The consequences of Walker’s faltering support

THE CONSEQUENCES OF WALKER’S FALTERING SUPPORT…. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) probably thought he’d be in a stronger position by now. Instead, the conservative governor intent on needlessly stripping public workers of their collective bargaining rights finds himself struggling more with each passing day.

The latest development is this Wall Street Journal report, suggesting Walker’s united Republican support in the Capitol is showing signs of splintering.

Conservatives in Wisconsin are getting nervous that three Republican state senators may defect on the collective-bargaining reform vote. It’s still anyone’s guess as to when that vote will take place because Democrats remain in exile to prevent the necessary quorum. But Republicans in the Senate hold a 19-14 majority, so GOP Gov. Scott Walker can afford to lose no more than two Republican senators on this pivotal vote.

On Wednesday, Republicans held a “unity” press conference that was attended by all but one senator, Dale Schultz. But a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll showing that 62% of respondents oppose curtailing collective-bargaining rights for public-sector workers over health care, pensions or other benefits suggests that the GOP position may be losing some support among independent voters.

Of course, it’s not just national polls. What’s very likely scaring the hell out of Wisconsin Republicans is the fact that statewide polls show they haven’t won over their own constituents. Even Rasmussen, the GOP’s favorite pollster, known for telling the party what it wants to hear, finds that 57% of Wisconsin voters disapprove of Walker.

If you’re an antsy Republican in the state Senate, possibly facing an organized recall campaign, the recent surveys are a reminder that the political winds are blowing in the other direction — and support from an unpopular governor won’t do you any good.

It almost certainly won’t help matters that Walker, just yesterday, sent out layoff notices to 1,500 state employees, effectively telling Democrats, “Meet all of my demands or the workers get it.” No one is fired just yet, but the governor said job losses would begin in two weeks unless Dems agree to his union-busting crusade.

Everyone saw this threat coming — Walker told the fake David Koch he’d use the layoff threats for leverage — and neither the unions nor their allies seemed fazed. Indeed, as Greg Sargent noted yesterday, it’s quite likely Republicans, not Democrats, would suffer if the GOP governor starts firing workers unnecessarily: “[T]here are indications that the layoffs could exacerbate the current public opinion dynamic, rather than turn it around. That may well be spooking Republicans who continue to stand by Walker.”

All it would take is three Republicans in the state Senate to say, “We’ve had enough.” They’d very likely be seen as sensible heroes, ending a divisive standoff, and allowing Madison to get back to work again. That, or they can stick with a flailing governor, who doesn’t seem ready for primetime.