One week after the last of the nine recall elections in Wisconsin were held and Republicans clung to their majority in the state senate, there are strong signs Republican strength in the Badger State is on the rise. Not only has the long-planned Democratic attempt to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker run out of steam, but the odds have risen dramatically on a Republican pickup of the seat of retiring Democratic U.S. Sen. Herb Kohl in 2012.
After more than $40 million spent by both sides in the nationally watched recall contests long considered the “dress rehearsal” for a January recall of the conservative Walker, public opinion has shifted against it. Where a Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey in May showed voters statewide favoring a recall of Walker by a margin of 50% to 47%, the same survey in the last two weeks showed that the margin was reversed, that voters opposed recalling Walker by 50% to 46%. In addition, the PPP found that 43% of Wisconsin voters were happy with the results of the Aug. 9 recall elections that left Republicans in control of the senate and 39% were unhappy.
Last Friday, days after the last recall elections, Wisconsin Democrats were dealt a major jolt when the candidate considered their strongest contender to either retain Kohl’s seat or take out Walker in a recall election announced he wasn’t running for anything. Former three-term Sen. Russ Feingold, who was unseated by Republican Ron Johnson last November, announced, “While I may seek elective office again someday, I have decided not to run for public office during 2012.
A recent PPP poll concluded Feingold, now teaching at Marquette University, was the “best-known and best-liked” of Senate hopefuls of both parties, and was either running ahead or tied with any of the Republican hopefuls. His no-go leaves Democrats with the likelihood of a hard-fought primary between two lesser-known candidates: liberal Representatives Tammy Baldwin (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 1.91%) and Ron Kind (lifetime ACU rating: 14.69%).
On the Republican side, where former four-term Gov. Tommy Thompson had been considered to be toying at most with a Senate run, one veteran GOP consultant in Wisconsin told HUMAN EVENTS he is “now 90% sure Tommy is running. He has signed on the two best Republican fund-raisers in the state, Mary Stitt and Dan Morris.”
Also considered a likely candidate now is former Rep. Mark Neumann, a strong “deficit hawk” and stalwart conservative who lost bids for the Senate in 1998 and governor last year. Following the recall elections and Feingold’s statement, Waukesha business owner Neumann told reporters he’s received calls urging him to run and “a decision is coming very, very soon.”
As a candidate, Neumann would be expected to have the backing of the Club for Growth, a soul mate with his anti-deficit agenda, and many grassroots conservatives disappointed in the 70-year-old Thompson for appearing at the White House two years ago as part of the Obama administration’s call for health care reform.
Also considered possible Republican Senate candidates are Assembly Speaker Jeff Fitzgerald and former State Sen. Ted Kanavas, now a multimillionaire software entrepreneur and venture capitalist.
All things considered, the latest political developments in Wisconsin have been quite dramatic—and, it appears, quite beneficial to the Republicans.