Last week, in a bizarrely revealing display, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi posted the raw numbers of votes polled by congressional candidates across the country.
Pelosi did this to shore up a base discouraged by the fact, as NBC phrased it, “The party fumbled key Senate races, lost ground in the House, and failed to capture state legislatures in a redistricting year despite having the political winds at its back, more money in its bank account and a hyper-activated grassroots movement that had spent four years preparing for this moment.”
According to Pelosi’s numbers, Democratic congressional candidates received, in total, 3-plus million more votes than Republican candidates, an utterly irrelevant statistic.
What is relevant for this conversation is that nationwide President Donald Trump received 2-plus percent more votes than the aggregate of Republican congressional candidates.
By the numbers, Trump received 73,701,667 votes to the House GOP’s 72,109,474.
This is not an anomaly. Barring unusual local circumstances, the president and the congressional candidate in a given district run within a few percentage points of each other. With a president as popular as Trump among Republicans, it does not surprise that he had the higher count.
This pattern did not hold in Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District, not at all, nothing close. The most populous county in the district is Brown County, the county seat of which is Green Bay.
“Up here in Green Bay we are all about Trump,” says Bernard Reznicek, a veteran observer of the local political scene. Trump did win the county by more than 10,000 votes, receiving 53.6% of the votes cast. And he did increase his 2016 numbers by more than 8,000 votes, or nearly 13%.
What intrigues Reznicek, as it does other observers, is that Trump dramatically underperformed GOP congressional candidate Mike Gallagher, both in Brown County and the 8th District as a whole.
“Mike Gallagher was handed Wisconsin 8th U.S. Congressional District four years ago from a retiring Reid Ribble,” Reznicek tells me. In the 2016 election for the open seat, Gallagher received 63 percent of the vote in the 8th, an increasingly reliable Republican district.
In 2018, Gallagher received 64% of the district vote, and in 2020 he again received 64% of the vote, suggesting a fairly consistent district-wide split between Republicans and Democrats. In the slightly less Republican Brown County in 2020, Gallagher received 61% of the vote.
What makes no obvious sense is that Gallagher received nearly 15% more votes in Brown County than Trump did, or 11,175 total. This pattern persisted throughout the district.
In Outagamie County, the district’s second-most populous county, Gallagher outperformed Trump by 11%. In Marinette County, Gallagher received 8% more votes despite Trump’s triumphant visit in June to the county’s historic shipyard, Fincantieri Marinette Marine.
“And you now have a lot of contracts because of the United States government,” said Trump over the frequent applause. “You’re going to – you’re going to be so busy. You’re going to be so busy. I know you went through a little bit of a hard time; not anymore. Not anymore. Got you covered for years.”
District-wide Gallagher outpaced Trump by about 11%. That translates to 26,228 votes. If Trump and Gallagher had merely run even, Trump would have carried the state of Wisconsin by more than 5,000 votes.
Now, for the truly inexplicable: In every one of the 93 active precincts in Brown County, Gallagher received more votes than Trump. In 94 of the 95 precincts in Outagamie County, Gallagher did the same. In the one Outagamie precinct in which Trump had the higher numbers, he had only one more vote.
Even in Marinette County, which Trump carried by better than a two-to-one margin, Gallagher did better than Trump in each of its 28 precincts.
Reznicek assures me that Gallagher is no rock star and that his 2020 Democratic opponent, Amanda Stuck, was perfectly presentable.
“I cannot believe the vote would turn out in such fashion,” he tells me. “Looks more like there was some panic by tabulators.”
Jack Cashill’s new book, “Unmasking Obama: The Fight to Tell the True Story of a Failed Presidency,” is widely available. See also www.cashill.com.