If the state Supreme Court election was indeed a referendum on Gov. Scott Walker and the Republican legislature's agenda (that's a big "if"), then it will not be easy for Democrats to add the three seats they need to gain control of the Senate, as well as to defend their own incumbents facing recalls.
Data compiled by Prof. Charles Franklin shows that Prosser carried 6 of the 9 Senate districts (two Republican and one Democrat) that will hold recalls this summer. And all but one district supported Walker last November.
The most hopeful signs for Democrats come in Sen. Dan Kapanke's La Crosse-area district and Sen. Sheila Harsdorf's district in the Northwest. In both cases, the conservative candidate fared significantly worse in April than November, dropping from 49 percent to 42 percent and 58 percent to 49 percent, respectively.*
Dems should also be encouraged that Prosser did 4 points worse than Walker in Randy Hopper's district. The apparent rise in support for progressive candidates combined with Hopper's significant personal baggage has given Dems the scent of blood in the traditionally conservative district.
However, in the other districts, Prosser's performance was very similar to Walker's, usually only two or three points lower. In Alberta Darling's Milwaukee-area district, Prosser actually out-performed the governor by four points (58 to 54). Keep in mind, Darling is one incumbent that was widely regarded as one of the most vulnerable Republicans; she was one of the three that Kapanke was overheard describing as in danger of losing.
Prosser also won in two of the three districts where Democrats face recalls, although he performed slightly worse than the governor in all three.
Let's be clear. The Supreme Court race is by no means an ideal indicator of the recall race dynamics. There are big differences between the two contests, most notably the electorates. Although I assume most people who voted in the spring elections were aware of the partisan implications of the Supreme Court race, it's also safe to assume that those who turned out primarily for the local races favored Prosser because they recognized his name, regardless of ideology.
As I've written before, I would guess that the profile of the recall voters will be dramatically different than your average general election voter. The bases of both parties will play a larger role than independents. If Democrats hope to take back the Senate, they better hope their base's energy dwarfs that of the GOP.
If senators who had been elected in 2010 were eligible for recall, the story would be quite different. However, all the Republicans being targeted are ones who survived the Democratic wave in 2008. These are the toughest Republicans to take down and the hardest Democrats to defend.