Democrats Handing Walker His Walking Papers

After waiting all year, Wisconsin Democrats are now poised to challenge Scott Walker. They were forced to hold off until a year after he was first elected, but on Tuesday they officially began gathering signatures for a recall election against their unpopular Republican governor, who earned national attention and the ire of cheeseheads when he used the state's new Republican majority to strip public employees of their collective-bargaining rights.

It will be a mad rush to collect all of the necessary signatures in the 60-day window allotted by Wisconsin law. Over 540,000 signatures—at least 25 percent of the ballots cast when Walker was elected in 2010—must be gathered. Republicans are prepared to pull out every procedural stop they can to derail Walker's recall (including running fake primary candidates, as they did for the senate recalls earlier this year), Democrats will likely need extra signatures in case any are thrown out. March 27 is the earliest a recall election could be held, though it will likely be delayed by lawsuits or party primaries.

If they manage to get past all the hurdles to implement the recall, their odds are still iffy. A recent PPP poll found that Walker might be unpopular, but not by an overwhelming margin, with only 51 percent disapproving of his job performance. Those numbers were once higher, but Walker's numbers have been rising the further we get away from the spectacle of the union bill last spring. The current slight majority who dislikes Walker won't necessarily vote for the Democrat next spring either, especially as prominent possible candidates such as former Senator Russ Feingold have taken a pass on the job. Walker is well prepared to fend off this challenge; Wiscons throws its normal campaign-finance laws out the window for recall elections, allowing Walker to raise unlimited contributions, which he has already used to run ads during a Green Bay Packers' game.

There are, however, a few positives for Walker's opponents. Democrats managed to remove two Wisconsin Republican senators earlier this year, and voters in another Midwestern state voiced their frustration with the Republican drive to overturn rights to unionize when similar restrictions in Ohio were overturned with a referendum vote that passed by a wide margin.