Walker could not be targeted earlier, because state law mandates that an official be over a year into a term before he or she is eligible for recall.
The Democrats’ argument: These were Republican districts, and Democrats still won two of them. They came within a couple thousand votes of a major victory. Statewide, against a higher-profile target, they would do better, they say.
“We outperformed Scott Walker in every district,” said Wisconsin Democratic Party spokesman Graeme Zilenski. “He is totally vulnerable, he is totally exposed.”
It’s mostly true. Defeated state Sen. Dan Kapanke’s district was trending blue. Sen. Randy Hopper’s district was more conservative, but he was plagued by personal scandals that had little to do with the collective bargaining legislation that sparked the recall fight.
These districts all went for Obama in 2008. They are hardly deep-red seats. But they also all went for Walker in 2010. These incumbents also all survived a huge Democratic wave — state senators elected in the 2010 Republican wave would likely be weaker rivals.
FiveThirtyEight’s Nate Silver found that if you extrapolate from these results, a recall vote on Walker would be incredibly close. Democrats also won working-class white voters, an encouraging sign.
And Walker remains unpopular. The latest Badger Poll from the University of Wisconsin finds that 59 percent of voters disapprove of his performance.
Republicans, unsurprisingly, say that the recall push has already failed. ”The message was loud and clear on Tuesday — Wisconsin voters are looking forward, not backward,” Wisconsin GOP spokesman Katie McCallum said. “We’re not sure how many times Democrats are going to make voters go to the polls before that’s clear.”
Zilenski argued that as Walker’s policies take effect, those numbers will only get worse: “No one has felt the hurt yet. The awful things in this budget has not been felt yet. People are not going to go back home and forget that this guy is out there sticking it to them.”
As far as when the actual recall effort will begin, Walker’s foes are a little vague. Some suggested they would start early to avoid gathering signatures in the snow; others said they would have to wait and see what grassroots activists wanted to do.
Some labor organizers say are already working on a less election-oriented, more year-round mobilization effort. But there’s also another showdown between labor and conservatives in the Midwest this fall.
In Ohio, one referendum question on the ballot would overturn the anti-collective bargaining legislation of Gov. John Kasich (R) and another would exempt the state from the individual mandate in the health-care law.
For now, We Are Wisconsin, the labor coalition behind a lot of the recall campaign effort, is focused on making sure that the two Democratic state senators facing recalls next week don’t lose.
“We’ll have plenty time to figure out later what a Walker recall will look like,” communications director Kelly Steele said. “My sense is that he will be on the ballot next year and he won’t keep his job. But the focus right now is on the Democratic state senators. We’re not done with these recalls.”