The April election hangover blog

Today’s blog continues a tradition that began decades ago with a Wisconsin Public Television “WeekEnd” show the Friday after an election.

Dan O’Donnell analyzes the Supreme Court election (assuming the recount doesn’t change the result, about which more later):

Brian Hagedorn was a dead man walking. Michael Screnock’s 12-point drubbing a year ago seemed like a best-case scenario. His liberal opponent had an overwhelming fundraising advantage, hundreds of thousands of dollars more in support from Eric Holder’s PAC and Planned Parenthood, and the residual wave of Governor Evers’ stunning upset just five months earlier.

Hagedorn couldn’t possibly win, not with the endless news reports about his old blog posts, Christian school policies, and Alliance Defending Freedom speeches.

His campaign was less a victory march than it was a march to the electoral gallows.

Just as importantly, the institutional conservative movement behind him was in shambles.

Finger-pointing over Governor Walker’s loss led to an overhaul of the Wisconsin Republican Party in the middle of Hagedorn’s campaign, and the Wisconsin Realtors Association’s very public rebuke of him left him politically toxic.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce refused to spend on his behalf, thinking that his was a lost cause. One could hardly blame them, either. Nobody, it seemed, gave Hagedorn even a puncher’s chance.

Yet Hagedorn punched anyway, and punched back so hard that it got Wisconsin’s vaunted conservative grassroots off the mat and in his corner. His campaign, to borrow Rocky’s tagline, was a million-to-one shot, but the grassroots were willing to take it with him even if no one else was.

New Republican Party leader Mark Jefferson returned power and autonomy to local party branches to coordinate get-out-the-vote efforts, Americans for Prosperity led the way in voter contacts, and even the voters themselves made phone calls, sent texts, and posted Facebook messages stressing to everyone they knew the importance of this race.

It is, of course, still too close to call and as of this writing well within the margin for a recount, but Hagedorn has also built enough of a lead that it will almost certainly hold. In the 27 statewide recounts over the past 20 years, the average swing was just 282 votes. The largest swing ever was 1,247 votes in the infamous Florida recount of 2000.

Once Hagedorn is sworn in, conservatives will take a 5-2 majority on the Supreme Court and, more importantly, indemnify themselves against the possibility of losing control next year. Had Hagedorn lost, the resulting 4-3 conservative majority would have likely been turned into a 4-3 liberal majority in the Spring of 2020 when incumbent conservative justice Dan Kelly has to run on the same ballot as the Democratic presidential primary.

The inherent liberal advantage there would have meant a near-insurmountable hill to climb, but if Hagedorn’s win should remind Wisconsin of anything, it’s that grassroots conservative activism is capable of pulling off major upsets.

A significant reason is acute awareness of the significance of the stakes. Once it was understood that this year’s race was essentially for control of the Court, conservatives steeled their resolve. Once they recognized that Hagedorn was essentially being attacked for his Christian beliefs, their resolve turned titanium.

Repeated attacks on mainstream Christian beliefs as being disqualifying for public office backfired spectacularly, as untold thousands of Christian conservatives (and, anecdotally, even a handful of Christian liberals) viewed them as a personal affront.

That was the ultimate motivator, as it provided a flashpoint for the pervading sense that liberalism was encroaching on Wisconsin’s values. First it was Holder’s hundreds of thousands trying to buy the Court, and then it was his allied groups intimating that a hateful Christian like Hagedorn, like you, wasn’t morally fit to sit on it.

This led voters to personally identify with Hagedorn in a way that they never did with Screnock or even winning candidates like Rebecca Bradley, David Prosser, Michael Gableman, and Annette Ziegler. All of them won hard-fought races and were predictably demonized on their way to the Court, but none experienced the intensely personal persecution that Hagedorn did.

That bonded conservatives to him and turned casual participants in this race into active supporters willing to go the extra mile for him. It wasn’t just that liberals were going to take over the Court, they were going to make sure someone like Hagedorn, like you, could never possibly hope to sit on it ever again.

This, apparently, was all it took to re-engage conservatives and re-awaken Wisconsin’s sleeping giant. Looming large now is the recount, but what lingers from this race is the sense that conservatism in this state can never be counted out.

