Among Republicans, last night’s seven-point victory by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker will be savored for weeks as an appetite-whetting little bon-bon for the much greater victory that they anticipate enjoying in November.
Among Democrats, it is a defeat that will sting in the short term and cause them worries in the long term as they too look ahead to November. The immense fervor generated in the Democratic base by Walker’s actions was enough to force the recall, but they were unable to translate it into a majority of votes for his ouster. (They apparently did manage to retake control of the Wisconsin state Senate, which will force a moderation of Walker’s ambitions for the remainder of his term).
It’s hard to assess what impact the outcome will have in November. Exit polls of those who turned out to vote in Wisconsin put Barack Obama up seven points over Mitt Romney, which might seem encouraging for the president’s campaign. On the other hand, Obama carried the state by 14 points in 2008, which suggests that his margin has shrunk.
The race also offered insight into what the post-Citizens United landscape might look like, with conservative groups able to generate millions of dollars in contributions and outside expenditures and vastly outspend the Democrats.
“Democrats had the best turnout and field operation in Wisconsin that we could ever hope for, but that can’t win elections when Republicans are massacring us on the airwaves,” an anonymous Democratic strategist told National Journal. “This should be a wakeup call to Democratic groups and donors who think we can ignore mass communications and focus only on field and turnout.”
– Jay Bookman