Typically the Republican leadership in the state legislature talks about focusing on job growth -- Governor Walker certainly does so -- but might something not-all-that-related be on the table? And by that, I don't mean abortion legislation, but, rather, making Wisconsin a right-to-work state.
The Capital Times reported that the conservative website Right Wisconsin made some interesting predictions for 2014, with one from site managing editor Brian Fraley being the following: "Calls to make Wisconsin a Right-to-Work state will intensify." When asked by the Cap Times why this would happen when such a push might infuriate the few unions exempted from Act 10 -- police and firefighter groups, for example -- Fraley responded that pressure will still come from multiple sources, and before the election.
Why would there be such a push in an election year? The Republicans have sufficiently drawn the legislative district boundaries to keep their majorities through the decade barring a major, major party scandal, and Gov. Walker is the favorite for re-election in a critical race before a likely 2016 presidential campaign. Opening up the scab from the Act 10 fight might seem an unnecessary political move, since this could be spun as an attack on policemen and firefighters. As the article points out, Walker's approval rating cratered during the depths of the early 2011 debacle, only to recover when the Democratic-led reclal effort gained steam.
The answer may be found in the prior paragraph: they'll do it because they can. They'll do it because their districts and majorities are mostly-safe, and a conflagration over right-to-work is not a hot-enough issue to swing moderates to the Democrats in such numbers that Walker and some Senators and Assemblymen/women lose their races. They'll do it to ensure their base, which already seems to turn out at remarkable levels in any election, is that much more committed in the wake of an advertising onslaught by Mary Burke that just might drive out low-turnout liberal voters and Democratic-leaning moderates to the polls.
If that is the reasoning, it's short-sided. While Walker has a solid floor of support, another mess might just convince the middle that someone who's less of a firebrand -- like Mary Burke -- is better for the sanity of the state. That could be enough to push her just over 50% in November. Seats that could go their way -- like Kathleen Vinehout's and the vacant one of Bob Jauch -- might stay in Dem hands. And, hey, why not just do this after the election or early next year? Michigan Republicans did just that immediatley after the 2012 election, and while the push was very unpopular, it was early-enough in the 2014 cycle that Gov. Rick Snyder's approval ratings have had plenty of time to recover from him being DOA for re-election to him now being a slight favorite. If the Wisconsin GOP leadership does this legislation in December or January, it'll be old news by 2016 -- by which time Gov. Walker will be a hero in the GOP presidential primary for making Wisconsin right-to-work.
Will the Republican fall victim to wanting more and more? It happens all the time in politics, and we may see it happen in this state this year.