|With the way the Democrats have squandered this opportunity, I'm afraid that Wisconsin has to get ready for at least two |
more years of this narcissistic joker and his obnoxious, nasally voice.
The decision of the Democratic National Committee not to provide financial support to the Wisconsin gubernatorial recall campaign might be defensible if none of the following were true:
- Wisconsin is a classic swing state whose elections can almost always go either way;
- This race is a chance to deal a decisive blow to the poisonous, extreme ideological bent that the GOP has adapted at the hands of the Tea Party and its supporters;
- It's also a chance to remove a toxic politician from office whose worldview, personality, and style of governance has been deeply destructive to his state;
- For better or for worse, it has national implications and will help set the tone for state and federal races for the remainder of the 2012 campaign season; and
- The Republican National Committee is throwing money at this contest as though they have nowhere else to spend it.
I'll be the first to argue that the June 5 election won't mean nearly as much on a national level as political pundits have already claimed — that it's a referendum on public workers' unions (Ohio weighed in on this issue very clearly last November, but that's already ancient history), or that a Walker victory would translate to a repudiation of Obama's presidency and Democratic policies. Hogwash. It's nonsense to predict doom for national Democrats just because Wisconsin decides to retain its incumbent governor (incumbents, by default, have an advantage) who has outraised his opponent 25-to-1 so far, has owned the airwaves, and enjoys the support of donors with very deep pockets all across the country.
None of that matters. Like I said in my critique of polls last month, it's all about setting the narrative. A newsworthy poll, accurate or not, can be used to galvanize one side and sap morale from another. So can an election. If Walker wins, Republicans will use the victory to loudly proclaim that "the people are on our side." Their base will be excited, and independent voters will take notice. Democrats can't afford to give the GOP such a messaging advantage in a contentious election year. But they are.
Speaking of polls, let's take a look at what's come out of Wisconsin recently. One poll by itself doesn't mean much. But several taken by different pollsters over time can paint a fairly accurate picture — and they all point to a Walker victory of between 4 and 9 points. Wisconsin is so deeply divided now that those numbers aren't likely to move much in the next three weeks. But that doesn't mean that they can't. The fact that Wisconsin is a swing state suggests that voters there aren't as rabidly partisan as they are in many other places — and it's still possible to win over some of them, which the DNC could do if they took this contest seriously. But they aren't, and because of that, Walker's lead isn't likely to move at all — at least not in the right direction.
|These guys have a lot in common. And I'm not referring to the friendly|
rivalry between the Badger State and the Land of Lincoln.
Remember the prank call last year from Ian Murphy, posing as billionaire David Koch? That tells you all you need to know about Scott Walker in his candid, unfiltered state. All of the aforementioned characteristics are on full display during the 20-minute recorded phone call (which, by the way, is chock full of juicy sound bites for great attack ads against Walker, most of which probably have never been used). This is not the type of person who should be the chief executive of a state. My native Illinois eventually had the sense to recognize that; Wisconsin could, too, if Democrats would only step up to the plate. So far, they haven't, and at this point, it's probably too late.
Walker is being challenged in the recall race by the same guy who ran against him in 2010 — Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett. The guy doesn't have a sterling reputation among voters in Wisconsin — and because he ran for the same office just two years ago, he doesn't represent fresh blood, which is probably at least in part why the public is ambivalent about him. Among Democrats, the only politician who had a good shot of ousting Walker from the outset is former Sen. Russ Feingold, who sadly decided long ago that he wouldn't run. (Side note: Speaking of narratives, what sort of political storyline would be set for 2012 if Feingold, an outspoken progressive, defeated Walker, a Tea Party darling? Just the thought of it sends pleasant chills down my spine. If only. If only.)
There are less than three weeks left until the election. At this point, the writing appears to be on the wall — particularly with the news that the Democratic Party has, in essence, already waved a white flag on this battle. (They're prone to do that, as I've discussed before.) If we wake up on the morning of June 6 and Wisconsin has a new governor, you can call me a hopeless pessimist. In that context, I'd be happy to own such a title. Unfortunately, I doubt it'll happen.