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Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Are the GOP's Recall Petitions a Bust or a Success?

Forward statue with 'Recall' signBy five o'clock central, we'll know whether Wisconsin Supreme Court candidate JoAnne Kloppenburg will ask for a recount in her close race against incumbent David Prosser. The deadline is today. As it stands now, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Board took a look at the Waukesha County vote total -- which put Prosser in the lead after the County Clerk found some 14,000 uncounted votes -- and found "no major discrepancies" in the totals. If you're wondering what a minor discrepancy is, join the club. The board didn't elaborate.

Whichever way that election goes, it's bad news for Governor Scott Walker and Republicans. Before Walker's attempt at union-busting, the incumbent was set to win reelection in a walk. It wasn't even going to be a contest. After only a few weeks of organizing time, pro-worker people narrowed the margin to a statistical dead heat -- if Prosser wins, he'll win by less than 0.5% as the numbers stand now. That's down from a 30-point lead in the primary. If everything goes David Prosser's way, Walker and Republicans will undoubtedly publicly claim they've been vindicated. But privately, they'll be sweating bullets. The final vote tally, even if their guy wins, will not be a good omen for the future.

However, it probably tells us very little about how recalls will go. The Prosser-Kloppenburg race was a statewide contest, while recall elections will be fought at a more local level. In some districts, Prosser ruined Kloppenburg. In others, Kloppenburg had Prosser for lunch. Looking at the state Supreme Court race to divine the outcomes of recalls is almost certainly a fool's errand.


As things stand now, Democrats have the signatures to file four recall petitions against Republicans. The GOP has so far filed none. According to Dave Weigel, this may be about to change.

How are the conservative activists doing? According to David VanderLeest, head of the campaign to recall Democratic Sen. Dave Hansen, activists have surpassed the 13,852 signature goal.

"I believe we're going to go and drive the petitions down there to Madison by the end of the week," said VanderLeest. "We've surpassed the total by a couple of thousand. We're just doing the administrative work now."

I've got calls out to other campaigns and will report how close they are. Don't be surprised to hear about a rush of petitions to recall Democrats in the next seven days.

If this is true, you've got to wonder about the strategy here. At times, it's seemed Democrats have been running to the press to announce every new signature, while Republicans have apparently been keeping their numbers under their hats. As a result, GOP voters have been watching Democrats set up target after target, while the Republican efforts have seemed to go nowhere. Right now, it really is four to zip, with Democrats leading. It has to be disheartening for voters on the right.

On the other hand, maybe they're hoping to time their announcement with a "Prosser wins!" announcement, holding on to their news on the chance that Kloppenburg won't ask for a recount today. Given the state of the race before Walker's moves energized it, a Prosser victory would be embarrassingly slim, but a win is a win and the perception of momentum can sometimes become momentum. If this scenario is the case, expect to see a lot of "the tide is turning" talk, no matter how manufactured this turning of the tide may be.

If there's one thing we can count on, it's that the press will always allow Republicans to set the narrative -- either nationally or at the state level. If they say, "the tide is turning in Wisconsin!" then the media will ask, "Is the tide turning in Wisconsin?"

Bet on it.


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