THE MORNING LINE -- August 10, 2011 at 9:16 AM ET
Wisconsin Republicans Keep Control of Senate as Democrats Come Up Short
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. File photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.
Democrats in Wisconsin came up one seat short of ousting Republicans from control of the state Senate in Tuesday's recall elections.
While two of the Republican state senators up for recall lost their seats to Democratic challengers, Democrats needed three seats to gain control of the upper chamber and upend the Republican dominated state capitol.
The recall efforts were launched by both parties in the wake of the controversy surrounding Gov. Scott Walker's budget proposal, which ended collective bargaining rights for many public employees.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has all your district-by-district results and post-vote reaction from the candidates.
More than $35 million was reportedly spent on the recall elections, with much of that money coming from outside national political organizations.
The inability for Democrats to take control of the state Senate is a huge blow for labor unions and their allies. The labor community was eager to use Wisconsin as a leading indicator that the electorate would not stand for some of the fiscal policies put in place by various Republican governors and legislatures following the GOP's sweeping 2010 victory. Though turning out two incumbent state senators is no small feat, the labor community fell short of its ultimate goal Tuesday.
Gov. Walker, whose approval ratings have taken a significant hit during the months-long partisan warfare in Wisconsin, issued a statement after the results became clear Tuesday night that was devoid of partisan chest thumping.
"...Earlier this evening I reached out to the leadership of both the Republicans and Democrats in the Assembly and State Senate. I shared with them that I believe we can work together to grow jobs and improve our state. In the days ahead I look forward to working with legislators of all parties to grow jobs for Wisconsin and move our state forward."
Two Democratic state senators will face the voters in additional recall elections next week, but the results will have no impact on which party controls the senate.
OBAMA VS. ROMNEY
We have written often in this space about the precarious nature of Mitt Romney's front-runner status for the Republican presidential nomination.
Team Romney is keenly aware of the hurdles that remain over the next six months to get there, but that hasn't stopped Romney or his advisers from focusing on the general election as if it were already at hand.
Bill Clinton's famous rule about never looking ahead to the next election when you have one right in front of you is not so much being ignored as it is being tested at Romney's Boston HQ.
Of course, the Obama operation's willingness to engage Romney directly long before he has secured his party's nomination plays into the Romney primary strategy to be the one candidate seen as having the best chance to defeat the incumbent president.
That's why Obama campaign spokesman Ben LaBolt confidently labels Romney campaign complaints about a great POLITICO story detailing the Obama plan to discredit Romney's character as "crocodile tears."
The Romney campaign is clearly loving the Obama campaign's attention on them that was most recently brought to light by Ben Smith and Jonathan Martin in POLITICO.
Tuesday night, the Romney campaign released a web video that goes right at the heart of the Obama brand. Not only does the idea of the Obama campaign setting out to "destroy" or "kill" Romney's character as a means to an electoral end cut against his 2008 promise of a new kind of politics, but the president more recently spoke of the need to bring civility back to our politics in the wake of the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in January.
It's those words the Romney campaign uses to push back in its latest video.
But the Obama team's focus on Romney is nothing new. A casual look at senior adviser David Axelrod's Twitter feed shows that he sent only three tweets in July -- all of them squarely pointed at Romney.
As far back as March, Axelrod was engaging Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom on how the former Massachusetts governor was handling the politics of his health care plan, which has been an area of focus for his GOP opponents.
And when former White House deputy press secretary Bill Burton opened up his outside group to help Obama's re-election effort, the first television ad he launched was against Romney in South Carolina in May.
So, while there hasn't been a single electoral contest or delegate awarded to any of the nine GOP candidates seeking the party's nomination, there does seem to be a general election campaign underway from both the Obama and Romney camps. Keeping up those pretenses for a bit is likely to help each side accomplish some short term goals.
'SUPER COMMITTEE' TAKES SHAPE
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has made his choices for who will represent Senate Democrats on the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction, otherwise known as the "Super Committee" charged with cutting some $1.5 billion from federal deficits mandated by the Budget Control Act.
Senate Democratic Conference Secretary Patty Murray, D-Wash., Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., will join a yet-unannounced group of nine other House and Senate members from both parties. The group will propose changes in either taxes and/or spending that will then go to both chambers of Congress for a vote. The remaining nine members of the committee must be named by Tuesday.
"I have great faith in Senator Murray as the co-chair of the committee. Her years of experience on the Senate Budget and Appropriations committees have given her a depth of knowledge on budget issues, and demonstrated her ability to work across party lines," Sen. Reid said in a statement. "Senators Baucus and Kerry are two of the Senate's most respected and experienced legislators. Their legislative accomplishments are matched only by their records of forging strong bonds with their Republican colleagues."
A Gallup poll out Wednesday indicated six in 10 Americans want this super committee to compromise in order to reduce the federal deficit even if they disagree with the final agreement. If the committee cannot reach an agreement, across-the-board cuts to defense and non-defense discretionary spending will go into effect.
The selection of Sen. Murray, who is in charge of the committee that elects Senate Democrats, signals the obvious: Electoral politics will play a part in how Senate Democrats will negotiate. Murray is joined by the party's 2004 presidential nominee, as well. These picks could signal that Democrats, angry that Republicans got most of what they wanted in the debt-limit deal, are stiffening their spines ahead of this second round of negotiations. Democrats are eager to use Republican votes for the House Republican budget plan, which would dramatically change Medicare from an insurance plan to a "voucher style program," as a potent weapon in the 2012 elections. Compromise on Medicare changes could weaken that hand.
For their part, Republicans haven't signaled any willingness to soften their views on tax increases as part of the committee's work. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., told his members in a recent memo to resist any tax increases.
"As we have said from the beginning of the year, the new Republican Majority was elected to change the way Washington does business. We were not elected to raise taxes or take more money out of the pockets of hard working families and business people," Rep. Cantor wrote.
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