, Mordecai. Looking ahead, a prediction, who will occupy the governor's mansion this time next year?

Mordecai Lee:

Oh, God. If you promise to bleep it out, maybe I'll make a prediction. The conventional wisdom is, in Wisconsin, that if an incumbent is running for re-election, he or she has a 90% chance or better of getting reelected. So I think it's fair to say that Scott Walker is presumed to be the guy who will be in the governor's mansion a year from now. But, you know, anything can happen in politics. It's just that I don't think he'll make mistakes. I don't think he'll step on his message. And so it would only have to be due to some other political earthquakes that would really change the nature of the race.

Frederica Freyberg:

Well, that was well said, Mordecai. We'll come back to you with that next year. Mordecai Lee, thanks very much.

Mordecai Lee:

You're welcome. Thank you. 


We’d love to hear from you. Please send us your comment or story suggestion.

Get to know the Here and Now crew.

Find information on elections and candidates and connect to coverage from Wisconsin Public Television and Radio.