MADISON, Wis. (AP) — A stand by Wisconsin Republicans against a massive effort to oust them from power could reverberate across the country as the battle over union rights and the conservative revolution heads toward the 2012 presidential race.
Democrats succeeded in taking two Wisconsin state Senate seats away from Republican incumbents on Tuesday but fell one short of what they needed to seize majority control of the chamber.
Republicans saw it as a big win for Gov. Scott Walker and an affirmation of his conservative agenda, the hallmark of which has been his successful push to strip most collective-bargaining rights from public workers.
Mr. Walker told the Associated Press on Wednesday that even though his party managed to retain control of the Legislature, he thinks the recall election results show that voters want both parties to work together on jobs and the economy.
“People still want us to focus on those two priorities,” Mr. Walker said. “They want us to work together.”
Mr. Walker said he planned to meet soon with leaders from both parties to discuss areas where they could work together. The invitation was greeted with skepticism from Assembly Minority Leader Peter Barca, a Democrat.
“It’s bipartisan action, not bipartisan rhetoric, that people are looking for,” Mr. Barca said.
Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, a Republican who will preside over a razor-thin 17-16 GOP majority should two Democratic senators manage to win their own recall elections next week, echoed Mr. Walker’s talking points.
“Republicans are going to continue doing what we promised the people of Wisconsin — improve the economy and get Wisconsin moving back in the right direction,” Mr. Fitzgerald said in a prepared statement after the victory.
Democrats and union leaders tried to make the best of the historic GOP wins. There had been only 13 other successful recalls of state-level office holders nationwide since 1913.
“The fact of the matter remains that, fighting on Republican turf, we have begun the work of stopping the Scott Walker agenda,” said Democratic Party Chairman Mike Tate.
Phil Neuenfeldt, the president of the Wisconsin State AFL-CIO, said voters sent a message that there is a growing movement to reclaim the middle class.
“Let’s be clear: Any way you slice it, this is an unprecedented victory,” he said.
Still, it was far less than what Democrats set out to achieve. And while they still plan to move ahead with recalling Mr. Walker, maintaining momentum for that effort, which can’t start until November, will be difficult.
Sen. Luther Olsen, one of the four Republicans who won, said he hoped the victories would “take the wind out of the recall for Walker, but I’m not sure.”