Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Obligatory Post-Recall Winners and Loser Post

  • You
That's right, you. You have now endured an election season that has lasted over 16 months and there's no end in sight. Sure, you think it's all over, but it's really just beginning. Don't expect it to end until November 2012.

In fact, don't expect it to end ever. One of the worst possible consequences the recall effort has always been that it would establish the kind of precedent, that recalls would become the new normal. Given how expensive, time consuming and complicated the recalls have turned out to be, that's probably not going happen, but don't plan on recalls being as rare as they have been, especially in competitive districts. You'll just have to put up with it.
  • Scott Fitzgerald
Fitzgerald can now rely on two less votes, must now contend with a unified opposition that has no motivation to work with him. Last week he was the unquestionable most powerful person in the state Senate. Today that job belongs to Dale Shultz.
  • We Are Wisconsin
The most frequent complaint I heard about WAW was that they were unorganized, which made all the hype about the union's turn-out operations a little ridiculous. Their advertising was underwhelming. Much of this can be attributed to the growing pains every organization suffers, but every now and then I got the feeling that with so many groups trying to pool their resources into one pot that there were too many chefs in the kitchen.
  • Luther Olsen
Take this for what it's worth, but there's a strain of thought that Luther Olsen did himself few favors despite fending off his own recall. Having never faced any Democratic competition before, Olsen looked lost at times and very beatable. His opponent was flawed, and those flaws were the subject of relentless third party advertising, but it's not hard to see see Olsen getting bounced as a down-ticket race during a Presidential election with massive turnout. Olsen's not off to a good start. Moments after winning Tuesday he said "This was a referendum on Scott Walker," something that, if uttered a week earlier, would have been grist for an attack ad. I don't know what the dynamics of his new district look like, but if there's a list of potential pick-ups for the Dems next year Olsen's should be near the top.

There's a strain of thought that suggests Olsen, along with Shultz and Cowles, will form a moderate voting block in the Senate. Don't bet on it. Olsen was the recipient of generous third party support and you can bet your sweet ass they'll be back to extract a pound of flesh when the time comes.
  • Democratic Expectations
I understand there's a fine line between trying to motivate the troops and realistically assessing a given challenge, but it'd really be nice for the Democratic Party to someday grasp just how unmotivating it is to hear that there is a good chance of being competitive in six races when the reality is much less rosy.
  • The GOP Bench
Don't let anyone tell you otherwise: Randy Hopper was being groomed for higher office. Talk up here in the 6th CD was that Hopper was heir to Tom Petri's seat in Congress. Christian Schneider says others had gubernatorial aspirations for him. There's a reason he was given a seat on the Joint Finance Committee only half way through his first term in office. He was a ferocious retail campaigner and slick operator with a ton of potential. Hopper was actually the least expendable candidate being recalled, the others were on the downhill runs of their legislative careers. Not Hopper. He was clearly a long term investment for the GOP, but one that didn't pan out. 
  • The 10 GOP Senators not named Dale Schultz who are eligible to be recalled next year
Looks like the Walker Recall is still going ahead as planned and now each of this cats represents a chance to kill two birds with one stone and flip the Senate. If Dan Kapanke is the model for bumping off a sitting official through a recall then it would stand to reason that GOP Senators in districts that flirt with Dems could be vulnerable, so keep an eye on Frank Lasee (who also has a series of personal issues), Van Wanggaard, Terry Moulton and Pam Galloway -- all of whom were first elected to the Senate in 2010.
  • Organizing for America, Various Tea Party Groups and other "Grassroots" Organizations
Totally absent from the fight. The only groups I saw lift a finger were third party special interest groups or astroturf outfits like the Club for Growth and AFP.
  • Scott Walker
The Gov. just had $10-15 million in negative advertising running against him during the last 4 weeks with nary a response. That's going to take a toll in his approval ratings, which are already trending downward.

Despite not flipping the Senate, Dems don't seem any less eager to recall Walker. In fact, not flipping the Senate may actually help their cause. They can now continue to make the case that Walker needs to go because there isn't a legislative check on his agenda, whereas that might have been a harder sell with the Senate under their control.

It's a safe bet that anyone who signed the recall petition against one of the GOP senators will also sign one for Walker. That means Dems have already found between 25% and 33% of the signatures required to start a recall without having set foot in Dane County and most of Milwaukee.

  • Scott Walker
A flipped Senate would have marked the end of his administration, full stop. As it stands now, Walker has bought himself that most precious of commodities: time. He now has a brief window to let tempers cool and refurbish his own image. How well he's able to do this will determine just how long his tenure in the governor's mansion is.

While there serious policy issues at play in the recall, let's not pretend that this wasn't primarily an exercise in partisan silliness. This has helped distract the state from the fact that the economy still sucks and Walker's policies haven't really done anything to make it better.
  • Dale Schultz
The most popular man in Madison until further notice.
  • Wisconsin Family Action
Ran the hardest-hitting (pun intended) ad of the recalls, one that probably played a big roll in demonizing Fred Clark enough to give Luther Olsen the win, once again proving that there's no point in running for office when you can wield just as much power running a special interest without any of the responsibility.

(One of these days, I'd love to see someone do some campaign finance law beta testing by running horrifying negative ads against lobbyists. Something like: Call Julianne Appling today and ask her why she likes having sex with goats before sacrificing them to Satan in an orgy of blood. Or: Call Barbara Lyons and ask her why she wants to give your 16 year old daughter herpes. It wouldn't even have to be during election season. End rant.)
  • Pollsters and Political Scientists
It was rather refreshing to have so many people who usually claim to have their fingers on the pulse of the American electorate openly come out and say, "Yeah, we just don't have any clue what's happening." For their honestly, they now have a quirky anomaly to study and compare things to in the future.


As the immortal Nuke LaLoosh once said "Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains." Not much changed for the folks below.
  • The Democratic Party of Wisconsin
There are now two more Democrats in the Senate then there were last week. No, they did not get the all-important third seat, but Scott Walker's agenda will no longer sail through the legislature as it previously did. This in and of itself is actually a huge win, but is balanced out by outsized expectation, largely of their own creation, that they couldn't reach.
  • The Republican Party of Wisconsin
They are still in control of all three branches of the state government, but this is now the second near miss in just a few months. Eventually, the Dems might actually figure out how to land the haymaker.
  • Unions
They are right where they were a week ago. Everyone knows that restoring collective bargaining rights to state employees will only happen once Walker is out of office. The longer this takes, the less likely it is to happen, so in this respect they missed a chance to cripple Walker's agenda. But this wasn't their only chance to take a shot at the king. Even though the haven't won a legislative victory yet, they have very successfully driven the conversation since February, something the tea party needed two years to accomplish.

There's also the almost entirely unmentioned prospect that this round of recalls was little more than a dry run for a larger, more intense rounds of recalls next year. If those do happen, the unions will be able to build on the lessons they learned this time around.

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