Twelve days ago, Democratic National Committee chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said this on CNN “State of the Union”:
“I think Tom Barrett will pull this out,” she added, “but regardless it has given the Obama for America operation an opportunity to do the dry run that we need of our massive, significant, dynamic grassroots presidential campaign, which can’t really be matched by the Romney campaign or the Republicans, because they’ve ignored the ground operations.”
Let me guess — the “massive, significant, dynamic” Democrat “dry run” was tripped up, rolled over, and crushed by the Republican operation that blind-sided the Democrat machine. No matter, it was just a “dry run,” right? Think again. Wasserman Schultz made another colossal blunder in prognostication; isn’t she supposed be an expert at taking the political pulse? Let’s just call it hubris gone awry.
The Tea Party Express had a significant impact in the Wisconsin race, both in funds spent ($400,000) and the passionate, organized ground game, along with grass-roots calling, etc. Other like-minded Tea Party groups were likely involved as well.
The Wall Street Journal published three outstanding columns yesterday about the significance of the Wisconsin recall election — one by Neil King Jr. and Colleen McCain Nelson, one by Peggy Noonan, and one by Karl Rove.
We’ll be talking about Tuesday’s Wisconsin recall election for a long time to come.
The results were a historic setback for organized labor, which failed to oust Gov. Scott Walker in a citadel of modern progressivism. And how it must have stung that 38% of union households voted for Mr. Walker, up a point from 2010 when he was first elected.
Republicans have seized on Tuesday’s results, including a surge of 400,000 more votes than in 2010, to show they can dramatically out-raise and out-organize the once-powerful labor unions in a large industrial state, a show of muscle they hope to replicate elsewhere.
People wonder about the implications for the presidential election. They’ll wonder for five months, and then they’ll know.
President Obama’s problem now isn’t what Wisconsin did, it’s how he looks each day—careening around, always in flight, a superfluous figure. No one even looks to him for leadership now. He doesn’t go to Wisconsin, where the fight is. He goes to Sarah Jessica Parker’s place, where the money is.
There is, now, a house-of-cards feel about this administration.
So what happened? According to Rove,
There are two possible answers why the “best grass-roots campaign in modern American political history” failed to deliver victory. First, Team Obama’s vaunted get-out-the-vote effort was simply a facade. That’s not likely, since Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, the Democratic candidate, did receive 158,482 more votes than he did in losing to Mr. Walker in 2010.
The other possibility is the Democrats were out-hustled by the Republicans.
Noonan mentions the ground game, grass-roots work, and funding in her editorial, but credits a sea change of sorts:
But organization and money aren’t the headline. The shift in mood and assumption is. The vote was a blow to the power and prestige not only of the unions but of the blue-state budgetary model, which for two generations has been: Public-employee unions with their manpower, money and clout, get what they want. If you move against them, you will be crushed.
Mr. Walker was not crushed. He was buoyed, winning by a solid seven points in a high-turnout race.
Mr. Walker didn’t win because of his charm—he’s not charming. It wasn’t because he is compelling on the campaign trail—he’s not, especially.[...]
But on the big question—getting control of the budget by taking actions resisted by public unions—he was essentially right, and he won.
As to Obama’s “house of cards?”
It became apparent some weeks ago when the president talked on the stump—where else?—about an essay by a fellow who said spending growth is actually lower than that of previous presidents. [...] But you know, why would he go out there waving an article that could immediately be debunked? Maybe because he thought it was true. That’s more alarming, isn’t it, the idea that he knows so little about the effects of his own economic program that he thinks he really is a low spender.
Any president will, in a presidential election year, be political. But there is a startling sense with Mr. Obama that that’s all he is now, that he and his people are all politics, all the time, undeviatingly, on every issue. He isn’t even trying to lead, he’s just trying to win.
Most ominously, there are the national-security leaks that are becoming a national scandal—the “avalanche of leaks,” according to Sen. Dianne Feinstein.[...]
This isn’t the usual—this is something different. A special counsel may be appointed.
And where is the president in all this? On his way to Anna Wintour’s house. He’s busy. He’s running for president.
But why? He could be president now if he wanted to be.
It just all increasingly looks like a house of cards. Bill Clinton—that ol’ hound dog, that gifted pol who truly loves politics, who always loved figuring out exactly where the people were and then going to exactly that spot and claiming it—Bill Clinton is showing all the signs of someone who is, let us say, essentially unimpressed by the incumbent. He defended Mitt Romney as a businessman—”a sterling record”—said he doesn’t like personal attacks in politics, then fulsomely supported the president, and then said that the Bush tax cuts should be extended.
His friends say he can’t help himself, that he’s getting old and a little more compulsively loquacious. Maybe. But maybe Bubba’s looking at the president and seeing what far more than half of Washington sees: a man who is limited, who thinks himself clever, and who doesn’t know that clever right now won’t cut it.
Because Bill Clinton loves politics, he hates losers. Maybe he just can’t resist sticking it to them a little, when he gets a chance.
Mordecai Lee, a professor of governmental affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, called the recall, which was initiated by labor groups, a “blunder of epic proportions.” He said Mr. Obama, who endorsed Mr. Barrett but did little to help him, may find that Wisconsin Democrats are still somewhat dispirited in the fall.
“Anybody who self-identifies as a Democrat and who voted yesterday for Barrett will of course vote for Obama in November,” he said. “But will they be willing to do anything more than just vote? It will be hard to regain the enthusiasm. It’s like getting kicked in the stomach.”
If the Wisconsin results are cause for concern among Democrats, they provide a call to action for Republicans, especially in battleground states. To beat Mr. Obama, Republicans must duplicate the ground game deployed by the GOP in Wisconsin that registered, persuaded and produced a massive turnout.
This won’t be easy. But Republicans are fortunate to have outstanding leadership at the Republican National Committee in Mr. Priebus and also at Romney headquarters in Boston. Their challenge will be to gather the necessary resources and generate the passionate commitment to the ground game at the grass-roots level that was so evident in Wisconsin.
I’m betting they will.
I strongly believe the Wisconsin recall election will go down in history as one of the most significant turning points in American politics.
Links to Op-Eds:
“GOP Looks for Post-Wisconsin Boost” — By Neil King Jr. and Colleen McCain Nelson
“What’s Changed After Wisconsin” — By Peggy Noonan
“Wisconsin and the GOP Ground Game” — By Karl Rove
Why is President Obama worried? Why are pundits now asking Democrat politicians across the country if the Obama administration is panicking? Why do we read “desperate” and “Democrat” in the same sentence almost daily now? Check this table to see how Democrat turnout is shrinking from 2008. This table below the fold tells the story ——–>