Wednesday, May 04, 2011

New Gaps in Enthusiasm and in Momentum

Leading up to the November election last year we continuously heard about the enthusiasm gap that favored Republicans in that election. We unfortunately found out after the election results that the analysis was mostly true. Considering that it was only a handful of months ago, it is nothing short of remarkable at how both enthusiasm and momentum have completely and totally reversed.

Last night Steve Doyle picked up a state assembly seat in a special election in western Wisconsin. This was a seat that was held by Republicans for some 16 years and only opened after its former occupant Mike Huebsch was tapped for a high position in the Walker administration. Doyle's victory last night was convincing (by 8%) and more importantly it happened in a part of the state that has often served as a political bell weather.

The Steve Doyle win makes total sense when you consider the rapid and major shift in Western Wisconsin voting between the November elections and the supreme court election last month. The major swing in April helped turn what should have been a slam dunk win for Prosser into one of the closest statewide elections in recent memory. Kloppenburg gained 18 net points over Tom Barrett's November results.

Given all of this information it should be no surprise that state Senator Dan Kapanke appears to be in big trouble. The recall petition against him was the first to be filed and it was done with lighting speed. Initial signs seem even more ominous when you couple that with an early poll showing Kapanke losing to a generic Democrat 55-41%.

There is also much to be learned by comparing the recall efforts by Democrats vs. state Republicans. So far Democrats have filed six recall petitions compared to Republicans' three. The petitions filed against Republican senators happened with lightning fast speed and often included 40%-50% more signatures than were needed. In the three recall petitions that Republicans have turned in they have taken much longer and turned in much less signatures.

The vast majority of the recall efforts against the Republicans was handled by a small army of passionately engaged Wisconsinites while the Republicans relied heavily on out-of-state paid circulators. The Republicans must have been pretty hard up for help because several of those people have questionable backgrounds. Given the low quality of out-of-state paid circulators that Republicans had to hire, it is not really a surprise that we are seeing reports of dead people signing their recall petitions.

The bottom line in all of this is that there are new gaps in both enthusiasm and in momentum and Republicans are now on the losing end of both. The only thing to still be determined is if these new gaps will translate into recall election victories.

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