J.R. Ross Tweeted the following, which is why it reads as it does:

Some notes on things I picked up last week and wrote about at :

Conservatives sensed an uptick in enthusiasm among their base, whether it was due to budget, Dane County rulings against lame-duck session laws, the Mueller report, etc. …

? was if there was $ and ground game to capture it. came in late with $; latest report shows more than $1.2 million in spending over final week. Groups such as AFP, WFA, Susan B. Anthony, WRTL, AMA, FreedomWorks reported IE work on behalf of

Another question was whether had done enough to excite the liberal base or if the knocks on over his views, blog posts, being legal counsel were enough.

ran a very traditional SCt race, insiders said. Focused on experience, endorsements and often avoided specifying positions. was more explicit in his views, more like ’18 race.

also had superior air cover. I saw today had her and Greater Wisconsin outspending and RSLC by more than $2M on broadcast, cable, radio.

If holds lead, changes dynamic of ’20 race, which looks to be uphill fight for conservative Justice Kelly. Would put conservative majority back to 5-2, meaning they’d hold court even if liberals win next year. Dem prez primary expected 2 be big influence on turnout

Oh, and for those looking to make a definitive statement on ’20 prez race off tonight, remember: won by 11.5 points April ’18 won by 1.1 points Nov. ’18

In ’08, conservative SCt candidate Gableman knocked off liberal incumbent Justice Butler with 51.2 % that April. That November, won Wisconsin with 56.2 %. But you do you, social media. Hyperventilate away.

Charlie Sykes Tweeted that, as well as …

GOP pol texts me: “The base is awake”…. reacting to what they see as Dem overreach in WI…

How is Neubauer taking this? This reportedly is a new fundraising email from Neubauer’s campaign:

“Judge Lisa Neubauer is a fair, independent, and impartial, and she was running against an avowed homophobe, who founded a private school that embedded discrimination into their mission and who gave multiple paid speeches to a hate group.

We’re disappointed that this race is too close to call, but we’re not defeated. This campaign isn’t over, and we need your support to ensure that every vote gets counted — please chip in $20.19 today.

Dark-money right-wing forces want to win this race so they can keep rigging legislative district maps in Wisconsin.

So they can continue to strip powers from the Democratic Governor and give them to Republican leaders in the Legislature.

Brian Schimming explains what may happen next:

Having co-directed Justice David Prosser’s recount effort with Judge Jim Troupis in 2011, I’ve been getting a ton of messages and inquiries. Let me offer a few top-of-the-mind thoughts …

– Judge Hagedorn’s lead is approximately 5,800 out of 1.2 million cast statewide. Prosser’s was 7,316 out of almost 1.5 million
– The counties will very likely conduct their official “county canvas” next week, send results to state Elections Commission who will then, presumably, certify it. Judge Neubauer will then have a prescribed number of days to request a recount.
– Judge Hagedorn’s current unofficial margin is less than one per cent so Judge Neubauer would be, by statute, eligible to ask for a recount. But since the margin is more than .25 per cent, she would be required to “pay” a determined fee for the costs. She also could only partially recount as well.
– Post-county canvas, the likelihood of the result being changed or dramatically altered is infinitesimally low. After the 2011 recount Justice Prosser’s margin only dropped a little over 300 votes statewide.

Having said all this – we may need to get to the barricades, people. Not speaking for the campaign here, but it is completely plausible, if Judge Neubauer”s campaign even appears to be moving into a recount posture, hundreds of volunteers will be needed on short notice statewide to monitor the county canvas and/or a full or partial recount. Many of you stepped up for us in a big way in the 2011 effort and I know I speak for Justice Prosser when I say he is eternally and most sincerely grateful.

Could be “Deja by all over again.” Stand by, we’ll see.

As I’m given to declare at moments like this: “This is The Truth until Further Notice.”

There will be those who decry the nastiness (yet again) and all the money spent on this race. Most of those people will fail to grasp why this is the case. Since the court system has now become the third branch of the Legislature, the rules of partisan politics now apply to the court system. To quote UCLA football coach Red Sanders, winning isn’t everything; it’s the only thing.
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