Wisconsin Democrats won’t have much time for wallowing in their painful loss in the gubernatorial recall. Less than a week later, dejected Wisconsin partisans are gathering for their annual state convention, where they’ll look to pick themselves up off the floor and move onto the next big fights in November.
Speakers will include Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), running for the open Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Herb Kohl, and DNC Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.
Schultz told MSNBC on Thursday that she hoped to turn people’s attention to the general election after months focused on the recall. She said she looks forward to “firing up the troops there and plowing forward to Election Day when Barack Obama will win Wisconsin once again.”
“I’m looking forward to going to Wisconsin tomorrow, keynoting the convention,” she said. “We’re going to gear up, use that convention to hunker down, redouble our efforts, use the lessons we learned from Tuesday’s election, the opportunity that we had to build our grassroots operation, to take the state Senate back, which is now in Democrats’ hands when it was controlled by Republicans.”
Walker’s wide margin of victory could tamp down some chatter that national Democrats and President Obama didn’t do enough to support Tom Barrett, there could be some raw feelings in the wake of the contest.
State Rep. Mark Pocan, who is running for the Democratic nomination for Congress in WI-2, said he was counting on attendees to put any outstanding grudges behind them.
“You can armchair quarterback a lot, I’m not sure it helps to look backwards,” he said. “I hope we look forward at what we can accomplish rather than rewrite history. Until we invent a time machine, there’s not much you can do.”
Democrats in the meantime are clinging to whatever silver lining they can find, with many noting their new 17-16 majority in the state Senate thanks to the recalls. It’s mostly a symbolic victory, though — the legislature is out of regular session, and there will be whole new elections for half of the chamber in November, when the Democrats will play defense on a new map drawn by the Republicans.
“Obviously there will be mourning over the governor’s race, and celebration over the state Senate,” Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca (D) told TPM. “There will be reflection on the election we just had, but there will be a focus on regrouping and organizing for November. Obviously with Wisconsin, while it leans toward the president pretty heavily, you can’t take [the state] for granted.”
Polls show Obama is still in decent shape despite Walker’s victory, giving them some encouragement in their next task as the party moves forward. Democrats say they’re hopeful that the turnout machine they built for the recall will be better put to use in the presidential race, where Obama’s ad game will likely be much better-funded than Barrett’s, who was vastly outspent by Walker and conservative outside groups.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.