In hindsight, I think it’s safe to say the recall was what they call “overreach.” As Wisconsin Democrats gathered for their convention in one of the state’s lovely cities noted for its kind people, delicious dairy products, and unpronounceable name, they didn’t have any idea who will run against Gov. Scott Walker in 2014:
OCONOMOWOC, WI (WRN) – Wisconsin Democrats repeatedly made the argument at their state convention over the weekend that Governor Scott Walker needs to be defeated in 2014. However, there continue to be few hints about exactly who will take on that challenge in the coming months.
Speaking to delegates, Democratic Party of Wisconsin Chairman Mike Tate said it does no good to give Governor Walker a “target to shoot at one day sooner than we have to.” Tate said Walker has a political history of not promoting his ideas on the campaign trail, but by “making himself the least worst option on the ballot.”
Still, Tate reassured the crowd gathered in Oconomowoc that there are several talented and qualified people considering running. Those possible contenders could include Assembly Democratic Leader Peter Barca (D-Kenosha), a vocal critic of Walker, and Professional Fire Fighters of Wisconsin President Mahlon Mitchell, who made an unsuccessful run last year in the recall against Lt. Governor Rebecca Kleefisch. Both say that they are open to a run for governor, but those decisions are still far off in the future.
This happy face masks some disappointing news from the state’s more high-profile Democrats, who took the opportunity to officially bow out of a match-up with Walker. Congressman Ron Kind is out, and former Sen. Russ Feingold will duck the challenge for the second time in two years. Feingold was liberals’ fondest hope for a recall resurgence in 2012, but he only has eyes for the Beltway life and is holding out for a possible shot at Sen. Ron Johnson, the man who unseated him, in 2016. Backbone, y’all.
Eight new GOP governors were elected in 2010 in states that had voted for Barack Obama two years earlier and would vote for him again two years later. (In all, triumphant Republicans carried 23 of the 37 gubernatorial races that year.) They won amid angst about high unemployment and fevered opposition to the Affordable Care Act Obama had signed that March. The same wave helped the GOP seize control of the House of Representatives in Washington.
Now these freshman Republican governors are expected to seek second terms in their solidly blue or battleground states: Florida, Maine, Michigan, Nevada, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.
If they succeed, the consequences could be considerable. Amid Republican anguish over losing the past two presidential elections — and about losing ground among Hispanics, young people and other growing parts of the electorate — the governors could provide a blueprint for how to win, including in such quintessential swing states as Florida and Ohio.
Five of eight have declined to build state Obamacare exchanges (Martinez, Sandoval, and Snyder the exceptions, though Snyder’s is a joint project with the feds), as reported in USA Today‘s good run-down of the state of the gubernatorial races. When it comes to Medicare expansion, Martinez and Sandoval will expand while Scott, Snyder, and Kasich would like to but are being rebuffed by their Republican legislatures. Such acquiescence to the law, reviled by the constituencies that helped get them elected, is complicating their pitches, but reflective of the purple landscape on which they have to make them. USA Today offers the bottom line on those races, for the moment:
• Both rate the gubernatorial races in Florida and Pennsylvania as tossups, the seats Democrats have the best chance of winning back. The UVA rankings, led by political scientist Larry Sabato, put Maine in the same category.
• Both see the race in Ohio as a competitive one that now only “leans” Republican.
• Michigan, New Mexico and Nevada are rated as leaning or likely Republican — that is, potentially competitive, but not the sort of challenge the incumbents face in the trio of tossup contests.
• And the safest bet seems to be Walker, who already won what amounted to a second election in last year’s recall battle. In 2010, he defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett by 52 percent-47 percent. In their 2012 rematch, he widened his margin to 53 percent-46 percent. He was the third governor in U.S. history to face a recall, and the first to survive it.
Meanwhile, in my home state of North Carolina, voters elected a Republican governor and Republican legislators in 2012, as the state went back to red on the heels of a notably corrupt Democratic administration with some of the worst approval ratings in recent memory.
The will of the people is annoying, though. So, liberal activists are staging weekly protests they’ve dubbed “Moral Mondays,” in which they are all inexplicably able to show up once a week during the day to gather in very loud objection to very small cuts to anything, ever. From a HuffPo contributor contributing to the string of arrests at Moral Mondays, which of course are never met with cries from media about the certain impending doom of the peaceable Republic, unlike media coverage of notably arrest-less Tea Party gatherings.
Because North Carolina refused the Obamacare Medicaid expansion, I ended up in handcuffs in the Wake County Detention Center. That was my trigger, anyway. Statistically, next year more than two thousand people in the state will die who would have lived if North Carolina had accepted federal money to give health insurance to low-income families. (That’s our share of an estimated 19,000 preventable deaths nationwide in the 14 states that have rejected the expansion.) Because the state legislature was doing that in my name, I decided I needed to stand in front of it, at least until they took me away.
Just to be clear, getting arrested was never going to be my jam. I don’t like chanting, marching, or rubbing my chafed wrists in a holding cell. I don’t like the way disagreement gets simplified. I don’t like being on the wrong side of the law. But sometimes it’s worth swallowing these things.
For that matter, I don’t really like throwing around the language of morality in public, but I had to swallow that, too. I got arrested at a Moral Monday, the name the state NAACP and a coalition of unions and churches have given to their peaceful demonstrations in Raleigh, aimed at drawing attention to the state’s Tea Party legislative agenda.
It’s important not just for North Carolina, but for the country. The issues that progressives mobilized around in 2012 haven’t gone away. They’ve just moved to the states. Places like Raleigh are the next front line in US politics.
Let’s hope so. And, let’s hope Walker is advising Gov. Pat McCrory on withstanding this kind of onslaught, and Wisconsin liberals are advising protesters on how to overreach on McCrory. Sadly, North Carolina does not offer recall, but that won’t stop them from trying! With any luck, McCrory and his supporters will be well on their way to a reelection victory thanks in part to the Moral Monday crowd.