The Left Comes Up Short In Wisconsin

The Left Comes Up Short In Wisconsin

Last night was the culmination of months of gnashing teeth, incendiary rhetoric, court battles, petitions, hundreds of thousands of man hours, and tens of millions of dollars in union money, all put towards a single goal: Beating 3 Republicans last night so that Wisconsin could rollback Governor Scott Walker’s union reforms, that will save the Wisconsin votes tens of millions of dollars.

Last night there were 6 Republicans up for recall elections and the Democrats thought it was possible that they might take 4 of those seats. To take control of the state house, Democrats had to win 3 of those elections — and beat back challenges to 2 Democratic seats next week. So, 4 seats would have been a crushing win for the Dems, 3 seats would have been a really good night, 2 seats would have been a big disappointment, and 1 seat or less would have been a crushing win.

Ultimately, they fell short.

Democrats failed late Tuesday in their effort to gain control of the Wisconsin state senate as Republican incumbents won four of six recall elections.

The outcome was a big setback for Democrats, organized labor, and progressive groups who’d sought retribution against six GOPallies of Gov. Scott Walker, who earlier this year enacted a labor law overhaul that ended collective bargaining rights for many public sector workers.

The recall elections attracted millions of dollars of investment from both liberals and conservatives across the nation.
Most at risk as voting started Tuesday appeared to be three Republicans, Alberta Darling, Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke, all of whom had barely won their races in 2008.

Kapanke and Hopper lost, but Darling won with 54 percent with most of the precincts counted, partly due to her outperforming her 2008 majority in heavily Republican Waukesha County.

In 2008, Darling had won her district by a mere 1,007 out of more than 99,000 votes cast. Her district went narrowly for Barack Obama in 2008.

Three other Republican lawmakers also survived the Democratic recall effort: Sen. Robert Cowles, Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and Sen. Luther Olsen.

Although it’s always better to win than lose in politics, this is a big setback for the Democratic Party. Despite having tremendous energy, a big money edge, and the unions throwing everything they have into what they considered a “must win” election in a leftward-leaning, union-friendly state — the Dems couldn’t get the job done. The wind was at the Left’s back, the Dems hit the Wisconsin GOP with their best shot, and when it was all said and done, Scott Walker and company were still standing.

If you’re a Republican at the state level, the message you’re going to take away from this is that, yes, you can afford to take on the unions. Sure, they’re going to fight back, but are they going to be able to hit you as hard as they hit the Wisconsin GOP? Probably not — so if Scott Walker’s boys made it through, you’ll probably make it through, too.

PS: Expect lots of contrary spin from the Democrats — “Oh, this is a big win for us!” But, as Chris Cillizza was admitting at the Washington Post yesterday morning, that’s not how it was seen BEFORE the election.

Wisconsin Republicans are in real danger of losing control of the state Senate in tonight’s recall elections, as it looks more and more possible that they will lose at least three of the six seats that are on the ballot.

The losses would be cast by Democrats as a severe rebuke of Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) policies. And wins by Republicans would be cast by them as validation for Walker’s tough-love budgeting style.

Both of those evaluations would be fair. (For more on just how we’ve gotten here, see Michael A. Fletcher’s piece today and our primer from last week.)

…As of a couple weeks ago, about two-thirds of that has gone to benefit Democrats, and Republicans acknowledge that they were essentially caught flat-footed by the whole thing. And because of that, they’ve been fighting from behind in recent weeks.

“This is a referendum on Walker, and the Democrats have everything to lose, and the Republicans did not have a plan for what they started,” said one Republican monitoring the recalls. “And the national folks never saw it for what it was, which is a proxy fight.”

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