Wisconsin heads to the polls a state divided

By Tony Wagner of Marketplace

Wisconsin heads to the polls Tuesday as a state divided.

It’s a swing state that’s gone blue in every election since 1988, but the government is under full Republican control. Governor Scott Walker ran a flash-in-the-pan presidential campaign, but only after surviving a brutal recall fight. The state also borders two metropolitan areas — Minneapolis-St. Paul and Chicago — so economically powerful they’re distorting Wisconsin’s key indicators.

“The big disconnect, the one that leads some I think legitimate and serious discussion among economists, is how to explain why the Wisconsin unemployment rate is lower still then the national rate, yet job growth here is so much slower,” said Marc Levine, A senior Fellow and Founding Director at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Economic Development. “If you look at the data, a nontrivial percentage of residents of Wisconsin are finding work in Minnesota and in Illinois.”

And comparing America’s Dairyland to its neighbors isn’t always flattering. Minnesota’s economy is very similar to Wisconsin’s, and they chugged along at almost the exact same pace for decades. But Wisconsin started lagging around 15 years ago, and the gap only widened after the Great Recession.