One basic question asked whether respondents approve of the job performance of each senator—those numbers are in the first two columns after each incumbent's name. Four senators have negative ratings, and one is even—not particularly welcome news for Republicans.Considering the drubbing they've been receiving in the (incredibly biased) media, I think the approval numbers are pretty strong. If there are sufficient signatures for a recall election, the Senators will have to go back to their districts and campaign, making the argument to their constituents that what the GOP legislature and governor have been doing is good. They'll run ads and do debates and sharpen the issues and arguments. Think their somewhat eroded popularity will grow back?
We also asked whether respondents support or oppose the idea of recalling their senators. As you can see in the next pair of columns, this question doesn't test as well—pluralities say they favor recall in just three districts—but in a way, it's the least important question we asked.Oh, yeah, the question with the bad numbers... it's not important! Ha! The reason it's (supposedly) not important is that if enough signatures are collected, there will be a recall election. It doesn't matter that people don't want it. They're going to get it.
But... if they don't want it, when they get it, they're going to be annoyed at getting stuck with another election, and they will be receptive to what should be one of the strongest arguments the incumbent Senators will make:
You elected us in November, and we have been working hard at the difficult job you elected us to do. Some people who didn't get their way last November have been yelling and screaming and doing everything they can to change the results of the last election. They want a do-over. Tell them no. No do-overs until the next election.
Portray them as crybaby children who can't accept a loss and cry "do-over." Portray them as anti-democratic sore losers who won't accept the results of a legitimate fair election.
Three Republican incumbents actually trail "generic Dem": Luther Olsen, Randy Hopper, and Dan Kapanke. Two more have very narrow leads and garner less than 50% support: Rob Cowles and Sheila Harsdorf. And one more, Alberta Darling, holds a clear lead but is still potentially vulnerable....
But a key thing to remember, though, is that if any of these senators have to face a recall election, we'll need an actual candidate to run against each of them. In that regard, Wisconsin's recalls are very different from California's, where in 2003 voters were simply asked if they wanted to remove Democratic Gov. Gray Davis from office. Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected (with less than a majority) by means of a separate ballot question.... In Wisconsin, if a recall election makes it on to the ballot, there is no California-style first question—we go directly to a head-to-head between candidates (with a possible stop along the way for primaries). So for a recall to succeed, we'll need to convince voters to support a real live Democrat—and that means we'll have to recruit some good candidates.So the incumbents can argue both that recall is a bad idea and that the specific alternate candidate isn't better. The "generic Democrat" is a vague repository of hope for something better. A specific candidate is a much riper target.
Now, what about the recall efforts against the Democratic Senators? Did Kos poll that? If you push for recall elections, you're asking for your guys to get challenged too. I don't know how those recall efforts are going, but the complaint against the 14 who ran to Illinois to obstruct the legislative majority is very specific. They too were sore losers who wouldn't accept the results of a fair, legitimate election. They came home to Madison on Sunday and participated in a big parade where they were cheered and called "The Fabulous 14." I think some of the images of them preening about their fabulousness in front of throngs of Madison-style protesters and "union thug" types would work really well in some devastating ads in some of the districts around the state. I don't expect Madison's own Fred Risser to get booted out, but some of those 14 districts are not that safe for Democrats.
Who will win and who will lose in the recall madness?