A few nights ago an old time Wisconsin politico said this about the high-speed rail debacle: "If the Democrats want to save the train, they're going to have let Walker save face."
If the federal government picks up a larger portion of the rail line's operating costs, both the train and Walker's ego could survive. Although the annual state costs could already be as low as $750,000, if the feds promise to pay for the whole thing Walker could claim a victory for the Wisconsin taxpayer.
The way the Democrats could enable this is by lobbying the administration to commit more money to the project. Since it is a stimulus project, the additional spending would probably not require Congressional authorization (on a somewhat related note, eliminating earmarks means more bureaucratic allocation of money, not less). The Department of Transportation can foot the bill if it wants.
But here's the problem. The administration might not want to help save Walker's reputation. Giving the train to Illinois might be the best way to deliver a mighty blow to the emboldened GOP in a crucial swing state.
And that's before we mention Wisconsin Democrats. Mike Tate's entire public relations persona is based on negative attacks. It's what he lives for. And he just got whupped worse than any Democrat in the U.S. There's probably nothing he'd like to see more than Scott Walker burn.
But I've met some train geeks before. You'll meet one of them on the first episode of Sconzcast, which comes out next week. I'm confident they'll do what's right.