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Progressive Politics in Minnesota, the Nation, and the World

Analyzing the Recall Election

Category: Scott Walker
Posted: 06/06/12 18:22

by Dave Mindeman

Having gone over everything I could about the Wisconsin recall election, I have some conclusions I'd like to discuss:

1) Voters Rejected the Idea of the Recall Itself.

I alluded to the idea that voters did not like the recall in a post on May 26th, but it looks like it might have been a bigger factor than I thought. It certainly doesn't explain the loss itself, but it benefitted Walker. Another advantage to the type of money that Walker had backing him was that multiple messages could be reenforced. The perfect thing for outside money to do for Walker was to spread the word that recalls should only be used for criminal behavior...and that message resonated.

From E.J. Dione at the Washington Post:

Perhaps the most significant exit poll finding was this one: Only about a quarter of those who went to the polls on Tuesday said that a recall was appropriate for any reason. Roughly six in 10 said a recall should be used only in the case of official misconduct. And another tenth thought a recall was never appropriate. Most voters, in other words, rejected the very premise of the election in which they were casting ballots. This proved to be a hurdle too high for Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, Walker's opponent.

2) Democrats regain Senate but it is a hollow victory.

Some progressives have taken some solace in the fact that one of the Republican Senators was defeated in the recall elections and that gives the Democrats control of the State Senate. Although this is significant generally, it doesn't really have any political significance. The Wisconsin legislature is part time like Minnesota's and they are out of session till next year. Only a call for a special session by Walker or the head of the state House could bring them back...and you know that is not going to happen.

In addition, the Republican controlled legislature drew the maps for redistricting during the regular session and that means that retaining control of the Senate for next year will be a tall order. If they can manage that, then they will be able to temper Walker's initiatives. But that is unlikely.

3) Republicans will, as usual, overplay their hand.

The exit polling from the recall indicated that the record electorate turnout favored Obama as much as Walker. This is a definite plus factor for Democrats overall. It gives more weight to the idea that more voters were unhappy with the idea of perpertual elections rather than any particular love of Scott Walker. Still, if Obama has some measure of popularity in Wisconsin, where the heck was he? He was in Chicago and the Twin Cities during the campaign and refused to set foot in the Badger State. Democrats are asking why?

Still, the GOP is crowing a little too much about this victory....and although it is certainly a huge win, there are too many other factors for them to extrapolate too far with this. The main concern is that other GOP governors may be emboldened to mimic the Walker method. They may do so at their peril because we already have the Ohio referendum to point to if the issue is strictly about collective bargaining.

4) No matter how we analyze it, this hurts labor.

It would seem that the public can be persuaded that union benefits, that have been fairly bargained for, are excessive. It is hard for people with little job security and declining wages to sympathize with unions and their collective bargaining rights. People have forgotten how hard it has been for unions to make it this far. Non-union voters have little personal experience to draw on and seem to be willing to be convinced that the union's hard earned rights to bargain are unfair to the taxpayer.

Walker played it to perfection. With expensive multiple messaging and manipulation of jobs data, he was able to put unions on the defensive from the beginning.

I, for one, do not see this as a mistake by unions. They absolutely had to stand on principle. Funny how Republicans are told to admire principled stands, but Democrats look at it as a mistake.


This was a hard loss to take. No question. But it is time to regroup. Bind the wounds and fight on. We will learn from this and we will continue.

Walker can have his day....but there are other days to come.

comments (1) permalink

Walker's Money Wins - Never Let Unions Stand Alone Again

Category: Scott Walker
Posted: 06/06/12 00:02

by Dave Mindeman

Scott Walker won. We lost.

If there is a lesson to be learned here it is that we are kidding ourselves if we think that there is any way to beat big money in a campaign.

And what that really means is that power in this country can be bought. Bought by a few members of the wealthy class. American style democracy is challenged to its core.

Another lesson to be learned is that unions should not have to stand alone in these fights. Walker employed a strategy that divided unions from each other. He also used his money to define unions his way. And made them his main opponent.

Exit polls showed that the electorate that was voting today in Wisconsin would have given President Obama a victory. That same electorate voted against union grievances. An overwhelming number of non-union households voted for Scott Walker.

Unions cannot stand alone. The national Democrats tried to finesse their way through this again. They claim it is not a "national" referendum. Sorry, dudes, but it was. The Republicans made it that way and for a purpose. The GOP plans to make Wisconsin a template for other places and with 2/3rds of the States run by Republican Governors, it might just work.

Unions cannot stand alone. For far too long we have allowed Republicans to use their superior finances to define what unions are. They tell the electorate that THEY are the reason for budgets that don't balance. THEY are the reason our taxes are so high. And since the GOP uses that excuse to cut taxes for the wealthy, it works. It gives them permission to never use taxes to pay for anything.

Unions cannot stand alone. In hard economic times it seems we have forgotten that unions maintain middle class wages. Unions have been the forerunners of every benefit that has become standard contract. Unions are the only thing standing in the way of business making cheap labor to be all labor. No wonder incomes are in decline. No wonder business profits are way up. The balance keeps getting tipped one way....and the corporate world is willing to buy whatever politician it takes to keep it moving in that direction.

You have to wonder if this is what our future looks like. American Crossroads, Americans for Prosperity, Restore Our Future.....are these our new corporate masters? Are they going to determine how we should think? how we should vote?

At this moment it is hard to see how that can be stopped. But one thing is certainly evident -- unions must not stand alone ever again.

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Walker Still Ahead...But....

Category: Scott Walker
Posted: 06/04/12 10:32

by Dave Mindeman

Well, PPP put out its final poll before the Recall election. Scott Walker is still ahead but I'll give you the Public Policy Polling analysis....

PPP's final poll on the Wisconsin recall finds Scott Walker ahead, but also a race that's tightening. Walker leads Tom Barrett 50-47. That's down from 50-45 on a PPP poll conducted three weeks ago and it's also down from a 52-45 lead that Walker posted in a Marquette Law poll released last week.

Barrett is actually winning independent voters by a 48-46 margin. The reason he continues to trail overall is that Republicans are more excited about voting in Tuesday's election than Democrats are. Our projected electorate voted for Barack Obama by only 7 points, even though he took the state by 14 in 2008. If the folks who turn out on Tuesday actually matched the 2008 electorate, Barrett would be ahead of Walker by a 50-49 margin. It's cliche but this is a race that really is going to completely come down to turnout.
Walker has a 51/47 approval rating. He's up with men (55-42), whites (52-46), seniors (58-39), and especially voters in the Milwaukee suburbs (70/29).

Barrett has a 46/46 favorability rating, improved from 43/46 on our first poll after the primary. He's winning with women (52/46), minorities (58-36), young voters (53-39), those in Milwaukee County (61-35), and ones in greater Madison (59-37).

This is a close race, closer than it was a couple weeks ago. Scott Walker's still the favorite but Barrett's prospects for an upset look better than they have in a long time.

C'mon Wisconsin Democrats....you can do this!
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