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Monday, October 20, 2014  |   Madison, WI: 52.0° F  
THE SCONZ: Breaking news and commentary on campus, city and state politics
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Recall polls show Democratic pickups likely but takeover remains hard

According to one Democratic legislator I recently talked to, internal polls recall campaigns have been conducting reveal a mixed picture for the Democratic effort to retake the State Senate.

For instance, candidate Jess King is apparently not polling as well against Randy Hopper, who Dems assumed would be the second most likely takedown, as expected. According to the legislator, that race has gone from being the number 2 race for Dems to the number 3 or number 4.

In contrast, despite "shooting himself in both feet," Fred Clark is a source of hope for Democrats in his race against Luther Olsen, and now at least some Dems are speculating that Olsen could be the second most likely victim, after Sen. Dan Kapanke (R-La Crosse), whose political obituary has been ready for print ever since his vote on the budget repair bill. Kapanke, unlike the five other GOP targets, represents a typically Democratic district.

Similarly, Dems are also encouraged by the poll performance of Nancy Nusbaum, who is running against Sen. Rob Cowles (R-Green Bay), who most considered to be the least likely Republican to fall. Both sides are claiming an edge in the MIlwaukee-area race between Sen. Alberta Darling and Rep. Sandy Pasch.

In the race between Sen. Sheila Harsdorf and Shelly Moore, Democrats feel a little discouraged about the price of advertising in the Twin Cities media market. However, I don't think the traditional advantage of incumbency is much of a factor in these recalls, therefore, I think if the Dem groups can advertise as much or more in that race as the GOP, Moore has a fair shot.

Dems don't seem to be too worried about Bob Wirch, who is apparently up by double digits according to their polling. As a result, my source says, Jim Holperin (D-Conover), who represents a conservative district, is not in an enviable situation. The GOP is going to throw everything its got at him on Aug. 16.

My guess: If control of the Senate is still contested after the first round of elections on Aug. 9th, we could see Holperin's race become the most expensive in state history. It's a cheap media market, but the entire country will be watching. Nobody Up North will see anything but political ads between the 9th and the 16th. Plus, according to Mike McCabe, the recalls have already dwarfed the record for spending in legislative races. The independent spending in the nine races has almost doubled the total amount spent on all legislative (Assembly + Senate) races last year in Wisconsin. I was just up in Appleton this weekend and the ads never stopped.

Keep in mind, polling on these races has virtually no precedent. The campaigns are doing the best they can to find likely voters but I would guess that they have much less confidence in their projections than usual.

Follow The Sconz on Twitter or Facebookto get regular updates on city and state politics. Tune in to the radio show everyday between 10-11 a.m. on 1670 AM WTDY. Please send anonymous tips, interview requests or any other comments to

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