By Wisconsin Reporter
MADISON — Wisconsin just can’t shake recall fever.
Less than a week after the Badger State’s historic recall election in which Republicans routed most of their Democratic opponents, a victorious but conciliatory sounding Gov. Scott Walker tried to mend fences with bratwurst and beer.
By the end of the week, though, old partisan flames flared, with incumbent state Sen. Van Wanggaard, R-Racine, calling for a recount of the ballots cast in the 21st Senate District — the only apparent loss for Republicans in their near sweep of recall elections.
Meanwhile, the latest employment data show Wisconsin’s economy added jobs last month. Those are numbers everyone can agree on, right? No, not so much.
Better living through beer, brats
If there’s anything that can bring together the most politically divided state in America — yes, we’re talking to you, Wisconsin — it’s beer and brats.
That was the theory behind the governor's invitation to the entire Legislature to come to the governor’s mansion for a “beer and brats summit” Tuesday afternoon.
“I am hopeful this get-together will forge relationships that will make it easier to work together to help create jobs,” Walker said in a statement.
Ninety-eight legislators said they would attend the summit, while at least three others released statements of protest.
Democratic Reps. Kelda Helen Roys and Mark Pocan, both of Madison and seeking the congressional seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Madison, dismissed the governor’s invitation as little more than a dog-and-pony show.
Pocan’s statement called it “a media stunt.”
Except, of course, that the media wasn’t invited to the party. Walker spokesman Cullen Werwie says the media’s exclusion is to provide a “relaxed environment for legislators to socialize."
Rep. Steve Nass, R-Whitewater, also said in a statement he wouldn't attend the barbecue because, “Democratic leaders continue their offensive comments and threats of legislative chaos. We encourage our children to stand up to bullies. That’s exactly what must happen in the Legislature.”
Except for the presence of two dozen heckling protesters, Wisconsin’s lawmakers appeared congenial exiting the party.
“This is a great bi-partisan event. I give the governor a great deal of credit for setting this up, for bringing people together. This is a very good first step after the recall to come together and find some common ground,” said Rep. Scott Suder, R–Abbotsford. Protesters yelled “you’re a liar” at him.
Nothing chases a bitter recall campaign like a shot of recount.
Citing unsolicited calls from his 35,000-plus supporters, incumbent state Sen. Van Wanggaard requested a recount of the apparent voter verdict rendered in the 21st Senate District recall election.
Earlier in the week, local elections officials canvassed the vote, declaring Wanggaard’s Democratic challenger, John Lehman, also of Racine, won the race by 834 votes.
The Wanggaard campaign said it would consider its options regarding a recount.
On Friday, the considered option was recount.
Wanggaard called for the recount in the shadow of allegations of voter irregularities in the election, something the Racine County Sheriff’s Department said it was investigating. The lawmaker had the full backing of the Republican Party of Wisconsin and the Committee to Elect a Republican Senate.
“…I also recognize that in the absence of a Voter ID law and so many people suspicious of the election result, bitterness and division will only grow if the results are not recounted,” Wanggaard said in a statement.
“We think it was a fair election and we will prevail,” said Lehman, who previously served as the district’s senator until 2010, when he was beaten by Wanggaard.
Wisconsin’s job picture brightened last month, and it turns out the down numbers in April weren’t as bad as originally reported, according to the latest data from the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development.
Preliminary figures show Wisconsin gained 2,600 nonfarm wage and salary jobs in May, including 900 new private-sector jobs. April’s revised figures show an uptick of 1,700 nonfarm wage and salary jobs, including 1,900 more in the private sector than the preliminary numbers from last month.
Still, April’s revised data show a decline in the work force of about 4,500 jobs — better than the originally reported 6,200 jobs lost, but a decline nonetheless.
Through May, however, Wisconsin’s economy added 12,900 private-sector jobs, according to the latest DWD figures.
The data does need to be taken in context. Walker and his Democratic rival, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett, certainly made the jobs numbers a point of contention in the state’s historic recall campaign.
Pollster: Walker’s win bodes well for Romney
Walker is a game changer, in Wisconsin politics and possibly in the presidential election ahead, said national pollster Scott Rasmussen.
The founder and president of Rasmussen Reports, a conservative-leaning polling firm that, among a host of topics, takes the daily political temperature of the U.S. voter, said Walker’s ambitious and successful reform agenda and the Republican governor’s victory in last week’s recall election has helped changed the math in the presidential race.
At least in Wisconsin.
Rasmussen’s latest presidential tracking poll found GOP presumptive nominee Mitt Romney leading President Barack Obama by 3 percentage points, 47 percent to 43 percent, among respondents. The phone survey of 500 likely Wisconsin voters, conducted Tuesday, had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.
Last month, the numbers were 49 percent for Obama and 45 percent for Romney. In March, the president led his likely Republican challenger by 11 points, 52 percent to 41 percent.
“Sure there is the economy and the declining support overall for Obama, but you cannot ignore Scott Walker,” Rasmussen said during a Thursday webinar on the 2012 races sponsored by the Franklin Center for Government and Public Integrity, the parent nonprofit of Wisconsin Reporter, and Ballotpedia, a website on state politics.
Without Walker’s successful campaign to reform public-sector collective bargaining and his strong showing in Wisconsin’s heated, partisan recall election, Romney doesn’t get the kind of lift he’s seeing, Rasmussen said.