Open thread: Total recall; Update: Al Sharpton tries to cope; Update: GOP wins two three four, Dems win one two; Update: GOP holds senate

It’s not quite literally total, but with six senate seats on the menu tonight, it’s closer than any U.S. state’s ever gotten. And needless to say, if the Democrats clean up, they’re going to come hard after Scott Walker next winter once he passes his first year in office and is finally recall-able. His approval rating as of last month: Er, 37 percent.

Who wants it more? Hmmm:

The first is that, as with special elections, these recall elections have such unusual turnout and have received such inordinate attention from national third-party groups trying to influence the races and send a message. In fact, the recalls have essentially been special elections on steroids, with spending reaching nearly $30 million.

As of a couple weeks ago, about two-thirds of that has gone to benefit Democrats, and Republicans acknowledge that they were essentially caught flat-footed by the whole thing. And because of that, they’ve been fighting from behind in recent weeks.

The MacIver Institute produced this mind-boggling money matrix to show how much dough unions and their fellow travelers are throwing around. It’s not just money, either:

This past weekend, 8,234 people volunteered for the state Democratic Party to support the Democratic challengers in Tuesday’s recalls. Volunteers made contact with nearly 785,000 voters last weekend alone, according to the Dems’ estimates. All told, the party says total voter contacts have surpassed 2 million. We Are Wisconsin, the coalition of labor unions that’s been a powerful force in the recalls, said it knocked on nearly 200,000 doors over the weekend—40 doors a minute statewide—and deployed hundreds of volunteers. “To have mobilized so many ordinary citizens, many of whom have never been involved in politics, to stand up and take their government back from Scott Walker and his enablers in attacking Wisconsin’s working families is nothing short of astounding,” says Kelly Steele, a We Are Wisconsin spokesman.

It’s not just payback for the collective bargaining law, either. Per Robert Costa of NRO, they’re hoping to send a message — or rather, several messages:

Leftist special-interest groups see more than a state senate in play: If they can diminish Walker, other conservative governors will hesitate to reform state labor laws. Wisconsin Democrats also need a big win to get them motivated after 2010, when Walker won and Republican Ron Johnson, a first-time candidate, snagged a U.S. Senate seat. That was a shock to the Left, especially after President Obama won Wisconsin by 14 points in 2008. In 2012, Obama will almost undoubtedly need to win here again…

U.S. congressman Paul Ryan’s Medicare reforms have been a major issue in numerous races, even though it is Walker’s budget-repair bill, which curbed collective bargaining for public employees, that is seen by most national observers as the key factor in the recalls. Democrats, coming off a special-election House win in New York, see Ryan’s congressional GOP budget as a potent political issue and have been relentless in tying the state Republican lawmakers to the House GOP budget, even though the senators have no say on federal programs. Senator Darling has seen one of her quotes — calling Ryan a “hero” — become a sticking point, much to her chagrin. Over a recent breakfast, she complained that her campaign against Pasch has become about “fear” and “scaring seniors.” And “seniors vote,” she added.

Darling and other Republicans will be watching returns closely to see if their Ryan ties affected the results.

In other words, whoever wins tonight will be telling you tomorrow that this was very much a national election. The polls close at 9 p.m. ET; here’s the AP’s electoral returns page for all your feverish updating needs. Nate Silver has a useful chart if you’re looking to handicap the races. Democrats need three wins tonight to take back the senate. Dan Kapanke is a goner, it seems, and Randy Hopper has been weakened by “controversies,” so Alberta Darling’s race against Democrat Sandy Pasch might be decisive. Even if the worst occurs and I have to whip out the melting-chocolate-bunny video of despair, note per Silver’s chart that Democrat Jim Holperin is extremely vulnerable in his own district and he’s up for recall next week (as is another Democrat). If Democrats pull it off tonight, Republican motivation to bounce Holperin and retake the senate will be sky high next Tuesday.

Updates coming. Gird those loins.

Update: This editorial appeared less than two hours ago on the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s website. They held it for … the day after the election:

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…

But 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.

Update: Via Larry O’Connor at Breitbart TV, an instant comedy classic.

Update: None of the four most competitive districts have more than 30 percent reporting yet, but for what it’s worth, the GOP leads in three and Kapanke, who’s supposed to be a sure loser, is tied with his opponent with 22 percent in.

