WASHINGTON -- Both national and Wisconsin-based Republican operatives tell the Huffington Post the party is being dramatically outworked and out-organized by Democrats in the recall campaigns being launched against state Senators.
The operatives, who raised their concerns out of hope it would jar the GOP into assertiveness, argue complacency has taken over after Governor Scott Walker successfully shepherded his anti-collective bargaining bill into law. While the Wisconsin Democratic Party, with major assists from progressive groups and unions, has harnessed resentment towards the governor into a full-throttled effort to recall eight GOP Senators, neither the enthusiasm nor organizational acumen exists on the Republican side of the aisle.
“It's clear that Democrats and liberal organizations are engaging in an attempt to make recall more than a mere hypothetical possibility for some Wisconsin Republicans,” said Liz Mair, Vice President of Hynes Communications and former RNC Online Communications Director, who has followed closely the work of conservative groups in Wisconsin. “Even though Governor Walker acted to end the impasse, Republicans and conservatives should not be acting like this is done and dusted.”
A conservative activist working inside the state on recall efforts was even more explicitly distraught. The Wisconsin Republican Party, the operative said, was not lending resources to the recall campaign groups had launched against Democratic Senators, in turn causing those groups to narrow their target list down from eight lawmakers to just three.
“It would be nice if the Republican Party, operatives, etc, would step in with a little money,” said the activist, who asked to remain nameless lest he draw the GOP even further away from the recall effort. “But they are talking about doing radio and I’m not sure that gets you signatures.”
“Sure, the first battle was won with the passing of the bill,” the activist added, “but the war is not won. If they come in and recall some of those state senators and none of the Democrats get knocked out, that’s not good for the republicans at all…it is a bit of a mystery to me. You would think they would want to make sure all these [recall] efforts are successful.”
The data bears out the notion of a disparity. Reid Magney, a spokesman for the non-partisan Wisconsin Government Accountability Board, described the recall efforts by Democrats against Republican state Senators as more organized than their counterparts. Whereas GOP-run recalls registered at different times and originated from a random spattering of groups--a Utah-based conservative organization was forced to find a partner inside Wisconsin to make its petitions legally acceptable--all of the Democratic activity has run through the state party.
“The recalls of Republicans [launched by Democrats] all came in on the same day, they are all organized by the same people, which is the Democratic party of Wisconsin. It’s not on the docs but it doesn’t have to be. The PO box is all the same,” said Magney. "The state GOP is not involved in the same way.”
The funding differences, it appears, are even more drastic than the organizational. While Mair pleaded for conservative groups to “raise and spend money in order ensure that those who pushed reform through aren't turfed out,” Democratic organizations claim to be swimming in a historic pool of funds.
Democracy for America, the group started by Howard Dean following his failed 2004 election, said it has raised nearly $800,000 to run ads and help with the recall campaign, which communications director Levana Layendecker described as “unprecedented for a non-election year issue.” In addition, 2,500 volunteers have signed up with DFA to help gather signatures. The group, with 25,000 members in Wisconsin alone, expects that number to only grow.
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which has nearly 25,000 Wisconsin members its mobilizing as well, is pouring massive resources into an ad campaign to keep momentum behind the recall efforts. Their efforts include a new spot focusing on three GOP state senators (Alberta Darling, Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper).
Union groups, while legally prohibited from working with the Democratic Party on the recount, have still pushed to keep the issue front and center, as have a host of other progressive institutions.
“I think that the governor really did wake a sleeping giant,” said Justin Ruben, Executive Director of MoveOn.org. “People feel that what happened was not just a horrible attack but the courage of regular people standing up and getting in the way. That was what electrified folks. It was the first time we had seen anything like that.”