NOW: Recall is ‘straw in the wind’ of Wisconsin politics

What is the likelihood that Wisconsin recall supporters will be able to collect 540,000 signatures in 60 days?

The truth is, no one really knows. That’s because it’s never been attempted before.

The efforts to recall Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch kicked off at midnight on Nov. 15.

To succeed, the Democratic Party, along with groups such as United Wisconsin, One Wisconsin Now, We Are Wisconsin and the labor unions in the state, will need to collect signatures of disgruntled Wisconsin residents on a pace of at least 9,000 per day.

In other words, it’s a two-month sprint.

Wisconsin political pundits acknowledge they really do not have any historical reference point to compare the recall drive to.

“Will they get enough? My expert opinion is that I have no idea. It’s unprecedented, right? We don’t know if Wisconsinites have the drive to put together that kind of a recall effort. Anything is possible. But it’s a pretty tall order for them,” said McGee Young, assistant professor of political science at Marquette University.

Jeff Mayers, president of WisPolitics.com, a media partner of BizTimes, said, “I’ll take my cue from the combatants – the odds of meeting the threshold must be good. Walker is already in full campaign mode, so he’s expecting a race. His opponents have been aiming at this for months, and the anti-Walker coalition is executing a plan.”

The coalition has opened 30 offices around the state and has reportedly trained 20,000 volunteer signature gatherers.

Mike Tate, chairman of the Democratic Party of Wisconsin, said he hopes recall supporters will collect 650,000 to 700,000 signatures on the petitions, just to be safe in the event that some signatures will be ruled invalid.

Accomplishing that feat would send an unprecedented message, according to Wisconsin historian John Gurda.

“That’s a lot of people. My surmise is that they’ll make it. I think the group is well-organized. There’s still pretty rampant dissatisfaction with what is going on in Madison. I don’t think it will be a slam dunk, but I think they will make it,” Gurda said.

Gurda called Walker the most conservative governor in Wisconsin history.

“Even people who probably voted for him have a sense that this whole thing has gone too far. The whole recall is a distraction, but I think he’s reaping what he sowed. When you win 52-47, you have a thin majority. And yet he behaved as if he had a mandate, and he pretty much imposed his extreme view of the world on the entire state of Wisconsin,” Gurda said.

Political analyst Wayne Youngquist, a professor or political sociology at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, said the recall, if successful, would be reflective of the widespread dissatisfaction with Walker.

“I’m kind of thinking it’s achievable. You’ve got a lot of people who are experienced canvassers and some national people coming in here to help. It is a difficult task, but if they can, that’s going to tell you what people are thinking. That in itself is going to be a straw in the wind of Wisconsin politics,” Youngquist said.

The deadline to file signatures with the state Government Accountability Board is Jan. 17 for a circulating period starting Nov. 15.

Presuming a recall happens, it would not necessarily mean Walker and Kleefisch will be thrown out of office.

One factor that weighs in Walker’s favor is that there is not yet a charismatic opponent waiting in the wings as a viable Democratic alternative in a general election, Gurda said.

The Democrats also are targeting Republican State Senators Scott Fitzgerald (R-Juneau), Van Waangard (R-Racine), Terry Moulton (R-Chippewa Falls) and Pam Galloway (R-Wausau) for recall.

Fitzgerald said the Republicans would again consider running “fake Democrats” on the ballot to force a primary and delay a general election vote in 2012.

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