Wisconsin Democrats gamely expressed confidence that they can still recall Scott Walker from office, despite polls showing that the race is getting away from them with 2 1/2 weeks to go. Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chair Mike Tate made his case with two pieces of information:
1) internal polling shows a tie race between Walker and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett;
2) they expect a surge in ad support on their side, after a stretch where Walker has had TV ad time basically to himself, outspending Barrett 25 to 1, by some accounts.
On the first, internal polling is dubious, and if it was favorable to Barrett, Tate would release it. On the second, this certainly is a factor in Walker’s lead – he’s had a massive advantage on the air. We’ll see if Democrats can fix that imbalance.
Tate also tried to encourage a détente of sorts between Wisconsin Democrats and the DNC after tensions flared earlier in the week about the DNC not giving any funds for field operations to the race. The $500,000 requested still isn’t coming, but the DNC has rebutted the criticism on their end, saying that they have given significant funds to the state party in Wisconsin this year, that DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz will help Barrett raise money later in the month, and that they plan to make available voter lists and OFA volunteers for the effort.
This all comes as Walker has tried to muddy the waters on his dismal jobs numbers since coming into office. Walker used a different metric than the standard numbers provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this week to turn a job loss in Wisconsin in 2011 into a modest job gain. Walker used this new metric of statistics without it being vetted by analysts at the federal level. He then touted these new numbers in a TV ad. However, the BLS released the most recent set of jobs data for April showing that Wisconsin lost 6,200 private sector jobs, and 5,900 jobs on net. The March figures were revised to show a gain of 2,800 jobs, from a loss of 4,500 jobs previously.
Both sides pounced on this data, with Walker highlighting the March revision and Barrett’s team highlighting the losses for April, as well as the highly unusual circumstance of Walker previously using the BLS data when it was favorable to him, and then jettisoning it when it put him in a bad light.
The jobs discussion risks getting into “he said/she said” territory. I would assume that Wisconsinites have a feel for how the economy has progressed there over the past year, but Barrett has generally not made the “are you better off” case yet. In fact, the entire strategy of the recall, with the de-emphasizing of the impetus for it, the assault on public workers and collective bargaining, risks failure, which would be a serious nightmare, according to Charlie Pierce:
Make no mistake: If he hangs on, he will be the biggest star in the Republican party. Chris Christie yells at all the right people, but has he ever faced down the existential threat that schoolteachers and snowplow drivers brought to bear on Walker? Marco Rubio? Has he withstood the wrath of organized janitors and professors of the humanities? If Walker wins in June, it wouldn’t take very much effort at all for Fox News and for the vast universe of conservative sugar-daddies and their organization to decide that Walker should be the odds-on choice for 2016 [...]
This should be a base-vs.-base election, but it’s being played, at least by the Democrats, as yet another unicorn-hunt after “independent voters.” Barrett keeps talking about the “civil war” that Walker incited in Wisconsin. But that’s not the argument. There should have been a “civil war” over what Walker was trying to do. There wouldn’t even be a recall without what Barrett calls “the civil war.” The “civil war” was entirely appropriate. Sometimes, in politics, there are issues worth screaming about. I’m no expert, but the end of collective bargaining during an era of flat-lining wages would seem to be one of those. By citing the “civil war” as the reason for voting for him, and without, I believe, intending to do so, Barrett makes all those people standing in the cold last January marginally complicit in what he says as the problem the recall was meant to solve. But the problem with Scott Walker was not that he inspired an outburst of incivility. It’s that he tried to screw the workers of the state of Wisconsin, and that he got more than halfway there, and that he apparently intends to go the rest of the way if he manages to survive the recall. It’s not idle speculation to say that a lot more is riding on this than who gets to be governor of Wisconsin. This is the first real fight of the 2016 presidential election.
The powers that be in Wisconsin don’t have much time to get things back on track, and I still don’t see the change in strategy that could bring that about.