AP's Wis. Recall Coverage Desperately Seeks Silver Lining, Ignores Next Week's Dem Recalls

Wednesday evening, the Associated Press's Sam Hananel, with predictable help from Scott Bauer, tried to do a Bing Crosby imitation ("Unions look for silver lining in Wisconsin recalls") in an attempt to "Accentuate the Positive" in reporting on the results of yesterday's attempts to defeat six Republican Badger State Senators in recall elections.

Democrats, leftists, and public-sector unions needed to win three of the six races to tentatively and perhaps only temporarily regain a State Senate majority. They only got two, putting the GOP's temporary majority at 17-16. Temporary? Oh, Hananel "somehow" forgot to tell readers that two electoral attempts to replace Democratic State Senators are taking place next week, and that their retention of those positions is by no means assured.

Here are several paragraphs from Hananel's report ("Accentuate the [false] Positive" items are in bold):

Labor officials said Wednesday that the results in Wisconsin's unprecedented recall elections should send a stern warning to any elected official who might seek to curb collective bargaining rights.

But in toppling only two of the six lawmakers they targeted, some observers said the outcome could be a sign that labor's political clout isn't what it used to be.

Unions celebrated the ouster of two Republican state senators who supported Gov. Scott Walker's bill to curb collective bargaining rights for most state employees. Despite the historic wins for Wisconsin Democrats in Tuesday's voting, they still fell short of their goal to knock off at least three Republicans so they could take majority control of the state Senate and be able to block Walker and the Republicans' conservative agenda.

... "Organized labor certainly didn't lose any ground," (Democratic political strategist Doug) Schoen said. "They didn't fundamentally alter the political environment, but they sent a strong message to Republicans that what they are doing is not without peril."

That's the silver lining union officials were spinning Wednesday.

"This is going to send a signal that workers and the public are not going to take this overreaching lying down," AFL-CIO political director Mike Podhorzer said. "I can't imagine that if I were a state legislator in another state that I would want to go through what these six Republicans just went through."

Unions plan to take the fight to Ohio, where voters will decide in November whether to repeal the state's new collective bargaining law. A spokesman for a group that wants to keep the law in place called the two election wins in Wisconsin "meaningless."

"Labor got into this with the goal of shifting the balance of power and they failed," said Jason Mauk, spokesman for Building a Better Ohio, a group defending the new law. "There's no other way to read it. They spent millions of dollars in hopes of sending a message and it fell flat."

Here's a memo to the AFL-CIO's Podhorzer: Two Democrat state senators are going through the same thing you "can't imagine" in your very own state next week. Here's how Wisconsin-based blogger Steve Eggleston of No Runny Eggs assessed yesterday's results in an email to yours truly, and his take on what he knows about the two elections next Tuesday:

I honestly wasn’t surprised at either of the two (Republican) losses, or that it was only 2. While Dan Kapanke is a good guy, he is in a D district. While Randy Hopper’s district is, in normal circumstances, a “safe” R, he has personal issues (cough…extramarital affair…cough) and outside the Dane County (Madison) districts, he had the highest percentage of state workers thanks to several prisons in the district.

I don’t have any polling, much less solid, but (next week) the Rs should get at least Jim Holperin’s seat – the district is about as much R as Kapanke’s is D. I honestly don’t have any feel for the Robert Wirch seat.

So one of the "R's" arguably deserved to be thrown out yesterday anyway, and a GOP pickup of one of the two seats next week is looking at least somewhat likely. One would think that the two GOP challengers and everyone helping them have been buoyed by yesterday's results and are even more motivated to finish strong.

Hananel's writeup reminds me of what Mark Steyn wrote after the closely-watched Paul Hackett vs. Jean Schmidt 2005 special congressional election in Southwestern Ohio. In that race, seen nationally as a mini-referendum on the popularity of the Iraq War, Operation Iraqi Freedom vet and Democrat Hackett attempted to pretend in the district's TV ads that he was a supporter of George W. Bush and the war, while telling the rest of the nation, particularly the nutroots, that Bush was a "son of a b****" and a "chickenhawk."

Schmidt won narrowly, and Democrats tried to go into "We lost, but we sent a message" mode. Steyn was having none of it:

It was “nearly the biggest political upset in recent history,” which is another way of saying it was actually the smallest political non-upset in recent history.

Exactly the same thing can be said of Wisconsin's recall efforts -- and, contrary to Sam Hananel's non-mention, it isn't over yet. By next Tuesday night, the party makeup of the Wisconsin Senate could be only one seat different than it was previously, and might conceivably end up the same. The Buckeye State election discussed in the final two excerpted paragraphs is certainly up for grabs, but anyone on the left who thinks what happened in Wisconsin represents any kind of momentum coming into that election is in deep denial.

By the tone of what Hananel wrote, it's not unreasonable to predict that the AP will treat next week's Wisconsin elections next week as a non-national story -- because, you see, Democrats ousting Republicans is news, but Republicans returning the favor isn't.

Prove me wrong, Sam and Scott.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.