On a conference call with reporters just now, Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman Mike Tate made a very bold claim: He said party polling shows that Dems are leading or in a dead heat in all six of the races to recall Wisconsin GOP state senators.
If this is an accurate depiction of the state of play, then Wisconsin Dems may be on the verge of taking back the state senate. Putting that outcome aside, though, Tate shared some new numbers about the level of grassroots energy in the state that are eye-opening in their own right, and suggest that labor and Dems have already accomplished something historic.
Tate insisted that party polling shows that Dems are leading in the races to recall GOP senators Randy Hopper, Luther Olsen, and Dan Kapanke, and that they are in dead heats in the remaining races.
“I don’t know that I would say that we are going to sweep all six races, but our polling tells that we have leads in three of these races an we are dead tied in three,” Tate said. “Independents are moving towards the Democratic candidates in strong numbers.” Every race, he said, is “emminently winnable.”
Privately Dems are far less confident of overall victory, but it’s noteworthy that Tate was willing to go this far. Dems need to net three wins to take back the senate.
Tate also predicted that GOP state senator Alberta Darling was also vulnerable, a claim that’s also at odds with the private acknowledgment from Dems that she is unlikely to be recalled.
“Beating Alberta Darling is the crown jewel of our efforts,” Tate said, noting that she had played a major role in writing Scott Walker’s union busting proposals. As for the two Dem senators who are being targeted for recall, Tate said they would both comfortably hang on to their seats.
Tate also shared some new numbers meant to suggest grassroots energy in the state is running high. He noted that Dems had collected over 170,000 signatures to trigger the recall elections; and that Dems had made contact with over 1.4 million voters throughout the recall effort, using over 10,000 volunteers.
Even if Dems don’t take back the state senate in the end, it seems clear that the Wisconsin recall wars are shaping up as a dress rehearsal of sorts for the 2012 elections. Whatever happens, Wisconsin Dems have already succeeded in creating a true grassroots movement built around an unabashedly class-based set of themes that rely on a type of bare-knuckled class-warfare rhetoric that makes many national Dems queasy. In this sense, success in Wisconsin could offer a model for a more aggressive, populist approach for Dems in 2012.