Recall Opportunity Costs

The two political parties have only so much money to spend on campaigns. Dollars spent on one race cannot be spent on another. They have to prioritize important campaigns, even if that means conceding others.

That’s why, if I were a partisan Democrat, I would be upset with my party over the recall elections in Wisconsin. Millions of dollars are being taken away from close races around the country to go towards unseating a governor who will be up for re-election in two years anyway.

The recall may well succeed; one measure of enthusiasm is the roughly one million signatures on the recall petition, twice what was needed. But the most this expensive campaign would buy is two years in the governor’s mansion.

And this campaign will be spectacularly expensive. Labor interests view their livelihood as being at stake. That’s hyperbole in my opinion, but people do feel that way. And they will be pouring millions into the race. Tempers are running high, and strategists for the blue team have to be disappointed that so many on their side have lost theirs.

Activists are so passionate about unseating Walker that they fired before they aimed. There is no Democratic candidate to unify behind, giving Republicans a built-in advantage. Not only will there be a bruising (and expensive) primary, but many Democratic voters will be on the wrong side of the enthusiasm gap if their preferred candidate loses the primary or the nominee has low name recognition.

No one knows how it will play out yet. But even if it succeeds, this particular temper tantrum could well cost Democrats a few Congressional seats. Maybe even the White House, if it takes enough resources away from the ground game in swing states.


One response to “Recall Opportunity Costs

  1. The recalls in WI are #1 issue in the country for public employee unions. Their dues income has been deeply cut (due to the end of dues checkoff) and they don’t want that to spread to other states. Note that the state teachers union recently laid off 40 of their previous 100 employees. Gov. Walker is an existential threat to the public employee unions.

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