Wisconsin Dems plot recall strategy for '12

Tate said collecting signatures could start next winter, but wouldn't proceed in earnest until spring ushers in warmer weather.

The party's goal, he said, would be to have Walker on the ballot in November 2012. "That's our best option for winning," he said.

Moreover, Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wis.) budget proposal has reinvigorated Democrats, who plan to target his relatively safe district in 2012. "The biggest gifts we've had are Scott Walker and Paul Ryan," said Tate.

Meanwhile, Democrats will also have to channel their bench of candidates into the right campaigns.

Reps. Ron Kind and Tammy Baldwin have indicated they're interested in pursuing Kohl's seat. Both attended the state party's convention last weekend, where Baldwin said she would make a decision by mid-July.

Baldwin said she's talked to former Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), who is mulling a comeback, about her deliberations.

"Russ Feingold is sophisticated about politics," Baldwin told WisPolitics.com. "He understands that Democratic candidates who don’t enjoy statewide name recognition and a statewide base have to get started right away."

Tate said he expected Feingold to clear a Senate primary field, but the former lawmaker has set Labor Day as his deadline for decision. Should Baldwin enter the race, she'd be unlikely to abandon the field to accommodate her fellow Democrat.

Kind hinted he could be looking at challenging Walker instead of running for Senate. His speech to convention delegates in Milwaukee contained several barbs aimed at the Republican.

He said the governor led a "cold, calculated attack" against workers' rights.

"We cannot tolerate it," Kind said, according to reports. "We must draw the line."

Former Rep. Steve Kagen (D), who lost to GOP Rep. Reid Ribble last year, is clearly angling toward a Senate run.

He gave a speech at the party's convention last Friday, where he outlined what should be expected from Kohl's successor. Citing his opposition to torture and the lack of approval from Congress, Kagen's words seemed aimed at the liberal-wing of the party — Feingold's base. "The next senator must stand up for the War Powers Act and rein in any president who goes to war without a vote from Congress," Kagen said.

Feingold attended the convention but didn't give a speech. His intentions are the big question in Wisconsin politics, although he has shown he's willing to be a team player.

His group, Progressives United, has been raising money for the nine Democrats running in the recall elections.