Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Parallax View -- Perspectives and some guesses on Wisconsin

In America, with our single-district, first-past-the-post system, we usually have clear winners and losers on election night. But the recall, with its tendency to disrupt normal actions of government, is able to knock us off our equilibrium here. Outside of the two Senators who lost their seats last Tuesday, how you view the results depends on your point of view. Last week, the Democrats took two seats, but since they didn't capture the state house, they didn't feel like winners. Today, in what felt like an anticlimactic, Battle of New Orleans-type of victory, the Democrats regained some momentum.

So let's ask:

Did the Democrats go 5 of 9 in the recall races? Did they just miss winning the state Senate by a few thousand votes in the face of a conservative money avalanche? Did they prevent further legislative action by the Republican-dominated government, gumming up the works for a few months, switching the focus and by capturing two seat, give themselves the ability to stop future legislative action? Did voters give them a green light for the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (plus recalls of other state legislators) next year?

Or did the Republicans go 4 for 6, holding on to the Senate in several difficult districts in the face of a union-led deluge? Should we dismiss the three Democratic recall attempts as a successful diversionary tactical maneuver? Does the Democrats failure to overwhelmingly sweep back the Senate show that voters will reject the Walker recall, as some polls are now showing?

Or was it just a tie, something that turned off independents and felt like a waste of money? 

Even the question of whether the turnout was super high or slightly unimpressive is open for debate (more on that tomorrow).

What does this mean for the recall? Will Wisconsin serve as a cautionary tale or is it the new model? My guess is more the later, and yes, we will see more recalls in the future. Will Walker face a recall next year? I think this might be made at a higher pay grade, due to the potential disruptive effect on the presidential race. The result may be that the recall attempt will be shelved.

So who are the obvious winners? Here are two: Public Policy Polling and all the consultants who cashed in during their usual down market year. 

More analysis in the days ahead, but for the recall, onward to Arizona and Michigan!

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