Important Win For The Democrats In Wisconsin

JoAnne Kloppenburg

All the precincts have reported in WIsconsin and the “winner” is JoAnne Kloppenburg, who leads State Supreme Court Justice Richard Prosser by 204 votes out of 1,479.976 votes cast.  The margin is so thin that a recount is inevitable. 

One thing to remember as the initial “re-canvas” of last night’s vote begins: In the rush to count votes on election night, numbers get transposed.  The actual “246” becomes the reported “426.”  Mistakes happen. The “vote canvas” corrects these errors and produces the final, (hopefully) fully accurate count. 

Generally speaking, accounting errors fall randomly and cancel each other out.  In this case, one error could swing the election from Kloppenburg to Prosser and another could swing it back.  So the potential for mischief is high.  A lot of people in Wisconsin are very concerned that this recount might go the way of the Minnesota US Senate election recount of 2008 and further polarize politics in the Badger State.

Whatever happens, the balloting last night in Wisconsin was an important victory for public employee unions generally and the Democratic Party nationally.  They took a weak candidate (Kloppenburg lost by more than 2-1 in the February primary to Justice Prosser) and drove her over the finish line.

They amped up her vote in some counties by as much as 1500%.  They amped up her statewide vote by more than 6 times.  They caught the GOP napping (and congratulating itself on the passage of anti-public employee union legislation).  And they taught Governor Scott Walker a classic lesson in politics: always allow your adversary room to manoeuvre and a narrative to save face. It’s not an all or nothing game.  If you make it that, you force a battle. If you lose the battle, you look weak. Really weak.  And stupid.

Gov. Walker (R) was being touted as a possible 2012 presidential candidate two months ago.  Not anymore.  He picked a fight against a foe he thought was weak and found out that he was weaker.  He couldn’t deliver 50%-plus-one of a statewide vote for a candidate who won 55% of the statewide vote in the primary.

Every politician in America was watching.  This wasn’t some primary surprise in a light turnout.  This was a de facto “general election” vote.  And Walker’s guy lost.  The ramifications of that defeat will be felt in state capitols all across the country. Everyone has to adjust to the almost perfectly even split. 

Walker’s defeat comes at exactly the wrong time for the national Republican Party.  With John Boehner and Eric Cantor giving President Obama exactly what he wants (a government shutdown that he can pin on the Republicans) and Paul Ryan’s bold blueprint for deficit reduction getting lost in the media mix, the GOP continues its apparently ceaseless efforts to prove itself unworthy of the responsibilities of national governance.

The 2012 presidential election would be, in any normal political environment, ripe for the GOP taking.  Unemployment is high, gas prices are through the roof, the housing market is awful, economic growth is anemic, inflation is upon us, the nation is involved in three wars that people want out of, the culture is awash in Snookis and Kardashians, and the President seems sort of disinterested and out of his depth.

Never underestimate the ability of the Elephants to snatch defeat from the wide open jaws of victory.  They did it in Wisconsin, which, by almost any definition, was a lay-up. They’re working on it nationally.