Wisconsin Summer Recall Wrap-Up: Republicans Call This “Winning”
I have to admit, I was prepared to be disappointed last night. After the last wave of Wisconsin recall elections, I was ready for at least one poll to be wrong and for dems to lose at least one seat. Turns out, all my preparations were for naught — both Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch sailed to easy and comfortable wins. I’m not going to complain.
It’s important to remember the rationale behind the recalls. For Republicans, it was their support of Gov. Walker’s union-busting. But for Democrats, the recalls were about leaving the state to prevent a quorum for that union-busting. Wisconsin residents were supposed to be outraged that dems had gone “fleebagger” — by conservatives’ argument, leaving the state rather than doing their jobs. So, of the two rationales, one proved weak. After the smoke had cleared, not a single Democrat had been recalled.
While losing is being cast as winning by Republicans and the punditry (the GOP keeps their senate majority, albeit barely), it’s important to note that this represents a shift in reasoning; a fact that’s not lost on Wisconsin native John Nichols.
Wisconsin Democrats have won the last two of nine state Senate recall elections held over the course of the summer, meaning that the opponents of Governor Scott Walker’s attacks on collective-bargaining rights have prevailed in the majority of recall elections and claimed the majority of votes cast in what many saw as a statewide referendum on Walker’s policies.
If the recalls really were a referendum on Walker’s agenda, then Walker clearly lost. Because, as Nichols points out, Democrats “claimed the majority of votes cast” in that referendum. Further, voters approved — in every, single race — of Democrats who left the state to deny that agenda.
And keeping their majority? That may not be much comfort to Republicans, as the debate has now been pulled back to the left toward the center.
That means that Democrat have narrowed the Republican advantage in the Wisconsin Senate to a razor-thin 17-16 split, which puts a moderate Republican senator who opposed Walker’s assault on collective-bargaining rights in a position to work with Democrats to temper the extremes of the governor and his allies.
Republicans point out that the Democrats did not succeed in taking control of the state Senate, an ardent hope of the opposition party and its allies as their pursued their efforts to oust GOP senators in last week’s recall voting in Republican districts across the state.
But the final tallies from a summer of recall elections confirm that the governor and his allies have suffered not just defeats in districts located in the north, south, east and west of the state but also a serious blow to their authority inside the state Capitol.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, “The narrower majority would make it tougher to win approval of controversial legislation, such as stricter abortion restrictions or tougher penalties for illegal immigrants.”
A few more GOP “wins” like this and Walker won’t have any allies left in the Senate. And, if reports from Holperin’s election headquarters last night are any indication, this is far from over.
Katie Rosenberg, via Twitter:
During Holperin’s speech, the crowd was not chanting for him. They were chanting “Recall Walker.”
We definitely need the GOP to “win” like this more often.
Wisconsin Recall Update
We have a few hard numbers now on the Wisconsin recall races and, while the news is good, it’s not anything we didn’t already know. Jmartin4s at DailyKos got hold of some polling from Insider Michigan Politics which finds that Democrats are clear leaders in three races that they’re widely expected to win. What’s telling here is just how large those leads are:
State Senate District 12-Incumbent Jim Holperin (D)
46.3% Simac (R) 53.7% Holperin (D)
State Senate District 18-Incumbent Randy Hopper (R)
45.3% Hopper (R) 54.7% King (D)
State Senate District 32-Incumbent Dan Kapanke (R)
43.0% Kapanke (R) 57.0% Shilling (D)
Two strong wins and one landslide. One Republican incumbent who was expected to win finds herself in a much tighter race than anyone had expected. Republican state Sen. Alberta Darling recently told constituents she couldn’t guarantee she’d be reelected. Asked at a Q & A if she was sure she’d win, Darling answered, “I’m not sure. It’s going to be about turnout.”
According to Andrew Kroll at Mother Jones, she’s gone from a candidate who was “a lock to win her recall mere months ago” to a very slim lead and, in one poll at least, a statistical tie.
…According to polling data, Darling has some cause to worry: One poll released in mid-July by the Democratic Party showed Pasch ahead of Darling by 1 percentage point, while a Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by the liberal Daily Kos put Darling up by 5 points. Even then, it’s a sign of the shifting political headwinds in Wisconsin that the Republican state senator considered by Democrats to be the least likely to lose her recall election is now conceding that she may be unseated.
And she’s right. The “it’s all about turnout” cliche always struck me as a little obvious — if no one shows up to vote for you then, yeah, you’re not going to win. That’s how this election stuff works. But it’s shorthand for “we need ‘get out the vote’ efforts.” And it’s there that the right is getting a little antsy. The rightwing Human Events spells out the worry behind that antsiness.
Privately, more than a few Republican consultants are growing nervous and sensing that organized labor’s years-longer skills at turning out voters in special elections will win the day for them. The nature of the districts targeted by Democrats is also working to their advantage because, as [GOP consultant] Scott Becher told Human Events, “Democrats cherry-picked the districts they were going after.” In the Oshkosh district, for example, Republican Sen. Randy Hopper was last elected by a slim 189 votes over Democrat Jessica King and now faces a rematch with Oshkosh Deputy Mayor Kane. There are two prisons and a university in the district. In the 2nd District (Green Bay), Republican Sen. Rob Cowles faces a well-known opponent in former Brown County Executive Nancy Nussbaum, who is taking a page from national Democrats and denouncing Republican policy, in which (she charges), “I see the wealthiest people are being benefited. It just is not fair.”
The part about “cherry-picking” is BS, of course. Recall petitions were circulated in every district where a senator was eligible — in the farthest right (and left, for that matter) districts, those petitions failed to get the required number of signatures. Given the nature of the process, it only stands to reason that the more competitive the district, the more likely the success of the petition. You’ll notice that my own senator, Democrat Fred Risser, isn’t being recalled. It’s not for lack of trying, but for lack of signatures. And even if they’d found enough signatures to get the ball rolling, Risser is beloved here — the challenger would be slaughtered. The GOP didn’t “cherry-pick” other dems and leave Risser alone. There was just no chance of anything ever getting off the ground here.
But here again we have the turnout worry. Specifically, that labor has the advantage. People are banging phones and knocking on doors and sitting in the back rooms of labor halls stuffing envelopes — all volunteers and all working for free. Republicans, with their complete certainty that the private sector can do no wrong, have limited themselves mostly to hiring firms to make robo-calls and send mailers. Any volunteers come from the Tea Party which, let’s face it, is looking a lot like a flash in the pan at the moment. They can’t turn out the free workers that unions can.
None of this is to say that Democrats will ultimately be successful in turning over control of the state senate. They need a net gain of three seats. Those three winners at the top of the post include an incumbent. But right now, from everything I’m seeing, it’s pretty much a 50/50.
It just depends on who wants it more.