Democrats win in latest Wisconsin recall. Is state a little less red now?
Two Democratic state senators kept their seats in Tuesday's Wisconsin recall election. Republicans still hold the legislature, but less comfortably. They are now more likely to tailor policy to independent voters, say analysts.
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That next recall target is decided: Walker. Mr. Tate and other Democratic leaders have already said they plan to begin efforts this summer to remove Walker from office when he becomes eligible for recall in 2012.Skip to next paragraph
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However, the public’s appetite is small for another recall election of a state official, even though Walker has lost some support.
Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh, N.C., polling firm that often works for Democrats, reported Monday that 50 percent of Wisconsin voters oppose recalling Walker, with 47 percent in favor. The findings reverse those in May, when 47 percent of voters opposed a Walker recall and 50 percent were in support.
Because Walker’s approval ratings have been sliding, the growing opposition to his recall probably has more to do with voter fatigue about the process itself.
Some 53 percent of voters disapprove of Walker’s performance. If a recall election were to take place between the current governor and former US Sen. Russ Feingold (D), Mr. Feingold would be the preferred choice for 52 percent of voters, compared with 45 percent who would vote to keep Walker in office.
In a statement, Public Policy Polling Dean Debnam said “a Scott Walker recall is still in the realm of possibility,” but added that “Democrats really might need Russ Feingold to run if they want to knock” Walker off the ballot.
Walker may survive a recall if he tailors more bipartisan issues, like job creation, to independent voters. “It will be nearly impossible [for Walker] to win Democratic voters back, but independent voters currently leaning against him probably could be convinced to come back to his side if the next six months are less divisive than the last seven months,” says Charles Franklin, a political scientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.
The Republican whom Democrats are expected to cajole and not criticize is state Sen. Dale Schultz, considered the single moderate in his party. Senator Schultz was the only Senate Republican to vote against Walker’s “budget repair bill,” and many Democrats have suggested that his vote is so valuable that he is first in line for any back-room negotiations that may take place once the Senate reconvenes this fall.
Time will tell whether Schultz ultimately serves as a lynchpin for more bipartisanship in the Senate, says Mr. Franklin. He will be sought after by Republicans, too, for potentially persuading moderate Democrats to vote for bills pushed forward by his own party.
“He’s certainly getting a lot of love and attention from a lot of people. Whether or not he’ll fulfill the role Democrats want him to fulfill” is less certain, Franklin says.
In Wisconsin, voters are about evenly divided among Democrats, Republicans, and independents. “All evidence says [Wisconsin] is still a purple state,” says Franklin, which means it is likely to be among the swing states that decide the national election in 2012. “The underlying complexity of the electorate remains fairly closely divided,” he says. With so much hanging on Wisconsin next year, “a cliffhanger is the most likely outcome.”