It’s no scoop that the Democrats are expecting an embarrassing defeat in Tuesday’s Wisconsin gubernatorial recall race. More than merely causing embarrassment, the recall campaign has succeeded in mobilizing Republicans to the point that Wisconsin appears now to be in play for Mitt Romney.
As the Washington Post reminds us, George W. Bush twice came close to winning in Wisconsin, and the Republicans captured the State’s Senate seat along with the governorship in 2010. Thanks to the recall campaign, the Republicans have done a huge amount of work in the State this year – work like voter outreach that is bound to boost the Party in November and could supply the relatively small number of votes that were missing in 2000 and 2004. The Dems, lacking the same resources, have not been able to match the Republican effort.
Defeat is always an “orphan,” so it’s not surprising that Democratic operatives are tripping over each other to say they knew all along that the recall effort was a mistake. One Washington strategist told the Post, “Everybody in this town was saying ‘I don’t want to do this;’ but the cows were out of the barn.” An Obama adviser added that there was “always the concern” that Republicans would use the recall campaign to hone their voter lists for November.
But, say these insiders, the decision was not in their control. Rather, it was in the control of the “grass-roots activists who ringed the State Capitol in the dead of winter to protest Walker’s budget and labor policies.” You remember these charmers – the ones who, not satisfied just to “ring” the Capitol building, occupied it at a cost to the State in clean-up and overtime fees of approximately $8 million.
I doubt that the Democratic establishment was as wary of the recall movement as it now claims. But I don’t doubt that the leftist rank-and-file in Wisconsin drove the process, and that the establishment couldn’t have stopped it.
So isn’t this a case in which “wing-nuts” hijacked their Party and forced it into extreme (this is only the third recall race for a sitting governor in American history) and counter-productive action? No, it cannot be. That sort of thing only happens on the Republican side.