To the surprise of just about no one, Democrats retained the two state senate seats on the ballot last night in the latest (and last) round of recalls in Wisconsin. In traditionally Democratic turf, Democratic Sens. Jim Holperin and Bob Wirch easily survived challenges from under-funded Republicans.
So, one week after Republicans held on to four of six senate seats challenged by Democrats, the GOP gained nothing but nevertheless held on to its 17-to-16 seat majority in the Wisconsin Senate. More importantly, there are strong signs that the nationally-watched recall movement that was fueled by Republican Gov. Scott Walker’s conservative agenda has run out of steam.
Labor unions and liberal Democrats in general were angered by Walker’s successful push for cuts of $800 million from education and more than $1 billion in aid to localities as well as limiting collective bargaining for many state employees. With a well-funded petition drive gathering enough signatures to put six Republican senators on the recall ballot (and a Republican retaliation that placed three Democratic senators up for voters to recall or not), politicians and journalists concluded that a Democratic takeover of the state senate this year would be a “dress rehearsal” for the “main event” next year : a recall of Walker himself. (Under Badger State law, a governor cannot be recalled until completion of his first year in office).
But it was not to be. With Republicans clinging to control of the senate, there is now mounting evidence that voters are tired of recalls—especially after an estimated $40 million has been spent by both sides in the nine recalls this year.
“A few weeks ago, when it looked as though Democrats would win most of the recalls, I would have bet a substantial amount of money the governor would be recalled,” veteran GOP political consultant Scott Becher told HUMAN EVENTS last night, “But if someone offered now to wager on whether he’d be recalled, I’d put away my wallet.”
Becher’s assessment of the political climate was substantiated by the Public Policy Polling poll. Where the survey in May showed voters statewide favoring a recall of Walker by a margin of 50% to 47%, the same survey showed days ago that the margin was reversed, that voters opposed recalling Walker by 50% to 46%. In addition, PPP found that 43% of Wisconsin voters were happy with the results of the August 9 that left Republicans in control of the Senate and 39% were unhappy.
Citing several polls showing the voter tide turning against further recalls, Republican National Chairman Reince Priebus last night told reporters that “liberals should stop distracting voters with further recall elections.”
There are also signs on the political front that an attempted recall might boomerang on the left. Were enough signatures gathered in January and a recall election scheduled for November, it might just energize Republicans to work hard for Walker as they did when they helped save four of the six GOP senators in the recall races August 9. An energized GOP base would not help Democrats in their efforts to hold the seat of retiring Sen. Herb Kohl and to keep Wisconsin’s electoral votes in the hands of Barack Obama (whom polls show voters are as split over as they are about Walker).
So the latest chapter in Wisconsin’s “recall saga” is completed. The question now is whether another chapter will be written with a Walker recall in 2012, or whether the book is finally completed.