The math was pretty basic: Wisconsin Democrats needed to net three seats to win back the Senate. Tonight was their chance, with all six Republicans on the chopping block. They failed. Republicans held the line in 4 of the 6 races tonight, guaranteeing that they'll maintain control of the upper chamber. Republicans won races in districts 2, 10, 14, and -- dramatically -- 8. Democrats picked off the two most vulnerable Republicans: Dan Kapanke in district 32, and Randy Hopper in district 18, who was dogged by a marital scandal. Republicans will have a chance to cut into, or even erase, their net losses next Tuesday, when two fleebagger Democrats face voters. Wisconsin conservatives believe at least one of these races -- featuring Democrat Jim Holperin -- is winnable.
Democrats, liberal groups, and labor unions spent roughly $20 million on these races -- an unfathomable sum for off-year, state level races. They were better organized, better funded, and seemed to have a distinct intensity advantage. And yet, when the people of Wisconsin had their say, Republicans prevailed. This result delivers a crushing blow to the left, especially government sector unions, who clung to this recall effort as an opportunity to rebuke Gov. Walker's historic budget fix legislation. Speaking of which, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel will publish a positive editorial on the controversial Republican budget...tomorrow, the day after these elections. How very convenient (via Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes):
So it turns out that the sky isn't going to fall on all local governments in Wisconsin. The numbers now starting to come in show that Gov. Scott Walker's "tools" for local governments apparently will help at least some of them deal with cuts in state aid imposed by the state budget. That's contrary to the expectation and the rhetoric of critics in the spring, and it's to Walker's credit. It bears out the governor's assessment of his budget-repair bill, although we still maintain he could have reached his goals without dealing a body blow to public employee unions.
...The news is good for many. The latest example is Milwaukee, where the most recent estimates show the city with a net gain of at least $11 million for its 2012 budget. That will take a slice out of the city's structural deficit, which is created by costs rising faster than revenue, and will reduce cuts that Mayor Tom Barrett and the Common Council must impose. The city projects it will save at least $25 million a year - the figure could be as high as $36 million in 2012 - from health care benefit and pension changes it didn't have to negotiate with unions because of the changes wrought by the new law that ended most collective bargaining for most public employees.
Hardest hit? MSNBC. After hyping these recall elections for days, their live coverage turned into a political funeral as results trickled in. Even the TelePrompters started misbehaving. (This is hilarious):
Tonight's bottom line: The Wisconsin State Senate remains in GOP hands. Democrats have failed to repudiate Governor Walker, whose budget remains very much intact. And one of the state's most influential (and liberal) newspapers is belatedly admitting that the legislation that triggered this circus is accomplishing exactly what its proponents predicted it would. Sweet.
Sweeter than Prosser's glorious victory in April? Tough call, but a fun one to make. I'll go ahead and say sweeter.