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This Week: The Moment Of Truth For The Wisconsin State Senate Recalls


Under Wisconsin's recall law, elected officials must have served at least one year of their current term before being recalled -- thus exempting the half of the Senate that was just elected in 2010. With half of the state Senate up for election ever two years, this meant that only those senators who were last elected in 2008 could be targeted for recalls. (This is also why Democrats must wait until 2012 to recall Walker.) Both parties waged signature campaigns in all 16 eligible districts, targeting eight Republicans and eight Democrats, with the final result being that six Republicans and three Democrats had recalls triggered against them.

In order to initiate a recall, signatures of at least 25 percent of the number of voters in the previous gubernatorial election, within the targeted district, must be collected in a 60-day window.

With the stakes so high, a lot of money has been flowing into the state. Indeed, the Wisconsin State Journal reports that according to election watchdogs, total spending by third-party groups has been reaching $30 million, and could go as high as $40 million for just these nine state Senate -- compared to just $19.25 million that was spent in 2010 elections for 17 state Senate seats, and all 99 Assembly seats. (In addition, last year the amount spent on the gubernatorial race was $37 million.)

So what is the outlook for the races? Well, the simple fact is that because this mass-recall election is so unusual and without precedent, there is simply no conventional frame of reference around which to make a prediction. So on the one hand, the state Democratic Party has claimed that its internal polling shows them ahead in three of the six races and statistically tied in the others, and well ahead in the two races where they are playing defense -- thus claiming that they are favored to win the Senate. On the other hand, as Greg Sargent reported, Democratic pollster Mark Mellman, who has conducted recall polls for them, is also tamping down expectations: "The nature of the turnout is so uncertain that it really will make a huge difference. We're dealing with big uncertainties."