Labor unions sought today to put a positive spin on last night’s loss in Wisconsin.
“Last night’s results were not what we had hoped for, but this was not the end of the story but rather the beginning,” said Richard Trumka, president of the AFL-CIO, the country’s largest federation of unions, in a press call on Wednesday.
“We knew a recall election would be tough, and we knew that we would be outspent. In the end, though, the best funded politician in state history spent more than $50 million to hold onto his office, but he could not hold onto a majority in the state senate,” Trumka said.
Trumka was referring to the outcome of recall elections of four Republican Wisconsin state senators. Results of yesterday’s elections show Democratic challenger John Lehman leading incumbent Van Wanggaard by fewer than 800 votes, but Wanggaard has not conceded, and the AP has not called the race yet.
Going into yesterday’s recall, the Wisconsin state senate had an even split, 16 Democrats and 16 Republicans, so Democrats only need Lehman’s victory to gain control.
There is no automatic trigger for a recount in Wisconsin, and Wanggaard has not said if he plans to request one yet.
Trumka, who was joined on the call by AFL-CIO political director Mike Podhorzer and Guy Molyneux of the polling firm Hart Research Associates, reiterated the difficulties faced by the Democrats in Wisconsin: Walker’s fundraising advantage, the low favorability for recall elections in general. But ultimately, they said, the take-away from the recall was a positive one for labor.
“Even though a majority of voters said they believe recalls are only appropriate for misconduct, Walker needed every last dime and every last divisive TV ad to maintain a weakened hold on his office…. The new model that Wisconsin’s working families have built won’t go away, it will only grow,” said Trumka.
When asked about the feelings towards Obama’s lack of involvement in the recall campaign, Trumka described them as “mixed.”
“I think there’s probably some mixed feelings. Some people probably say he should have been involved more, some people say he shouldn’t have been involved more. That’s their decision,” he said.
As for the lesson that the Obama campaign could take-away from Tuesday night’s results, Trumka emphasized the importance of educating voters.
“Get in early, get in often and educate people at the grassroots level, get those volunteers out there, and come out with a good solid agenda for job creation. Be clear about your job creation and I think you win.”