Wisconsin Republicans On The Ropes

by Jonathan Chait | June 8, 2011

Christian Schneider, a fellow at a right-wing Wisconsin think-tank, has been writing regular dispatches for National Review, in which he channels the view of the state GOP. This latest one makes Wisconsin Republicans facing a recall sound pretty desperate:

If both Hopper and Kapanke lose, that leaves only one more seat Democrats have to pick up to retake the Senate. In order to delay recall elections, the GOP has planned to run fake Democratic primary candidates against the GOP challengers, which would push the elections back another month. That would give Republicans an extra month’s worth of distance from the collective-bargaining imbroglio that got them in this situation, and would allow more time to campaign.
Yet this will almost certainly be seen as a “dirty trick” by media and some voters. It certainly appears like an admission that Republicans are struggling. And while it can be argued that the recall elections in themselves are merely dirty tricks, enough of a double standard exists that this ploy could backfire.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald says the same thing. Fake candidate are needed in order to give them "another month." And it's justified because a recall is also unfair -- ("I think the cynicism comes from the recalls. Recalling senators for taking a tough vote is just wrong.")

It's a great glimpse into the process of rationalization. Fake candidates might be a dirty trick, but so is... petitioning to recall elected officials under Wisconsin law for enacting changing they didn't campaign on that offend their constituents! 

The more interesting thing to emerge here is that Republicans just want to drag things out as long as possible because they understand that right now they're losing. You don't try to buy time if you think you're winning. It's like Homer Simpson's strategy to get through a test he knows he can't pass -- "I've been working on a plan. During the exam, I'll hide under some coats, and hope that somehow everything will work out." If you don't have any particular reason to think more time will help other than "something could happen," then delay is a mark of real desperation.

What happens if Democrats win a net of three recall campaigns? Obviously it will be a shot against the bow of the most aggressively partisan Republican governors across the country. And note also that Wisconsin Republicans were planning to protect Paul Ryan from electoral challenge by making his district more Republican. But if they lose the state Senate, they'll need to agree on a bipartisan redistricting plan, and they may not be able to pull it off.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/jonathan-chait/89605/wisconsin-republicans-the-ropes