I don’t know if these reports are true or not, and we should treat them with caution. But we now have two news outlets, one local and one national, claiming GOP defections from Governor Scott Walker may be in the works. The Wall Street Journal reports:
Conservatives in Wisconsin are getting nervous that three Republican state senators may defect on the collective-bargaining reform vote. It’s still anyone’s guess as to when that vote will take place because Democrats remain in exile to prevent the necessary quorum. But Republicans in the Senate hold a 19-14 majority, so GOP Gov. Scott Walker can afford to lose no more than two Republican senators on this pivotal vote.
On Wednesday, Republicans held a “unity” press conference that was attended by all but one senator, Dale Schultz. But a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showing that 62% of respondents oppose curtailing collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers over health care, pensions or other benefits suggests that the GOP position may be losing some support among independent voters.
Separately, WEAU, an NBC affiliate in Wisconsin, reports that “four moderate Republicans are wavering and could break with the GOP and vote against Walker’s budget repair bill.”
I haven’t been able to confirm either of these yet. But there are two points worth making. The first is that the drumbeat of polls showing strong opposition to Walker’s rollback of bargaining rights may be starting to shift the landscape. The Journal report hints that Repubicans are growing nervous about opposition to Walker’s proposals among independents. The key here is that public opinion on this standoff has caught a lot of people off guard.
Also: If the reports above are true, that could bear out the notion, articulated to me earlier today by a spokesman for the Wisconsin Democratic Party, that Republicans are well aware that Walker’s impending layoffs could damage them more than Dems. Walker told the fake Koch on the prank call that he woud be ratcheting up the layoff threat to pressure missing Dems into returning. But Dems are refusing to budge despite the fact that the layoff threat is now very real. And there are indications that the layoffs could exacerbate the current public opinion dynamic, rather than turn it around. That may well be spooking Republicans who continue to stand by Walker.