Republican Walker sounds alarm, Democrats see hope after win

Published 7:21 am Thursday, April 5, 2018

MADISON, Wis. — The dominating victory by a liberal candidate in Wisconsin’s Supreme Court race emboldened Democrats deflated by years of defeats, pushing Republican Gov. Scott Walker to issue a series of warnings Wednesday about a possible “blue wave” in the red state.

Democrats heralded Rebecca Dallet’s victory as the clearest sign yet voters are back on their side after seven years of Republican control of the Wisconsin Statehouse and Donald Trump’s 1-point victory in the state in 2016.

“Last night is another indication that every Republican in Wisconsin should be running scared,” said Democratic strategist Joe Zepecki on Wednesday. “The progressive candidate here over-performed recent history in every type of community, rural, urban, suburban, exurban and that puts everything in play for this fall.”

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Walker, who is up for re-election in November, exhorted supporters on Twitter to see the warning signs.

“We are at risk of a Blue Wave in Wisconsin,” Walker said in a fundraising email Wednesday. “After these two defeats, it is clear that our big bold reforms are in jeopardy.”

Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, a top GOP target, also is on the ballot in November, along with the entire state Assembly and half the Senate.

Dallet won 24 counties across the state that Trump had carried in 2016, a troubling sign for Republicans. Her win also comes after a surprise Democratic victory in a special state Senate election that had been under Republican control for 17 years and that Trump carried.

Three months ago, Walker called the special election loss a “wake up call.”

Those two wins, coupled with Doug Jones’ victory over Republican Roy Moore for an Alabama U.S. Senate seat in December, shows Democrats are on pace for big gains nationally in November, said Paul Maslin, a Wisconsin-based national Democratic pollster.

“Everything is lining up in one direction,” Maslin said. “There’s no question they’re headed for a major defeat and we’re headed for a major victory. … Our people are motivated and are taking action in the best way possible, which is at the ballot box.”

But Republicans argue spring elections — where turnout is roughly half of what it will be in November — are poor indicators of what will happen in the fall. Still, longtime political observers in Wisconsin on both sides agreed the win emphasizes that Democrats are more energized at the moment than Republicans.

“It’s clearly a wake-up call,” said Republican strategist Brandon Scholz. “I don’t think a poorly run campaign makes a blue wave, but I do think the Republicans are challenged with having to draw the passion factor equal.”