Who really won Wisconsin recall elections?

After record-breaking electoral spending, efforts to recall six Wisconsin state senators resulted in unseating only two. While Democrats claim a moral victory, Republicans see wasted effort.

Adam Jungwirth / Oshkosh Northwestern / AP
A rainbow is seen over the site of Jessica King's post-election rally, Becket's Restaurant in Oshkosh, Wisc., just moments before the polls closed in her recall election against Senator Randy Hopper on Tuesday, Aug. 9.

Republicans have narrowly won the great recall battle of Wisconsin.

In an unprecedented series of recall elections on Tuesday, Democrats took two Wisconsin state Senate seats. That’s one short of the Democratic goal of three, which would have allowed the party to gain majority control of the chamber.

Across the country, GOP adherents celebrated the win as a triumph for Gov. Scott Walker and his effort to take collective bargaining rights away from most public-sector unions.

Governor Walker’s anti-collective bargaining proposal sparked a firestorm which drew national attention earlier this year. Democratic lawmakers fled the state to prevent a vote on the legislation, but Republicans eventually used a procedural maneuver to ensure its passage.

The recall elections grew out of union and Democratic anger at this move. But for now at least, there is to be no political revenge.

“You’ve earned this, Wisconsin Democrats. Tonight’s results cost you twenty million, and you didn’t reach your primary objective. Enjoy,” said the conservative blog RedState on Tuesday evening.

Gov. Walker himself was more measured.

“In the days ahead I look forward to working with legislators of all parties to grow jobs for Wisconsin and move our state forward,” he said in a prepared statement.

Four GOP state senators held on to their seats on Tuesday. They were Sens. Luther Olsen of Ripon, Sheila Harsdorf of River Falls, Rob Cowles of Allouez, and Alberta Dowling of River Hills.

Republican state Sens. Randy Hopper of Fond du Lac and Dan Kapanke of La Crosse were defeated by Democratic challengers.

Democrats still plan to move ahead with an effort to recall Walker himself. That can’t start until November, under state law. Democrats said that at the least they had begun to take the fight to the other side.

“The fact of the matter remains that, fighting on Republican turf, we have begun the work of stopping the Scott Walker agenda,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate.

National Democratic partisans struck a similar tone, with Markos Moulitsas saying in his Daily Kos blog that “if tonight was a loss, I hope we have many more such ‘losses’ in 2012.”

Democrats won 33 percent of GOP-held seats in the recalls. If they win a similar percentage of GOP seats in the 2012 elections, “Speaker Nancy Pelosi will have a huge majority in 2013,” said Moulitsas.

“So yeah, I feel strangely energized and elated,” he wrote.

Wisconsin could be a pivotal state in the 2012 vote. President Obama won there in 2008 with 56 percent of ballots cast, but George W. Bush nearly took it in 2004, losing by only 11,000 votes out of three million cast.

Democratic US Sen. Herb Kohl is retiring, meaning that there will be an open Senate seat to contest in Wisconsin, as well. That race is currently rated by many political prognosticators as a toss-up between the parties.

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