• WisPolitics

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

 5:04 PM 

Post-election WisPolitics Stock Report

--A collection of insider opinion--
(Nov. 5, 2008)


Wisconsin Democrats: Barack Obama posts a resounding double-digit victory over John McCain, the biggest for a presidential contended in the Badger State since 1964, and helps Dems control both houses of the Legislature for the first time since 1986. The win thrills Democrats and extends Republicans' losing streak here to six straight prez elections. Gov. Jim Doyle has good ties to the Obama administration, which could help the state in tough times if he doesn't leave for a top D.C. job (Dems increasingly claim a D.C. move now appears unlikelybut Doyle isn't ruling it out). Although a Dem Legislature could throw him items too liberal for his tastes, having his party in control is viewed as a net plus by insiders as he fills a multi-billion-dollar budget hole. But now, Dems have nobody to blame if things go wrong, Republicans point out. Some also wonder whether Dems should have picked up even more seats considering the favorable environment this fall, noting they couldn't knock off Sen. Dan Kapanke of La Crosse in the heavily Dem 32nd.

WEAC: As WMC's activism appears to cool under outside pressure, WEAC's aggressiveness appears to rise. The state's largest teachers' union poured more than $2 million into legislative races through mid-October and gets the Dem majority it wanted in the Legislature. Of the five seats WEAC targeted, Dems won three. WEAC is credited with saving Whitewater-area Dem Rep. Kim Hixson and other vulnerables. Insiders believe WEAC, which bankrolled many negative ads, outspent WMC, which went all positive this fall. Conservatives are glum, thinking that the QEO is gone, combined reporting is in and issue ads are on the bubble.

Dem groups: After years of complaining they'd been out-organized by Republicans, liberals seem to have their own three-headed monster these days to boost Dem candidates. One Wisconsin Now works the message angle, Advancing Wisconsin focuses on GOTV, and the Greater Wisconsin Committee does the ads. Their finger prints can be seen all over the Assembly seats that Dems picked up, insiders say. GWC ran TV ads going after GOP Rep. J.A. "Doc Hines, who ended up getting just 42 percent of the vote in the Dells area's 42nd District, while OWN was all over Republican Jo Egelhoff in Appleton's open 57th, which Dem Penny Bernard Schaber won. Advancing Wisconsin's independent expenditure reports show it was active in just about every legislative race that ended up being competitive. The group was out canvassing in just about all the races that ended up being in play, and some credit it for making South Milwaukee GOP Rep. Mark Honadel a near-casualty Tuesday after few put the Republican's re-election campaign on the watch list.

Mark Pocan: Pundits from both sides are giving kudos to the state rep from Madison who led the Democratic Assembly campaign efforts. Pocan is credited with coordinating the effort while staying out of the speakership battle. Now his likely reward? Being co-chair of the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee as the state wrestles with a budget hole of more than $3 billion.

Jeff Wood: He's targeted by Republicans for being a turncoat, but the Bloomer leggie squeaks out a win and appears likely to come back to Madison as the only official independent in the Legislature. That's barring a change in the winner under an expected recount.


Coalition for America's Families: The conservative issue group wins a key First Amendment ruling, but its efforts to stem the Dem tide fall short. CFAF even gets a boost from the ACLU for its efforts to overturn a Jackson Co. judge's surprise ban on an ad ripping a Dem candidate seeking to succeed retiring GOP Rep. Terry Musser; a state appeals court cleared the way for the spot to begin running again. But in the end, the Dem candidate wins the Black River Falls area seat. CFAF gets credit from insiders, however, for helping Republican Keith Ripp to a narrow victory in the old Eugene Hahn seat and GOP Rep. John Murtha to re-election over Chris Buckel in northwestern Wisconsin.

Scott Walker: The Milwaukee Co. exec and likely GOP guv candidate, despite starring in Club for Growth radio spots, sees county residents narrowly approve an advisory referendum on a county sales tax boost. Critics call it a defeat for Walker. Walker says no, contending voters were confused and that the language was misleading. But one Dem strategist says through the CFG ads "Walker was speaking alone in a vacuum and still could not carry the day. If voters were confused, doesn't that fall at Walker's feet?" Counters Walker, "The total number of votes against the sales tax referendum was 176,783 (49 percent). In 2006, Mark Green got 118,949 votes in Milwaukee County. If a Republican received 49 percent of the vote in Milwaukee County as part of an election for statewide office, that Republican would win the statewide race. Despite the slanted language of the question, 49 percent of the voters in Milwaukee County agreed with my position." To critics, it's pure spin, but it may also be too local of an issue to resonate statewide.

