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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

 5:08 PM 

WisPolitics.com Post-recall Stock Report

WISPOLITICS.COM POST-RECALL STOCK REPORT
(June 6, 2012)

Rising

Scott Walker: The guv registers a resounding victory in beating a recall attempt that became a national obsession, cementing his status as a rising GOP star. National conservative pundits fall over themselves to heap praise on Walker for having the courage to challenge the power of public employee unions and then thumping them when they sought retribution in the recall by a 53 percent-to-46 percent margin, slightly bigger than 2010. Dems, meanwhile, are left to wonder what happened after boosting a coalition with the energy to collect more than 900,000 recall signatures. The base didn't grow much after that. Aided by a huge financial advantage, Walker exceeds his 2010 totals in many parts of the state, particularly western Wisconsin, which is normally decent Dem territory, and places like Ozaukee, Washington and Waukesha counties, which are largely seen as key indicators of GOP intensity. Add in Walker’s 60 percent in Brown County, a shock to even some Republicans, and months of campaigning comes to a quick resolution on election night. Walker tries to quickly pivot from campaigner back to guv, promising to work on job creation and to unite the state after a tumultuous 16 months. During his victory speech, he chides supporters who boo Tom Barrett’s name, telling them it’s time to move on and work together. The consensus is it will likely take time to heal. But Walker says he’s already spoken with Dem leggie leaders Peter Barca and Mark Miller and suggests a brat-and-beer summit at the residence in an attempt to move on. Walker’s performance prompts some national pundits to mention him as a possible VP candidate. But Wisconsin insiders largely downplay that talk; people such as Florida's Marco Rubio, for example, could bring much more to the ticket, the say. What’s more, there’s the John Doe still hanging in the background. It may not have torpedoed Walker’s election hopes, but there still remains the possibility that it could seriously damage his political career, if not outright end it, some say. Still, barring John Doe trouble, some already see Walker as a heavy favorite for re-election in 2014, saying his national fundraising base will make him a formidable candidate for any challengers. Lost in the craziness that has been the recall is the state’s lackluster job growth. Walker touted more than 30,000 new jobs over and over in the final weeks of the campaign. But even some Republicans acknowledge that’s not exactly great growth, especially compared to the rest of the country and with a 250,000-new-jobs promise unfulfilled. Still, some expect a flurry of jobs now that the recalls are out of the way, saying businesses have been stockpiling money waiting for more certainty. If those companies feel some stability coming, the floodgates could open. But even if Walker falls short by the end of this term, the guv can point to the recalls as an impediment to those efforts. Also aiding Walker is Dems' disarray. Dems don’t have an immediate candidate who could really step in to lead the party, some say. Some see the possibility of bigger things for Walker beyond 2014, too. Walker’s national fundraising network, his performance in a purple state like Wisconsin and his rock star status in conservative circles could all combine to put him firmly in the 2016 prez conversation if Mitt Romney comes up short this fall, some say.

John Lehman: GOP opponent Van Wanggaard isn’t conceding just yet. But even some Republicans say it looks like the former Dem senator has reclaimed the Racine-area seat he lost to Wanggaard in the 2010 GOP wave. Going into Tuesday, many believed the 21st would be the most competitive of the four Senate races, and they were right. The other three races see comfortable GOP wins, including the 23rd SD, where Dems poured resources into knocking off Chippewa Falls GOP incumbent Terry Moulton only to see him win with a surprising 57 percent of the vote. But Dems made the 21st a focus of their Senate efforts, and Lehman got a significant boost on the independent expenditure side. Lehman is also the one Dem win in this year’s recall elections, though that celebration is somewhat muted because of the disappointing results at the top of the ticket and the likelihood Dems will have a tough time holding onto their new Senate majority this fall. Going into Tuesday, many believed the guv’s performance in Racine County would be key in helping Wanggaard across the finish line, noting polls had shown him trailing the guv’s performance. So it’s baffling to some Republicans that Walker captured nearly 53 percent of the vote in Racine County -- the mark some believed was key to help Wanggaard -- but the GOP incumbent still came up short. To some, it’s simply a matter of Racine County voters liking to kick out their incumbents. Since Republican George Petak’s recall in 1996, only one incumbent has won re-election to the seat. And that trend, insiders say, is likely to continue. The district was redrawn from one that covered much of Racine County to one that covers most of rural Racine and Kenosha counties, making it much more Republican. Lehman may have the seat now, some say, but it would be a minor miracle for him to hold onto it in 2014.

