Gov. Scott Walker and the Wisconsin GOP have lost. I don't mean that they've lost the fight to push their union-busting bill through -- although, to be sure, they're not having a lot of luck on that front. No, they've lost the argument. April 5 is a off-off-year election day in Wisconsin, the first since the anti-worker moves began, and I have yet to see a candidate who embraces Walker wholeheartedly. Instead, I see only quotes and ads from conservatives pretending Walker doesn't exist or from liberals who promise to "stand up to Scott Walker."
The highest profile race in this election cycle is for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where incumbent conservative David Prosser faces liberal JoAnne Kloppenburg. Prosser won his primary with 55% of the vote. Kloppenburg took a mere 25%. Being a nonpartisan office, the post-primary election is basically a runoff. Those numbers suggested that Prosser would win in a walk. Prosser voters would stick with Prosser, everyone else would go with Kloppenburg -- at least, those who didn't go with Prosser. The incumbent would get his 55% and then some, coasting to an easy reelection.
But since that primary, things have changed. Prosser made the mistake of believing that the new governor's star was rising and his campaign told voters he'd be a "complement" to Scott Walker's governorship as a justice. He's been trying to take that back ever since and enjoying about as much luck as the GOP has been having with their union busting.
And here's how thing look now...
Two sources with knowledge of internal GOP polling tell us that Prosser and Kloppenburg are near even, a bad sign for the incumbent. "She has driven his negatives up," one source says. "It will be hard to drive hers up. Her lack of judicial experience should hurt her, but it also makes her harder to pin down. The question now is: Does the Right have enough resources to counter the Greater Wisconsin Committee's millions? And even if they do, is it too late? It is going to be touch-and-go for these last few days."
Greater Wisconsin Committee is a liberal outfit running a tough anti-Prosser campaign.
But let's keep something in mind here; National Review is about as trustworthy as Fox News. It's what happens to the home of conservative intellectualism when there are no more conservative intellectuals. Once a magazine of serious thought on the right, it's now a clearinghouse for nutjob propaganda. Any publication that goes from William F. Buckley to Jonah Goldberg is definitely heading in the wrong direction, IQ-wise. Granted, I didn't have a lot of use for Buckley, but I have even less for Goldberg. Buckley was as sharp as a tack, Goldberg is as sharp as a moist sponge.
So, if NR's reports that Prosser is running about even, we can be excused for believing he's running behind. "The stakes couldn't be higher!" gets people to the polls, "the cause is lost!" does not.
But even if NR is correct and it's a dead heat, then it's a case of who wants it more. And the momentum is definitely behind the anti-Walker voters right now. As I pointed out toward the beginning of this post, Walker defenders are close to nonexistent right now, while Walker critics shout their criticism through megaphones to cheering crowds. At this point, it's not really a question of whether anti-Walker candidates can win, but whether any given candidate is anti-Walker enough to win.
And the candidate who once promised to be a "complement" to Scott Walker on the bench? I think we can put him in the "not anti-Walker enough" column.
A "state Supreme Court election would not normally be major news," writes Eric Kleefeld for Talking Points Memo. "But in the wake of Walker's legislation, and the political protests that gripped the state and attracted national attention, the court race has quickly turned into a proxy political battle."
In other words, we're seeing how quickly the boil can cool off in the Tea Party kettle. If Kloppenburg wins, then -- in Wisconsin at least -- that heat has already dissipated.