Health care reform: Most candidates targeted for their nice words about the universal health care plan Healthy Wisconsin survive attack ads that had them on the side of giveaways to illegal immigrants. And advisory ballot measures around the state advocating affordable health care appear to gain big majorities, according to a count by sponsoring Citizen Action. Could it mean a push for more state health care reform in a new session? Insiders generally expect Dems to feel pressured to produce some kind of health care plan in the next session. And some Republicans lament they might have had a better showing if they could have produced a coherent health care plan other than just tearing down Healthy Wisconsin. But Republicans also contend Dems have been running away from the plan as quickly as they can. Some observers now doubt the package will make its way to the guv's desk considering the beating some candidates took over it. One conservative strategist goes as far to call it dead.

Voter turnout: Election officials predicted the possibility that a record 3.2 million voters may go to the polls on Election Day this fall, spurred by the heated contested for president and the recession. But turnout may end up being just short of the almost 3 million voters who turned out four years ago. Some suggest a steady stream of polls in Wisconsin showing Barack Obama up by double digits depressed GOP turnout as some Republicans simply stayed home.

Voter-approved tax increases: Referenda to increase taxes had another mixed day at the polls. Voters in Milwaukee County narrowly approved a nonbinding referendum backing a boost in the sales tax to pay for parks and other government expenses. They also gave the OK to $119 million in new school spending. But they rejected $191 million requested by state schools for various costs, including most of the major requests. Voters in Watertown shot down one school referendum for $3.9 million but approved another for $22.4 million, the biggest request to win approval Tuesday.


Wisconsin Republicans: Wisconsin went from swing state to vivid blue Tuesday, leaving Republican AG J.B. Van Hollen as the lone statewide elected Republican. Not only will they be in the wilderness in the statehouse, but also in D.C. Insiders say a major rebuilding effort will have to be undertaken with landslide victor U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Janesville, a leading theoretician. Ryan tells Milwaukee talk radio it's time for new people to step in and the reform wing of the party to step up, "It's time for reformers to kick out the deadwood." Republicans also are now looking at their guv chances in 2010, hoping Gov. Jim Doyle will opt for the Obama administration instead of a re-election bid, leaving in charge Barb Lawton -- somebody they view as too liberal to get elected statewide. Some influential Republicans remain wary of granting Walker a quick nod, instead musing about Van Hollen, former GOP state chair and ambassador to the Czech Republic Rick Graber and even Tommy Thompson to lead back the party. That task will be a lot tougher if Doyle stays to run for re-election, insiders say. On the Assembly front, the circle firing squad has already begun with conservatives complaining the caucus lost its way and moderates complaining Republicans didn't try to make the tent big enough. Both factions seem headed for an uneasy two years in the next session. A battle also seems to be forming about whether the losses were the state party's fault or part of a trend in which state elections have become nationalized. The critics contend the party lacked a consistent message this fall, while others contend there wasn't anything they could really do with the national headwinds blowing hard across Wisconsin.

John Gard: The former GOP Assembly speaker loses his rematch with Appleton allergist Steve Kagen, and most insiders say it's likely to end his political career. Gard indicates in his concession speech that he's not sure if he'll ever taken on another political run, and many Republicans lament that Gard should have waited until 2010 to run, thinking that the pendulum will swing back toward Republicans in the non-presidential year. Others have been pessimistic about Gard's shot in the re-match all along, pointing out his negatives were just too high with a personality that grates some the wrong way and a bombastic campaign two years ago that turned off too many voters.

GOP legislative incumbents: Three of them -- Reps. Frank Lasee of Bellevue, Terry Moulton of Chippewa Falls, and J.A. "Doc" Hines of Oxford -- go down to defeat Tuesday. Those that are left will be deep in the minority in both the Senate and the Assembly and observers to a lot of infighting. On the Assembly front, the circle firing squad has already begun with conservatives complaining the caucus lost its way and moderates complaining Republicans didn't try to make the tent big enough. Speaker Mike Huebsch confirms the obvious and says he won't be running for minority leader -- another sign caucus factions seem headed for an uneasy two years in the next session. Among the possible new leaders, insiders say, are Reps. Jeff Fitzgerald and Leah Vukmir. A battle also seems to be forming about whether the losses were the state party's fault or part of a trend in which state elections have become nationalized. The critics contend the party lacked a consistent message this fall, while others contend there wasn't anything they could really do with the national headwinds blowing hard across Wisconsin.


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