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There are two final state Senate recall elections in Wisconsin tomorrow night, both aimed at unseating Democratic incumbents. Now that Republicans have just a one-seat majority in the Senate, holding on to Democratic seats is vitally important. That's why Daily Kos asked Public Policy Polling to survey these races over the weekend (8/12-14), and fortunately, we have double-digit leads in both:
Jim Holperin (D-inc): 55 Kim Simac (R): 41 Undecided: 4 (MoE: ±2.6%)
Judging by presidential performance, Bob Wirch's district always seemed to be at the outer edge of vulnerability for Democrats. Of the six GOP-held seats that were up for recall last week, the closest was Dan Kapanke's slightly bluer SD-32. Democrat Jen Shilling managed to beat Kapanke, who had the advantage of being an incumbent, by 10 points; in that context, Wirch's 13-point margin makes a lot of sense. Wirch is fortunate that Dem enthusiasm doesn't seem to have flagged much since last Tuesday, since he narrowly trails Steitz among independents, 45 to 48.
Jim Holperin, however, was always the most vulnerable Democrat; going by presidential numbers, his 12th district is comparable to Luther Olsen's or Alberta Darling's — tough territory we lost a week ago, despite our challengers turning in performances that represented improvements over recent Dem efforts in those areas. Holperin benefits from being an incumbent, though, and from drawing a relatively weak challenger in the form of Kim Simac, whose Tea Party credentials appear to be turning off independents more than they're exciting movement conservatives. Interestingly, while Holperin's district on paper looks redder than Wirch's, Barack Obama's job approval is better there (-5 versus -10), and independents in particular are less grumpy with the President (-18 vs. -34).
So where does this leave us? If everything goes as planned, Democrats will retain their 16 seats in the state Senate to the GOP's 17, putting the occasionally reasonable Republican Dale Schultz in the cat-bird seat. At that point, Democrats should consider further recalls early next year, when the Republicans first elected (or re-elected) in 2010 will be eligible. The playing field will be much more advantageous to us, since that batch of GOP-held seats contains a bunch that are bluer than most of those we contested this year, and it also includes a boatload of freshmen swept in on last year's red tide. We'll also only need one seat rather than three, and it's hard to see any of our remaining seats being vulnerable. (My understanding is that recalls would be held under the old district lines, rather than the new maps the legislature just passed and Gov. Scott Walker just signed.)