As you may have heard, Wisconsin Republicans were recently nabbed discussing ways of meddling in Dem primary politics for the explicit purpose of delaying recall elections against vulnerable GOP state senators. The idea was that putting off the elections might give them more time to mobilize and perhaps prevent them from getting booted from office, and the head of Wisconsin state senators has actually embraced the move.
But now a writer sympathetic to Wisconsin Republicans is acknowledging that this is bad idea, precisely because it makes Republicans look like they’ve concluded they’re on the ropes. Christian Schneider, a senior fellow for the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute, writes in National Review that if GOP state senators Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke lose — as seems very possible — Dems would only have to net one more recall win to capture the state senate:
If both Hopper and Kapanke lose, that leaves only one more seat Democrats have to pick up to retake the Senate. In order to delay recall elections, the GOP has planned to run fake Democratic primary candidates against the GOP challengers, which would push the elections back another month. That would give Republicans an extra month’s worth of distance from the collective-bargaining imbroglio that got them in this situation, and would allow more time to campaign.
Yet this will almost certainly be seen as a “dirty trick” by media and some voters. It certainly appears like an admission that Republicans are struggling. And while it can be argued that the recall elections in themselves are merely dirty tricks, enough of a double standard exists that this ploy could backfire. (Last year, Democrats themselves used a similar trick, running a fake Republican against a very conservative Independent candidate, hoping it would split the vote and give victory to a Democrat.)
Of course, the suggestion that the recall elections themselves are akin to dirty tricks — a suggestion that was also echoed by the head of Wisconsin GOP senators, Scott Fitzgerald — is completely absurd. As Jon Chait notes, Democrats are merely exercising their right to petition to “recall elected officials under Wisconsin law for enacting changes they didn’t campaign on.” Indeed, Scott Walker himself has publicly admitted that he never explicitly campaigned on the rollback of bargaining rights that led to all the protests and recalls.
That aside, the effort to game Dem primary politics to is only the latest sign that Republicans are anticipating big losses. The GOP-controlled Wisconsin state legislature is hurriedly ramming through a host of initiatives, such as ones to allow people to carry concealed weapons and to cut Planned Parenthood funding, in the full knowledge that doing so may not be possible after the recall elections.
And today, Wisconsin officials are meeting to determine whether the recalls against Democratic state senators will go forward. Dems have alleged fraud in the GOP gathering of signatures for recalls, and if officials toss them out, Republicans may be facing six recall elections while Dems face zero. Even if Dems do end up facing three recall elections, the standoff would still be lopsided.
At any rate, even allies of Wisconsin Republicans are conceding that their latest moves suggest they fear losing big.
UPDATE: It gets even better. Now it has emerged that the GOP plan to game Dem primary politics to delay recalls could end up costing Wisconsin taxpayers thousands of dollars.