Jon Anne Willow
Bad Democrat

Can Dems hold out for a hero in Walker recall?

By - Nov 28th, 2011 10:00 pm
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Over the weekend, New Hampshire’s largest newspaper, the Union Leader of Manchester, endorsed Newt Gingrich for President. After months of slogging anonymously through Rotary Clubs in Cedar Rapids while his co-candidates took turns winning (then losing) the Republican spotlight, Gingrich must be relishing this moment, especially so close to January 10, the date of the New Hampshire primary.

It must also make him smile that the other viable candidates have already blown their fifteen minutes. As the field stands today, there’s no one left besides Gingrich to step out of the shadows and defeat the dreaded Mitt Romney, who, though he leads overall by a comfortable margin, only excites moderate independents. And even they’re barely excited. Newt, however damaged, might be the GOP’s last hope for a “real” Republican challenger.

It’s a tough spot to be in. No one in the running flutters the hearts of the Republican base, and time is running out. With the first primary less than two months away, the party is still (quietly) casting a net for someone else to jump in; someone whose very presence will pose a serious threat to Barack Obama’s presidency. They better hurry.

Back here in Wisconsin, Democrats might keep their eyes open for a teachable moment in the Republicans’ high-profile floundering. As the Walker recall surges forward – with a reported 300,000 signatures collected in just two weeks – it’s hard to say yet whether the Dems have an ace up their sleeve with a strong Walker challenger. Mike Tate, Chair of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin (DPW), recently told the Wisconsin State Journal “We don’t have a candidate right now, and we are very comfortable with that.”

I can see where it’s good strategy for now to keep the focus on the recall itself and off of one individual. But only time will tell how far Dems can – and should – be expected to travel in support of an idea. There’s bipartisan consensus that the required signatures will be gathered. The Democratic Party has already begun raising money, with nearly $1 million collected from 41,000 donors by the DPW on Act Blue alone. For the moment, the momentum seems to be favoring the recall, with 58 percent of Wisconsin voters believing Governor Walker should be removed from office, according to last week’s Wisconsin Public Radio/St. Norbert’s College poll.

The same poll, however, states that 43 percent of those surveyed feel Wisconsin is going in the right direction, and that number is UP from 38 percent in the spring. Nationwide, with Congress’ approval rating at an all-time low of just 9 percent (4 percent higher than Fidel Castro), it’s a vast understatement to say that the electorate is unhappy with both parties, and whoever runs against Walker better be a person who can inspire bipartisan confidence right out of the gate and doesn’t leave the Democrats campaigning primarily on the “not Walker” platform.

A field of potentials is already taking shape. The man most likely to beat Scott Walker, Russ Feingold, has firmly declined. David Obey would consider it, but only if there’s no primary. Herb Kohl, Tom Barrett, Ron Kind and Peter Barca are mum, while Kathleen Falk, Jon Erpenbach and dark horse Mahlon Mitchell are courting cameras. They’re all good Democrats, but are any of them electrifying? The answer, at least so far, is not really, for various individual reasons. And that could be a problem as the recall moves forward.

It’s early yet, with six weeks left to collect signatures and who knows how long to verify them before a date is set for the special election; some are predicting June or July for that. If the Dems are smart, they’ll announce their candidate fast, while the petitions are still being verified. And they will choose someone who, if not a rock star among Progressives, at least has limited baggage.

In a perfect world, that candidate would also be able to articulate a powerful vision of a post-Walker Wisconsin and win the hearts, minds and votes of the uncertain masses. And once elected, to act on that vision.

Yes, the Democratic Party has a tall order on its hands, and there are lessons to be learned from the GOP’s presidential dilemma. Here in Wisconsin, they might do well to take notes.

