Recalling Scott Walker — The Other Big Story For 2012?

Wisconsin has been in the grips of one political battle after another, ever since the Republican wave of 2010 was followed up by Gov. Scott Walker’s legislation to eliminate most rights for public employee unions. The state Senate could potentially flip from Republican to Democrat in August, due to the recall elections called in response. But after that, it will be far from over — with the state Democratic Party’s public vow to recall Walker himself at some point next year.

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As of right now, the state Senate recalls are headed into the home stretch. Last week, Democratic primaries were held for races targeting six incumbent Republicans, with the official Democratic candidates all winning against fake Dem opponents — who were in fact Republican activists planted in the races by the state GOP in order to delay the general elections. And on Tuesday, in the first general election of the batch, Democratic state Sen. Dave Hansen won in a landslide against a politically and personally damaged Republican opponent, after the GOP had failed to collect a sufficient number of valid petition signatures for their recruited candidate.

This leaves eight races to go. On August 9, general elections will be held in six races targeting incumbent Republicans. Then on August 16, two more races will be held targeting incumbent Democrats.

But after that — and lurking underneath the surface of the campaigning this year — has been the Dems’ main recall threat, against Walker himself.For his part, Walker has been aggressively raising money, taking in $2.5 million in the first six months of the year, with $1.8 million cash on hand. While not explicitly tied to the possible recall, it is nevertheless prodigious fundraising.

On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday, state Dem chair Mike Tate brushed off the news about Walker’s fundraising. “You know, I looked at that,” Tate said, in response to a reporter’s question, “and my first thought was, I think the Democratic Party raised more money than him.”

But if the recall does occur, when will it be? Under Wisconsin’s state constitution, a recall can only begin after an elected official has been in office for at least one year — thus meaning that Walker could theoretically face a recall in early 2012. However, the state Democratic Party has publicly discussed a timeline to have the recall in November 2012, at the same time as the presidential election. Why?

As Greg Sargent reported, Democrats are worried about the possibility of Republicans being able to have the recall coincide with the state’s GOP presidential primary, thus boosting Republican turnout. Indeed, they even allege there have been private discussions about Republicans “helping” such a recall along, by collecting signatures to trigger the election in the spring.

Whenever the election might be scheduled, one thing is clear: State Dem activists and voters have been chomping at the bit to recall Walker.

In that eventual recall election, whenever it might be held, possible Democratic candidates who have not ruled out a race have included former Sen. Russ Feingold, who was defeated for re-election after three terms in the 2010 Republican wave, and former Rep. Dave Obey, who retired in 2010 from the House he held for over 40 years, and was succeeded by a Republican. Could 2012 be the time for either of them to come back, or for another Democrat to step up and win a governorship under some unusual circumstances?