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In Walker's Wisconsin, Supreme Court Election Heading for Photo Finish

1:48 AM, Apr 6, 2011 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The Wisconsin supreme court race between conservative justice David Prosser and liberal assistant attorney general JoAnne Kloppenburg is coming down to the wire. With 99% of precincts reporting, Prosser has a 585-vote lead out of nearly 1.5 million ballots cast. The potentially bad news for Prosser is that of the 34 uncounted precincts, most of them are in counties that voted for Kloppenburg, including 12 in Milwaukee and 1 in Dane.

The Wisconsin State Capitol in Madison, Wisconsin.

Update 12:28 p.m.: With all but 3 Republican-leaning precincts counted, Kloppenburg has taken a 224-vote lead.

While the results remain unsettled, here are some takeaways from the night:

--Kloppenburg underperformed, compared to John Kerry who narrowly won the state in 2004, in Democratic Milwaukee and a number of surrounding GOP counties, but she overperformed in Dane county, where the state's capital is seated. Looks like all of those state employees didn't like having their benefits cut.

--One week ago, some internal polling showed that Prosser was trailing by the mid-to-high single digits. Turnout was higher than anyone expected. It looks like conservatives woke up in the end and closed the gap.

--The big fear that Walker's budget-repair bill did serious political damage to Republicans has dissipated somewhat. Wisconsin was basically deadlocked but narrowly voted for Democrats in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, swung to Obama by 13 points in 2008, and then swung to Walker by 5 points in 2010. The fact that Wisconsin's gone back to being a 50-50 state of the Bush years--and not a +13 Democratic state of 2008--is a relief to Republicans.  

--Of course, another big conservative fear remains that the supreme court may invalidate Walker's budget repair bill and other GOP legislation if Kloppenburg becomes a justice and gives liberals a 4-3 majority on the high court. We'll just have to see how this election turns out.

(This post was updated at 2:37 a.m. to include new election returns.)

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