A few weeks ago, when the protests in Madison were still raging, it appeared that Justice David Prosser would go down to defeat by at least several percentage points, and the recall efforts seemed lopsided against Republican Senators.  I urged readers to get involved because we could not let Wisconsin June 2011 Become Massachusetts January 2010.

A funny thing happened on the way to the recall elections (which were anticipated for June, but more likely will be July or even August).

What happened is that the histrionics of the unions and national Democrats awakened the Republican, conservative and Tea Party bases both in Wisconsin and nationally.  The Supreme Court election did become a proxy fight over Governor Walker, and that proxy fight ended in a failure for the unions and Democrats. 

Whether Prosser wins by several thousand votes, or loses by a couple of hundred, the unions and Democrats gave it their best shot under near ideal circumstances, and they came up short of expectations.  The enthusiasm generated for the public employee union agenda in March will not be repeated this summer. 

There are the makings of a Massachusetts miracle in Wisconsin, but the beneficiaries will be Republicans, not Democrats.

The efforts to recall state Senator Robert Wirch serves as a good example.  As I noted in a prior post, the organizers of the recall effort, who have operated on a shoestring budget with little outside help, obtained enough signatures as of a week ago to mandate a recall election.

I spoke this weekend with Dan Hunt of Recall Wirch, and the news has improved even more since then.

Recall Wirch has almost no budget, but has attracted protesters (image right) to its recall petition drives who attempt to intimidate both the signature collectors and voters.  Recall Wirch, according to Hunt, has been reduced to trying to outfox the protesters by creating multiple locations to collect signatures and shifting efforts from location to location.  According to Hunt:

“For instance, they started by trying to inhibit signature collection at our drive-thrus. They would show up at our locations in force and dare people to stop. They would shout and wave protest signs. Our volunteers were intimidated to do anything to counter them because we were badly outnumbered. We stopped this one Saturday morning. We had planned to be in two places on that Saturday morning. They knew exactly where we would be and planned to be in both places in overwhelming force. We then made them think that we had abandoned one of the locations and would only be in one place. They showed up in major numbers at the place they thought we would be except we weren’t there either. We had sent our people to other locations without letting them know. They stayed for an hour and a half – forty to fifty people before they realized they had been fooled. That took the wind out of their sails for the rest of the campaign. After that we started thanking them for coming to our events because we realized they helped us by creating publicity and circus which actually drove our drive-thru numbers up.

There are countless ways we used their tactics against them. One was at our final drive-thru yesterday. We invited the demonstrators to come, thinking they really wouldn’t. But they did. About 15 showed up. We had doughnuts and coffee waiting for them which I, as the leader of the recall effort, served to them thanking them for being there and for all they had done to help us achieve our goal. We had prizes planned for them for the best T-shirt, best protest sign and dog biscuits for the 2 German Shepherd mix dogs that were at many of our events. All of this for reverse psychological effect. And it worked! While most of them refused my hospitality one of the union leaders came to me as he was leaving several hours later and thanked me for the professional organization I was running. He told me that he respected me as a leader and especially our recall volunteers for how they conducted themselves in this process.”

Despite the attempts to disrupt the petition drive, Recall Wirch has met with great success.  The recall petitions in the Wirch district are not due until April 25, but as of this weekend Recall Wirch had collected several thousand signatures more than necessary.

Equally important, there has been a noticeable improvement in morale and enthusiasm on the Republican side, according to Hunt, since the Supreme Court election.

Defeating Wirch in the recall election will depend upon Republicans locating a strong candidate to run in the recall election, and overcoming an incumbent who has done well in recent elections. 

But the Supreme Court election may be a harbinger of good things to come.  While it is hard to calculate precisely how the judicial election lined up with the district lines, Hunt estimates that Prosser lost the district by only about 1400 votes (and probably several hundred less).  And, according to Hunt, there were almost no get-out-the-vote efforts in the district for Republicans, and little organization.

Patrick Dorwin has looked at the recall districts, and views more Democrats at risk than Republicans.  As to Wirch, Dorwin noted:

The 22nd District covers Kenosha & Western Racine counties. This is a 50-50 district and can go either way.

That is pretty much the sentiment echoed by Hunt.  The recall effort against Wirch will be a close call, but is winnable.  That we even are talking about the reasonable possibility of a successful recall against someone like Wirch speaks volumes to the fact that all may not be as it seems in Wisconsin, and that Democrats are in a weaker position than the national media lets on.

Part of the issue is expectations.  If Republicans lose a net which still leaves them with a majority in the Senate, it will be a Republican victory.  If Republicans maintain their current majority, it will be a huge victory.  If Republicans pick up a net seat, it will be a miracle which will shake the national political foundation every bit as much as Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts in January 2010.

I’ll go on record now.  There will be a Massachusetts miracle in Wisconsin.  And the beneficiary of that miracle will be Republicans, not Democrats.

(Images below of Recall Wirch petition collection this weekend courtesy of Dan Hunt.)

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