Mixed

Senate Dems: There was one win for Dems on Tuesday. But it may be a temporary one. John Lehman’s win over Van Wanggaard -- which could still be subject to a recount or legal challenge -- gives Dems control of the state Senate 17-16, finally giving them back the majority after two waves of recall elections. Still, there will be little payoff in the near term and a huge fight to keep it. The session ended earlier this spring, and insiders are skeptical the guv will call lawmakers back in extraordinary session barring some big compromise -- which isn’t likely. Plus, Assembly Republicans aren’t going to be in any hurry to join a special session with the new Dem Senate majority, insiders say. Either way, insiders are already looking ahead to November. Dems aren’t ready to concede the 12th SD in northern Wisconsin, but even optimistic Dems acknowledge holding the seat of the retiring Jim Holperin will be tough sledding at best. The seat has been trending Republican for years, and Dems were able to hold it against the tide with the likes of Holperin and Roger Breske before him. Republicans will also be gunning for Dem freshman Jessica King, who won the Oshkosh-Fond du Lac-area seat in last summer’s recalls. The seat has long had a GOP lean, though Barack Obama did well there in 2008 and King narrowly lost it in 2008 in her first contest with Republican Randy Hopper. Beyond those seats, Republicans will likely have the resources to make runs at the likes of Dem Dave Hansen in Green Bay, though those challenges have fallen apart in recent elections. They also may take shots at other Dems in safer seats knowing that they really don’t have to worry much about playing defense with a map that now tilts in their favor.

Barack Obama: The impact of Tuesday’s race on November’s election will be overanalyzed ad nauseum the next few days as national pundits pontificate on the president’s hopes here. Wisconsin insiders, though, caution a Walker win in June doesn’t automatically translate into a Mitt Romney victory come November. Even the guv says as much while arguing Romney needs to lay out a vision that shows voters he’s willing to make the tough choices if he wants to win them over in a similar manner. There are also any number of factors that will be different five months from now compared to yesterday. For one, it’s unlikely the president will be outspent by the other side anywhere near as badly as Tom Barrett and the Dems were. Romney is also no Scott Walker. The guv fires up the GOP base like few others, while Romney still has his struggles at times with conservatives and may end up relying as much on a dislike of Obama as a passion for the Republican. Still, Tuesday’s results weren't a good sign for the president’s team, insiders say. While the president's campaign helped with turnout efforts, Obama himself kept his distance from Wisconsin -- some say to avoid being blamed for a Barrett loss. But that infuriates some state Dems who say he should have come here anyway because he’s being blamed as it is, and some mock the half-hearted tweet Obama offered up the day before the election. The results also have Republicans energized, and yesterday’s turnout serves as a notice on how good the GOP ground game has become. DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz said last month Tuesday would be a dry run for the Dem operation, and Republicans gleefully point out who came out on top. Still, Dems point to exit polling and other recent surveys that still showed Obama up on Romney as an indicator that voters saw Tuesday's special recall election as separate from the November contest. Once the national spin dies down, some say, the true nature of the race will settle in some time later this summer. Wisconsin still leans Dem in presidential races. Republicans haven't won at the top of the ticket here since 1984. But critics say at the very least, Obama and Co. will likely have to spend more resources here than they had planned to hold on to a state Obama won by 14 points four years ago.

