Wisconsin recall is real

For weeks, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) claimed his push to cripple his state’s public unions was motivated solely by a need to balance the budget. Last week, he tacitly admitted his lies by passing his ban on collective bargaining using a legislative procedure specifically applicable only to non-budgetary items.

While Walker won the battle, he’s about to lose the war. 


Wisconsin Democrats are channeling a wave of popular (and populist) outrage into an effort to recall the eight Republican state senators eligible for recall. If Democrats flip just three seats, the Senate is theirs. 

The petition drives are certainly going well. The Wisconsin Democratic Party announced Monday that in just two weeks, it had collected 45 percent of the signatures required to force the recall election in those eight Republican districts. Democrats have eight weeks to gather the necessary signatures.

Assuming they get those signatures, Democratic chances look great. Daily Kos had Public Policy Polling take a look at all eight Republican-held state Senate districts in question, and the numbers are extremely encouraging. 

Republican incumbents look dominant in just two of the districts — the 20th (southeastern Wisconsin) and 28th (southwestern Milwaukee suburbs). No surprises there. Those are the first and third reddest districts in the entire state, respectively. 

No surprise either in the 32nd (southeastern Wisconsin, straddling the Minnesota and Iowa borders), the state’s bluest district to be held by a Republican. Incumbent Dan Kapanke faces a 55-41 deficit against a Democratic challenger. President Obama won the district 61-38.

In the 18th (Oshkosh, Fond du Lac and surroundings), Republican incumbent Randy Hopper faces a 44-49 deficit against a generic Democrat. Polling by SurveyUSA last week paints an even direr picture for Hopper — trailing 43-54. Petition canvassers in the district claim that his estranged wife and maid signed the recall petition. Whether those rumors are true or not, it’s clear that this is the second best pickup opportunity for Democrats in this recall effort. They need just one more.

In the 14th (central Wisconsin, Marquette), Republican Luther Olsen will be fighting for his political life, trailing a generic Democrat 49-47. Obama won the district 52-47. 

In two more districts, Republicans lead narrowly, but are under 50 percent: In the 10th (St. Croix, northwestern Wisconsin), Sheila Harsdorf holds a 48-44 lead, while in the 2nd (northeastern Wisconsin, outside Green Bay), Rob Cowles holds a mere 45-43 lead. Obama won both districts narrowly.

Finally, Democrats are within striking range in the 8th (Milwaukee’s northern suburbs), where incumbent Republican Alberta Darling holds a single-digit lead — 52-44.

So, if you weren’t keeping score, Democrats have a fighting chance or better in six districts. They only need three.

Republicans claim they are collecting signatures against the eight Democratic state senators also eligible for recall, but they refuse to divulge numbers. Their task is certainly tougher — Obama won all eight of these Democratic-held districts easily, seven of them by double digits. But hopefully Republicans get the signatures. Let this be a good old-fashioned debate over real policy issues, and let the voters sort it out. 

As for Walker, state law requires an elected official to have served one year before being recalled, which means the governor has a reprieve until January 2012. But it’s pretty clear he’ll get his turn.

And it will be fitting, because Walker has done more to activate Democrats than anyone since George W. Bush scurried back to Texas.

Moulitsas is the founder of Daily Kos and author of American Taliban: How War, Sex, Sin and Power Bind Jihadists and the Radical Right.