What The Wisconsin Recalls Really Told Us

Living in Wisconsin for the past 7 months has been excruciating regardless of your political persuasion.  Both sides have been throwing bombs at each other and neither side has shown has shown a propensity to reach across the divide and begin to cure what ails us all.  After today’s elections in two Senate districts we will finally be done with recall phase of this quagmire (for now) and it would seem to be good time to really see what we learned so far.

Last Tuesday 6 Republican State Senators faced the fight of their political lives.  Union money was pouring into their districts at an alarming rate as were bus loads of out-of-state and in state volunteers.  When all of the dust settled the Democrats won back two seats, which helped their moral, but didn’t flip the control of the State Senate.  The Left lauded this a great victory for them and an indictment on the Walker Administration, but further research shows this to only be partly the case.  One of the two seats they won back was a firm Democratic seat to begin with, President Obama garnered 61% of the vote their in 2008.  That isn’t gaining a seat based on Walker backlash, it is gaining a seat they should have already of had.  The second seat is bit trickier to explain,  There the incumbent Republican found himself in a bit of a personal mess.  For some reason politicians from both sides of the aisle have an issue with keeping their pants on around the ladies.  To make a long story short, he lost by a mere 1,200 votes in a district he only won by 150 votes in 2008.  He performed that well despite being the number 2 target of the Democrats and having his ex-wife running around the district campaigning against him.  That hardly sounds like indictment of Walker, it sounds more like a script for a new reality show.

Let us now examine the four Senators that survived the recalls.  Two of them won quite handily and actually increased their winning margins from past elections.  The Democrats were able to put a serious scare into Senator Olsen, who is by the way, considered one of the more moderate members of the Senate.  In my opinion the close loss in this traditionally GOP district was the high point of their night.  It is the one district where you can see that Governor Walker’s policies affected the electorate.  Though he hung on, I suggest Senator Olsen sharpen up his campaigning skills as I am sure he will be a marked man in 2012.  The Fourth recalled GOP Senator who survived recall was Alberta Darling.   Darling was the Democrats number one target.  She was going to be their crown jewel of the recall campaign and the poster child for anybody who dared to take on the unions.  They spent millions and I mean millions in trying to defeat her.  If you were a left leaning group with an acronym you were working against Darling in her district.  The one thing the Democrats forgot was that Darling is made of political teflon.  They have been trying to knock her out of office for over 20 years and have had no success.  Not only did Senator Darling win, she actually increased her winning margin by 5 times over her margin in 2008.

Of course losing 2 seats does come with some consequences.  If the polls hold true today and the Democrats protect both of their recalled seats the GOP will have the majority by the slightest of margins.  Currently the Democrats are trying to woo GOP Senator Dave Schultz to switch parties, but that appears to be a liberal pipe dream, as Schultz is a mushy moderate, but his district would most certainly vote him out during the next election cycle if he switched parties.  Senator Schultz will present a few problem for the Walker agenda, particularly in trying to expand school choice across the state,  but he should stay in line on most issues.  Governor Walker will also now be forced to govern more from the center as he will need all of his allies on board with anything he is attempting to get through.  While that is problematic, the fact is most of Governor Walker’s most controversial agenda has already been signed into law, so governing from the center moving forward isn’t the end of the world.  There will be more battles to win in the future, including a potential Walker Recall (I would put the odds of that happening at about 10% since the unions have already spent their money on the Senate recalls) and of course the elections of 2012 when the rest of Wisconsin gets their say about the Walker agenda, but as of right now conservatism is alive and well in Wisconsin.

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