The Star/Tribune editorial board, being in effect a volunteer DFL PR operation, got to work bright and early yesterday doing damage control and trying to build a firebreak against the Republican contagion across the Saint Croix in an editorial that couldn’t be any more perfect a vehicle for national Democrat chanting points if it were being explicitly paid for.
Within minutes of projecting Gov. Scott Walker the winner in Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall election, CNN pundits began earnestly overstating the national importance of the vote.
And someone start singing “The Circle Of Life”, because the left-leaning media – the various levels in the Public Radio chain of command, MSNBC, CNN and of course the Strib itself – leapt into action to understate and diffuse it.
It was an understandable impulse, given the high profile of the attempted recall over the past 17 months. Energized Wisconsin Democrats and an outraged organized labor threw everything they could muster at the Republican governor, who earned their ire last year by moving to curtail collective-bargaining rights for public employees.
But a closer look at the factors that propelled Walker tells us that caution is in order when projecting national implications from his decisive win.
And when they say “closer look”, they really mean “a realignment of the narrative to the Democrats’ chanting points”.
Let’s start with money. Out-of state cash poured into Wisconsin as if the Packers had offered more souvenir stock, and Walker outspent his opponent, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, 7-1. Mitt Romney’s campaign won’t have that kind of advantage in November, nor will other GOP contenders in hotly contested races.
Nor did Walker. The 7-1 advantage was in spending by the campaigns – perfectly kosher under Wisconsin campaign law in recalls, which aren’t covered by the same limits as regular elections. And it doesn’t count all the spending the unions did on Walker’s behalf. It also ignores – or rather, tries to suppress – the fact that Walker had vastly more support from non-insitutional donors inside Wisconsin than Barrett had.
Walker also faced a middling opponent. Barrett, who wasn’t the first choice of organized labor in the primary, was the recycled loser from the 2010 gubernatorial race.
His second campaign gained so little momentum that President Obama stayed away from Wisconsin, and the president’s single contribution to the Barrett effort was a 17-word tweet.
Before discounting the impact labor will have in November, however, it’s worth noting that unions won a major victory in Ohio just seven months ago, when voters resoundingly rejected similar collective-bargaining changes backed by GOP Gov. John Kasich.
Because it was a referendum, because the unions poured money into Ohio, and the GOP wasn’t able to support the proposal as vigorously as it needed to be supported. The Strib is trying to compare apples and axles. There’s no comparison.
The recall attempt itself also skewed Tuesday’s results in Walker’s favor. Exit polls showed that 60 percent of voters agree with this editorial board (“Wrongheaded recall in Wisconsin,” June 3) that recall elections should be reserved for cases of significant malfeasance or criminal misconduct by elected officials. They should be the direct-democracy equivalent of impeachment, not a minority party’s response to a hard-fought policy dispute.
And if ifs, ands and buts were candy and nuts we’d all have a merry Christmas. The fact remains the Wisconsin Democrat party has responded to Walker’s upset victory by petulantly hiding out in Illinois, by clogging the Capitol, and by trying to stage an electoral putsch.
Those same polls show that Wisconsin voters would have chosen Obama over Romney, 51 percent to 45 percent.
Those were the self-same exit polls that showed the Gubernatorial race was a “coin toss”. Take them with a big shaker full of salt.
And other recall efforts appear to have given Democrats narrow control of the state’s Senate.
Which doesn’t meet until 2013. After the next round of elections. It was a very expensive and meaningless “victory” for the Wisconsin Democrat party.
Those results, too, ought to tamp down GOP victory swells;
Or at least the Strib editorial board is going to try to make sure they do.
Some of them were touting Walker as a future national Republican candidate after Tuesday’s win. Let him prove first that he can cease being the nation’s most polarizing governor and work effectively with both parties for the good of his state. Only then will he warrant the acclaim that was heaped on his victory this week.
He’s a “polarizing governor” precisely because of the petulant reaction Democrats – like the Star/Tribune editorial board – have to the idea of their power, either direct power or the soft authoritarianism of “bipartisanship” that favors Democrats, being challenged.
And the Strib will do what it can to keep Republicans demoralized, downtrodden, and – most of all – home on election night.
Screw the Strib. I’m celebrating.