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Categories: Bad Democrat

0 thoughts on “Bad Democrat: Can Dems hold out for a hero in Walker recall?”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I had my hopes pinned on Feingold, and was crushed when he announced he wouldn’t run against Gov. Walker in a recall election. I don’t think that any of the 14 Democratic senators who left the state can win. They’ll be slaughtered by the GOP and many people were divided about their stance in the first place. I hadn’t considered Sen. Kohl. I suppose since he’s retiring from the US Senate, I took him off the list of potentials. Of the remaining Maybe Candidates, I’m looking at Barca. He displayed admirable leadership last spring, and proved himself to be determined and eloquent, even in the most stressful situations. I agree – we have to run a winner in this recall election. This isn’t a practice run – there won’t be any do-overs.

  2. Anonymous says:

    You had me throughout your article until you included Kathleen Faulk in the ‘they’re all good Democrat’s’ line. Not only is she not a good Democrat, she is not a good politician. Other than that, nice article. Although not sure how this makes you a Bad Democrat.

  3. Anonymous says:

    I would actually argue that not having a candidate is helping the cause, not hurting it. The minute there is a candidate it becomes Scott Walker vs Candidate X. Right now it’s Scott Walker vs The World. All eyes are on Walker, and it appears to be turning against (judging by the supposed number of signatures collected to-date).

    In a world of 24/7 media coverage, I think it might be best to hide in the corner for as long as possible. It avoids letting the opponent start to jab you.

    If you flash back to 2008 (or 2007), the Democrats didn’t have a quality candidate for President. Clinton vs Obama vs Edwards. People were predicting the end of the Democratic Party if things stalled at the convention. Things worked out well in the end.

  4. Anonymous says:

    I couldn’t agree more, Jeramey, up to a point in time. And that’s what I was trying to convey in the story. It’s good strategy for now, but the best chance for success in the recall is ultimately running a strong candidate because, as you said yourself, once that candidate is declared it’s a duel. I suggest that if there IS a very strong person chosen, that coming out sooner is better, because it gives the GOP less time to erode the idea and the Dems more time to present a solid alternate vision.

    And I’m not sure I agree about the 2007/8 field. Hillary had grassroots support long before the race began, and Obama bubbled up from nowhere with what almost seemed like a mandate from the party faithful. If you were to compare it to 2004, now that would be parallel to the GOP in 2011/12…

  5. Anonymous says:

    The column title is just a play on my interpretation of the party’s frequent use of the term “Good Democrat” to describe someone who plays by the rules. It’s probably in poor taste, but I used it to make a point.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I always figured the petition-gathering would be the easy part. Finding the candidate would be hard. However, I believe Feingold will accept a draft. He did appear at the Madison rally, and not merely to put a face on the movement, in my opinion.

  7. Anonymous says:

    You think? Now THAT would be a game-changer!

  8. Anonymous says:

    I want you to be right about this – I really do. But I’m doubtful. I guess only time will tell.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Keep your eye on Newt (and your hand on your wallet). That’s always good advice, but currently, the better The Great White Whore Of K Street does in Republic polling, the harder it will be for Walker to shrug off his own abundant slime. Newt is poised to wreck the G.O.P. by making sure everyone understands that it is the party of corruption, of Grant, Harding & Nixon, not Lincoln, T.R., Ike or Reagan.

  10. Anonymous says:

    Oh, I understand your use of the term “Bad Democrat,” Jon Anne – but it doesn’t really work.
    As for a candidate, we’re busy as bees up here in the northwoods, collecting far more signatures than we anticipated, and yes, we get that question a lot: “Who?” What we say is “Walker is running against Walker,” and folks just nod approvingly. He’s the target, and we want to keep it that way – for now.
    We’ll have a candidate, and a good one, when the timing is right, probably right after the petitions are turned in in January. Speculation just takes the focus off of Scooter’s dopey decisions in office, and that’s the focus we want to keep.
    Now I must get back to collecting signatures. Angry Wisconsinites are waiting!

  11. Anonymous says:

    Mr. Smart,
    Your name calling speaks volumes.

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