BEGINNING OF THE END IN WISCONSIN? DEMS SAY NO…. When it comes to the standoff in Wisconsin, there is no meaningful timetable. Democrats in the state Senate have said they’ll return when Gov. Scott Walker’s (R) union-busting crusade ends; Republicans in Madison have, at least publicly, said they’re prepared to wait Dems out.

With that in mind, the Wall Street Journal raised a few eyebrows overnight, with a report saying Democrats intend to “come back from exile soon,” knowing Walker’s bill will advance if they do, but willing to bet “the curbs are so unpopular they’ll taint the state’s Republican governor and legislators.”

The article doesn’t quote any Democrats directly — which doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in its veracity — but includes a paraphrase from state Sen. Mark Miller (D) about the caucus allowing the state Senate to vote on Walker’s anti-union proposal.

If true, this would obviously be a major development, ending both the standoff and collective-bargaining rights for state employees. But soon after the WSJ piece was published, Dems began knocking it down.

In response, Miller spokesman Mike Browne released this statement, saying only that they were continuing to negotiate towards an outcome that does not strip the bargaining rights of state workers:

“It is true that negotiations were dealt a setback since last Thursday when Governor Walker responded to a sincere Democratic compromise offer with a press conference. However, Senate Democrats have continued to reach out to the Governor and Republicans through the weekend.

Democrats remain hopeful that Governor Walker and legislative Republicans will, in the near future, listen to the overwhelming majority of Wisconsinites who believe they should come to the negotiating table in good faith to reach an agreement that resolves our fiscal issues without taking away worker rights and without hurting programs that help provide health insurance for working families and prescription drugs for seniors.”

Another state Senate Democrat said Miller’s comments, which served as the basis of the WSJ article, were “taken out of context,” and that Dems will return “when collective bargaining is off the table.”

Miller’s spokesperson also told the New York Times, “I don’t think anyone is willing to throw in the towel yet.”

In the meantime, yet another poll of Wisconsinites shows what the other polls have told us: Walker’s overreach isn’t going over well. New results from the Wisconsin Policy Research Institute show the governor’s approval rating down to 43%, with 53% disapproving. A majority of respondents have favorable opinions, meanwhile, of state Senate Democrats, public employee unions, and teachers’ unions.

Most Wisconsinites, the poll found, oppose Walker’s union-busting scheme. An even larger majority want him to start compromising to end the dispute.

The significance of these polls can’t be overstated — they stiffen Democratic spines, while making Republicans increasingly nervous about standing behind an unpopular governor with an unpopular plan.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.