Priebus’ Big Wisconsin Win

August 10th, 2011 at 7:00 pm | 21 Comments |

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Chalk up another win for Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus.

The four Republican victories in the Wisconsin recall elections means that the GOP maintains control over the state senate. But for Priebus, this was something more personal – he has strong ties in Wisconsin, as the former chairman of the state GOP.

While he was running for the RNC chairmanship, Priebus would frequently make reference to the GOP’s victories in Wisconsin, name-dropping Sen. Ron Johnson and Gov. Scott Walker as evidence of his accomplishments.

A week ago, Priebus said that the RNC was “all in” on the Wisconsin recall. If the Republicans had suffered the loss of the state senate, so too would the RNC have suffered a loss of prestige. Familiar questions about whether the RNC remains relevant would have bubbled up. But they haven’t, and Priebus should get some credit for it.

The Republican victory in Wisconsin caps off a calm seven months for the RNC chairman, who has sought to rebuild the institution’s credibility after a tumultuous tenure under Michael Steele.

Republican strategist Ed Gillespie, who is affiliated with the conservative group American Crossroads, and competes with the RNC for funds, said that Chairman Priebus had “saved the Republican National Committee … the RNC is once again a driving force in Republican messaging.”

Indeed, one can see that in the themes Republicans choose to criticize President Obama on – for example, the ‘fundraiser-in-chief’ message that the RNC has been pounding for months.

But despite his victories, Priebus still faces a formidable challenge in fundraising, which has been less than stellar. The RNC raised $6.7 million in June, putting their six-month haul at $36.6 million – less than the $38.2 million that Michael Steele raised in his first six months of the 2010 cycle.

The good news is that the big donors are back – Priebus announced that major donors have already given more than in 2009 and 2010 combined. But rank-and-file small-dollar donors still haven’t been convinced to return.

There’s been no drama in the last seven months – a welcome relief for some RNC members who felt that Steele’s tenure was too focused on the man, and not enough on the messaging. But the RNC remains mired in debt – $17.5 million as of June 30 – and there remains a long road ahead.

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21 Comments so far ↓

  • TerryF98

    Loose two seats in strong GOP districts, Get a worse result in the rest compared to last time. Have a senate on a knife edge with only one moderate who might well vote with the Democrats.

    Declare a defeat a victory. The end.

    • abj

      Um, Kapanke’s was not a strong GOP district – it was a lean-Dem district. That he’s hung on as long as he has is an absolute miracle.

      As for Hopper – the man just left his wife for a 24-year-old staffer and his wife openly supported the recall, yet he only lost by a razor-thin 51-49 margin.

      Pretty lousy ROI on that $30 million, I would say.


      You’re whistling past the graveyard. On the basis of the outrage and all-out effort made by the Democrats after the Walker power grab, batting .333 is not that impressive.

      Better luck in January.

    • Nanotek

      + 1

      such losses in former Republican strongholds starkly foreshadow 2012 and recalling Walker … and they know it

      • abj

        I’ll say it again: the 32nd District (Kapanke) is a lean-Dem district, not a “Republican stronghold.” This isn’t my opinion; it’s objective reality. That’s how Ron Kind, whose Congressional district overlaps with the 32nd, won reelection last year in spite of the Republican tsunami.

        The 18th, Randy Hopper’s, does lean GOP; however, Hopper is the textbook definition of a damaged candidate: he just dumped his wife for a 24 year old staffer; he apparently doesn’t live inside the district; and his wife campaigned on behalf of his opponent. Despite these liabilities, Hopper barely lost.

        So in short, you have a Dem win in a Dem district, and a flukey 51% win in a lean-GOP district against a compromised opponent. Not exactly impressive.

        It’s arguable whether Tuesday’s election was a “win” for the GOP, but it unquestionably was a loss for the Democrats, who themselves defined victory as retaking the state senate.

  • Oldskool

    Rs don’t seem to know they’re the bad guys. Hello. They drove the country into a canyon-sized ditch and now they’re throwing rocks at the guy driving the tow truck.

  • LawnBoy

    I realize that avoiding full electoral Armageddon is a good thing for the GOP, but how is losing two seats a win?

  • phillygirl

    I wonder if Randy Hopper and Dan Kapanke regard last night as a big win. Are they eligible for extended unemployment benefits?

  • Frumplestiltskin

    yes, the two losses could be explained by other means, however lets not forget both won in 2008 in the face of the Democrat tsunami. Now, next year Democrats are only one seat away from retaking the Senate, and being that it is an off year for Walker Republicans are pretty much guaranteed to lose both houses.
    Now next week the two Democrats are up, if they hold serve (as they did with the one Dem. who already won re-election) it will have to be considered a very clear Democratic win.

    • torourke

      Nope. Republicans have already redistricted the state, and stand to entrench the gains they have already made. Darling’s district, for example, will much easier for her to win next year. Furthermore, there is no way Republicans are going to be outspent in such dramatic fashion next year during a presidential election year–especially if the economy is as bad as it is now. 2012 is shaping up to be a referendum on Obama, and right now that does not bode well for Dems anywhere. Of course, that could all change.

  • SteveT

    I’m a Democrat, but this was badly played in the Media (at least for me). I actually thought we would take all 6 seats. This is how the recall was played up over and over. Even Darling, the one name I could remember cause who could forget that, won.

    This was not a victory for the Dems.

  • zephae

    Maintaining GOP control in the Wisconsin legislature may be a big win for Mr. Pribus, unfortunately the only thing the comes to mind when I hear his name in that Daily Show joke:

    “you can’t get “pubic re-rinse,” without Reince Priebus.”

  • YesWeDid

    The RNC and Priebus can’t really claim victory here. They did manage to hold on. Had they not engaged in the primary tactic, they may very well have lost. In the end, WI is still essentially in stalemate. Recalls are uphill battles to begin with, especially when you’re running on Democratic issues in Republican districts. And as someone who grew up in Kapanke’s district, the place is largely Republican territory with a liberal leaning bastion in its middle (the city of La Crosse). The district will remain swing territory in elections to come.

  • ottovbvs

    These were all basically Republican districts and they lost two of them. Big win?

    • Smargalicious

      Yes. The millions of PAC and Union monies that went in to restore the union rape of the state treasury went for nought.

      I’d say that’s a victory.

    • sdspringy

      These were not “basically Republican districts”. These were however big media and union driven events with only a 30% return. Thats poor on one’s account.

      Given the fact next week two Dems are up for recall and currently one is behind in the polls the net gain will only be one seat for a massive amount of money. For a Lib though spending money never appears to be the issue.

      Some actual reporting is done here:

    • torourke

      Obama won Kapanke’s district 61-38 in 2008.

      • Bagok

        To be fair Obama won every single one of these districts in 2008 and Walker won every single one of them 2010. The Dems reclaiming two of these districts isn’t so bad. I’d say Walker would have a fight on his hands in a recall election with Dems coming home.

  • torourke

    As the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel states in its editorial the day after the recalls, Walker’s bill is working.

    And as Byron York reported a couple of months ago, some school districts are saving money and re-hiring teachers because they can shop around for health insurers, instead of having to accept what ever plan the unions offer them. This has lowered costs for some school districts considerably.

    • YesWeDid

      The polling and debate show that Wisconsonites are for public employees contributing to pensions and health insurance, as well as providers being negotiable. What they do not favor are to complete decimation of Union rights for public employees, as the budget measure did. Basically, the difference between the left’s position and the right’s position in this debate is whether public unions have a right to exist and those workers are allowed by the state to have rights they’ve had for decades.

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