The first quarter of 2018 saw Wisconsin Democrats supremely confident about their chances in the November elections, and Republicans obviously nervous. A stunning Democratic upset in a special election in the 10th State Senate District garnered national headlines. Patty Schactner defeated Republican Adam Jarchow in what was presumed to be a firmly red Western Wisconsin district.
In April, liberals broke a long string of Wisconsin Supreme Court losses when Judge Rebecca Dallet defeated Judge Michael Screnock. Two GOP insiders told Media Trackers in March that Republicans were facing a serious threat in November:
Insider #1 put it: “If you’re a Wisconsin Republican and you don’t see the headwind that you’re facing then you’re blind and you deserve to lose.” Insider #2 agreed that the current situation is dire, but not irreversible: “I do not think this is a sky is falling moment. This a ready the warplanes moment. We’re looking up and we see the trouble coming. It’s not time for Chicken Little.”
Both were responding to this question posed by Media Trackers: “do you get the sense there is concern among Republicans in Madison that they could see the party suffer heavy losses in November?” We later specifically asked about control of the State Senate and the governor’s office. Both sources agreed Republicans could lose both, if the party continues to be in denial about the magnitude of the challenge it faces. Both sources identified similar problems and solutions. Both agree that anti-Trump fervor is generating off the charts enthusiasm among Democrats and that running from President Donald Trump isn’t the Republican solution.
But is the forecast changing as June approaches? National polls show the Democratic advantage in Congressional races shrinking, and there are two events: one this week and another two weeks from now that may give indications as to whether that shift is occurring in Wisconsin as well.
Wednesday morning Governor Scott Walker’s campaign announced that it had collected more than 12,000 nomination signatures from all 72 Wisconsin counties – a number the campaign says shows “that the conservative grassroots army of supporters across the state is preparing to protect the governor’s reforms and re-elect both him and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch in November.” The Walker campaign provided numbers in a statement that it says shows strong grassroots Republican enthusiasm:
- The more than 12,000 signatures the governor’s campaign collected are more than 6 times the 2,000 needed to get on the ballot.
- Combined with Lt. Gov. Kleefisch’s nearly 8,000 signatures, the Walker and Kleefisch campaigns collected nearly 20,000 signatures from across Wisconsin.
- Not only did Gov. Walker have signatures from all 72 counties, the governor had circulators – grassroots volunteers collecting signatures – in all 72 counties, further emphasizing the governor’s solid grassroots presence in every part of Wisconsin.
A more tangible measure comes on June 12, in a special election to fill the vacant 1st State Senate district seat. Republican State Representative Andre Jacque and Democrat Caleb Frostman are vying for the seat. Democrats believe that a Frostman victory in a traditional Republican stronghold would be an indicator of a blue wave coming in November:
— Chris Larson (@ChrisJLarson) May 26, 2018
— Debbie Hadley (@debbhadley) May 26, 2018
A Frostman win would continue a streak of Democratic victories in what are considered Republican and conservative strongholds, not just in Wisconsin but nationally. A Jacque win, while not proof the blue wave has been stopped, would be an important Republican victory by virtue of stopping a Democratic winning streak.
It was Walker who sounded the alarm after the supreme court loss that Republicans faced the threat of a blue wave. His campaign believes the grassroots efforts on gathering signatures indicates a turnaround. A Republican win in the 1st wouldn’t be an upset, but it would be a significant piece of supporting evidence that the blue wave has stalled.