Wisconsin Recall Results

HOWARD MEGDAL: It is easy to think of Tuesday night’s results in Wisconsin as a disappointment for Democrats-thanks largely to the high expectations the party gave itself. But seeing a pair of Republicans who’d won in 2008 should serve a warning to the pundits scrambling to call President Obama a one-term president.
The country is turning on the Republicans in a huge way.
Don’t believe me? Notice the new poll from CNN that puts the GOP at 33/59 approval. John Boehner is now as unpopular as Nancy Pelosi was when the GOP took back the House. See Obama, for all of his current troubles right now, out ahead of the generic Republican challenger-never mind that the generic one is probably stronger than the actual ones.
And consider that the GOP’s message going into the 2012 election is that tax cuts for the rich must not be touched, and Medicare can get scrapped- especially unpopular messages- that’s not exactly how to take advantage of a poor economy.
Ah, but Obama ran a 2008 campaign of Hope, Change, Fairies and Elves- can he run a negative campaign? That seems to be the contention of people who didn’t actually watch the 2008 election.
Actually, Obama ran constant negative ads. It was great. He attacked his opponents so consistently and effectively, Democrats actually got to play offense. So I don’t anticipate much change this time around, though the Change will simply be adjusted to an in-this-together positive message.
But make no mistake- Obama and the Democrats will deploy both in 2012. And in Wisconsin, the signs are there that such tactics are a good bet to work. The country is split on Obama. The party they see as overreaching is the GOP.

JESSICA BADER: As your typical bleeding-heart liberal/die-hard Mets fan (which is to say, someone quite familiar with the concept of soul-crushing disappointment), seeing that Wisconsin Democrats won two seats in Tuesday’s state senate recall elections when they needed three to flip the chamber immediately brought to mind one particularly agonizing box score from almost four years ago. But while almost only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, my initial reaction seems to have been a bit over-the-top, reflecting neither the difficulty of the task the Democrats tried to accomplish nor the relatively minimal policy impact had they succeeded.

Five of the six Republican state senators who faced recall elections on Tuesday represented districts on the redder side of swing, areas of the state where Barack Obama eked out a narrow victory in 2008 and Scott Walker won by double digits in 2010. Even Dan Kapanke, who represented a district where the narrow victory was Walker’s and the double-digit one Obama’s, was – like his five fellow senators on the ballot – a Republican who survived the Democratic wave year of 2008 (Wisconsin’s recall law is limited to officials who have served at least a year of their current term, sparing for now those swept in on the 2010 Republican wave). Defeating an incumbent is more difficult than winning an open-seat race (hello, unexpected special-election winners), elected officials who held on to their seats in the face of an opposing wave would seem to be hard to dislodge (hello, remaining Blue Dogs in Congress), and yet Democrats knocked off two of the six Republican incumbents and held two others within single digits. This would seem to bode well not only for any potential recalls next year of the class of 2010, but also for November 2012, when the state senate class of 2008 and the entire state assembly will be on the ballot.

As the state assembly and the governor’s mansion are both in Republican hands, there’s not all that much that Democrats could have accomplished policy-wise had they managed to pick up one more seat (and with it, control of the state senate). Democratic policy items would still be blocked by the assembly and/or Walker, and while a Democratic state senate would have had some ability to block Republicans from enacting more of their policy goals, the GOP has already pushed through much of its agenda, even expediting the redistricting process to make sure it was completed before the recall elections took place.

Flipping a third seat would not have rolled back the legislative attack on collective bargaining, and not flipping that seat does not mean that the recall effort was a failure for Democrats and organized labor. If Tuesday night was a baseball game, there are still more innings left to play.

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