Election Day: Polls open at 7 a.m.; spin rooms at 9 p.m.
It’s been like six months of Christmas for political junkies in the Badger State, punctuated by tens of millions of dollars of holiday spending leading up to a half dozen recall elections of GOP senators today. In watching all of this very carefully throughout, a few things seem self-evident.
There’s a distinct absence of enthusiasm on the part of the Republicans. They were dragged into these contests and they prepared for them poorly. They may have picked up a few weeks to ram their outrageous redistricting plan through with their “fake Democrats” strategy in the primaries, but it was a bungle on the PR side that may still be paying for next year (reshuffled deck and all.)
We watched the Tea Party Express roll into Merrill Sunday to a crowd of less than 100 people. Last night, a couple of thousand gathered in Madison for MSNBC’s “The Ed Show.” Merrill isn’t Madison, but the “Wisconsin 14” – the Democratic senators who left the state to provide time for citizens to digest Walker’s union-busting legislation — are rock stars. Nine of them showed up in Madison for The Ed Show, while the Republican senators up for recall are simply hanging on for dear life in districts that most of them won fairly easily in their last general elections. They are not making high-profile public appearances with relatively freshly elected Gov. Scott Walker.
The far right is having a hard time making the transition from being screaming outsiders to having their people actually in power in Wisconsin. It shows. Despite that…
There seems to be insufficient recognition of just how difficult the task before the Democrats really is. Simply put, they are the visiting team. Every single race today will be held in a GOP district with an incumbent that survived a Democratic wave in 2008. ANY wins in these six districts will be upsets. The odds have been shortened by a lot of hard work by thousands of energized volunteers, but they are still mostly long odds in most of the races. For this reason…
Republican “wins” tonight can’t really be considered a vindication for Gov. Walker and the Fitzgerald brothers. They’re playing defense and they’re not really in a position to score points. On the contrary, they’ve been required to run costly races in a year when they shouldn’t have had any at all. Each and every one of their candidates has another general election in less than 15 months, without whatever political cover is provided by being subjected to a race in the midst of their duly elected terms of office.
My call (and I’ve been wrong before): I think the most likely outcome tonight is for the Democrats to pick up two seats. If they outperform and pick up the three required to flip the Senate majority, I do not believe that the GOP can expect any help from next week’s recall elections for Democratic Senators Bob Wirch and Jim Holperin, who will both hang on to their seats. If the Republicans only lose Kapanke’s seat, they may be able to consider their money well spent in this historic off-year cycle, but it doesn’t necessarily bode well for 2012.