Falling

Dem Party: Dems said last year they had a choice when it came to the movement to recall Gov. Scott Walker -- get on board the train or get run over. They got on board, but got run over anyway. After the gathering of 900,000 signatures against Walker and tens of thousands more against GOP state senators, the raising of tens of millions of dollars and the organizing of a series of protests, Dems can only celebrate a narrow 17-16 majority in the Senate -- and that might be temporary. Election-watchers say Walker's increased margin compared to 2010 and will now likely embolden him and Republicans in Wisconsin and around the country. Millions that could have gone to help the fall effort is gone and Dems' turnout machine couldn't hit the levels needed to garner a win. The Dem faithful are left licking their wounds with some wondering whether a dispirited base could help pave the way for Romney to win Wisconsin and Republicans to take an open U.S. Senate seat. This weekend’s Dem state convention in Appleton will be less a chance for celebration and more an exercise in soul searching and mourning, some say. One of the biggest questions facing Dems is who will lead the party going forward. State Chair Mike Tate will get his share of grief for the party's troubles. But even more important is who will be the face of the party at the ballot box in 2014 and beyond. Possible candidates include Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, state Sens. Kathleen Vinehout and Jon Erpenbach and U.S. Rep. Ron Kind, though insiders pick at them over for various perceived shortcomings. Some hope a private sector candidate like tech leader Kevin Conroy can emerge. The president and CEO of Exact Sciences can sink personal resources into a campaign, which some believe would make him attractive. But Walker also has a national fundraising network that would likely dwarf anything Conroy could plug in from his own pocket. As the party tries to reorganize, the most optimistic Dems believe the party can rebound if their side wins the national debate over the fate of the middle class But GOP critics look across the aisle and see a party in disarray.

Tom Barrett: The Milwaukee mayor goes 0-for-3 in his attempts to win the guv’s office, and this one really hurts. Dems will rehash Barrett’s campaign as they search for answers with some of the early blame for his loss pinned on Walker's reported 7-to-1 financial advantage. Some will question Barrett’s decision to stay out of the race until March 30. But others point out he was able to ride a quick wave to an overwhelming Dem primary victory over the labor-backed Kathleen Falk. Hard to argue with that result, some say. But that wave quickly dissipated when it hit the big bucks Republicans had waiting for Barrett. They pounded him for his handling of the city’s problems, reminding voters over and over Milwaukee’s ills. Some also note there’s a natural anti-Milwaukee bias out state anyway. A newspaper investigation that uncovered misreported crime stats gave Walker’s campaign a timely opportunity for a gut punch of an ad that Walker backers say helped stem any momentum Barrett was building over the John Doe. Dems spent much of the last few weeks pushing back against the notion that Walker had a lead of 5 points or more in publicly released polls, only to see Walker improve his 2010 performance and win by 7 points. Republican critics knocked Barrett for breaking out of his nice guy persona to be more aggressive with Walker. But he faced a challenge in exciting the Dem base, and some say he had little choice. Returning home, there will be questions on how Barrett goes forward managing the city after the loss or if he’ll look for a job in the Obama administration should the president win re-election this fall. Either way, after three straight losses statewide -- the first now a decade ago -- Barrett’s door to the guv’s office now appears closed, insiders say.

Public employee unions: Tuesday’s results may not be the death knell of public employee unions. But it sure shows the limits they can have on an election these days, some say. Insiders began second guessing the union approach to this election even before voters headed to the polls Tuesday. The labor groups tried to dissuade Tom Barrett from getting into the race, hitched their wagon to Kathleen Falk early on and put millions into the Wisconsin For Falk third party group. They also embraced Falk’s pledge to veto any budget that didn't include the restoration of collective bargaining rights. But it all backfired. Critics say the unions' moves didn't keep out Barrett and then wasted millions in a primary that also pushed the general election into June, when Dem-leaning college students had left campus for the summer. Barrett swamped Falk in the primary, and then union money was late flowing going into the general election, the critics add. Some union forces explained it was hard to convince national unions to pony up to the cause despite polls that suggested Walker could be beaten. Union supporters insist it was a fight worth having and that they have laid the foundation for a movement to push back against “extremist policies.” But many believe they’re tapped out with little hope of being the financial heavyweights they’re long been in Wisconsin campaigns because Walker’s collective bargaining changes choke off the money supply. Some union officials acknowledge they’ll have to retool, but promise they’ll be more in touch with their members and more of a grassroots organization as a result. To some, that also means Dems can no longer rely on union forces for the muscle to match the resources of groups like WMC. Union backers, though, say in a changing world that now operates under Citizens United, there’s no way for unions to raise enough in member dues to counter the huge checks wealthy backers can cut to the groups of their choosing. For now, insiders are left to wonder what kind of force Wisconsin public sector labor unions will be in November and beyond.

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