Update: The races in District 2 and 10 are all but over. With more than 50 percent reporting in each, the Republican incumbents are up by double digits. And an auspicious footnote from John McCormack: David Prosser lost District 10 with 49 percent of the vote in the supreme court election a few months ago. Sheila Harsdorf, the Republican, has 58 percent as I write this.

Update: Try the county website for up-to-the-minute returns in Randy Hopper’s race. As noted earlier, he’s a very weak incumbent (and a Walker ally); Democrats are counting on that seat, but with 29 percent in, he’s up by several thousand votes. It’ll be a huge upset if he pulls that out.

Update: Returns from Milwaukee came in at 10:15 ET and flipped the crucial Darling/Pasch race. The Democrat leads there now with 18 percent in.

Update: With 72 percent in, GOP incumbent Luther Olsen is holding on with a 10-point lead. Kapanke is fading as I write this, though, so control of the senate will come down to the Darling and Hopper races. As expected.

Update: Districts 2 and 10 have been called for the GOP. Olsen is still up by eight with 78 percent reporting. If he holds on, Democrats need to sweep the other three.

Update: Olsen did it. The race is called. All eyes on Darling and Hopper now. Ironically, Hopper was supposed to be a relatively win for Democrats and Darling was supposed to be a battle. As of 10:40 ET, Hopper’s in a dead heat and Darling’s down by 12.

Update: Via Politico reporter Dave Catanese, this would be crushing to the left if it proves true, especially with the Jim Holperin anything but a lock in his own recall election next week:

Dem source: Dems will get close but not close enough in #SD14 for @FredClarkWI. GOP source says Rs will hold all but Kapanke.

Update: With 79 percent in, Randy Hopper’s back in front by two points. Epic.

Update: 87 percent in now, and Hopper trails — by 137 votes. Good lord.

Update: At a little after 11 p.m. ET, the Democrats notch their first win. As expected, Kapanke has been recalled.

Update: With 52 of 82 precincts in, Darling has pulled to within two points and a thousand points of Pasch. That’s great news, because Hopper’s luck might be running out.

Update: Things look grim for Hopper, who’s down now by more than 1,000 votes with 97 percent of precincts reporting. As expected, everything will come down to Darling and Pasch.

Update: Endgame for Hopper: The AP calls the race for Democrat Jessica King. Darling and Pasch will decide control of the senate, at least for the next week. Pasch leads by four points with 67 percent in, but word from political junkies on Twitter is that there are still Republican counties out for Darling.

Update: A nice data point from Nate Silver. Based on election returns, this can be read as more of a rebuke to the left as to the right:

In total, GOP leads 52-48 among all votes counted so far tonight in Wisconsin. Walker won those districts 56-43, Obama won them 53-46.

Update: Via McCormack, too good to check: “GOP source: with 98 percent in, it’s Darling 30,868 to 28,170”.

Update: We’re waiting for new totals from the AP but political reporters are claiming Darling’s mopping up in Waukesha and Ozaukee counties, staking her to a 3,100 vote lead. But don’t shut off the computer just yet — there are still a few precincts in heavily Democratic Milwaukee to come.

Update: Spin — allegedly — from AP reporter Scott Bauer, who apparently deleted this tweet after lefty Greg Sargent (and DNC spokesman Brad Woodhouse) preserved it:

huge win tonight for Dems. 2 seats Dems couldn’t win when Barack mopped up. In face of GOP power–this is huge

McCormack explains how stupid this is and politely declines to mention the Democrats’ huge money advantage in the race. They outspent Republicans two to one and, if Darling holds on, they’ll have lost two to one on tonight’s seats — with two of their own still to defend next week.

Bauer is now denying that he sent the tweet at all. It is possible for someone to fake a retweet; curious to see where Sargent got it from. Is someone on the left so desperate to put a happy face on tonight’s outcome that they faked a tweet from a reporter?

Update: Looks like the AP reporter didn’t tweet it after all. Duly noted.

Update: At 12:30 ET, News 3 in Wisconsin calls the race for Darling. The GOP retains control of the senate, 17/16, with two shots to increase that advantage next week. After months of agitation over the collective bargaining law, the supreme court election, and now the recalls, they haven’t regained control of anything. Now they have to go for the big prize to try to redeem themselves.

Update: Here’s what happened with the AP reporter’s phantom tweet, incidentally.

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