MADISON — Wisconsin Democrats were hopeful Wednesday that the defeat of scandal-plagued Republican Roy Moore in Alabama means voters are turning against the GOP across the country, especially those with close ties to President Donald Trump.
Wisconsin Republicans, meanwhile, tried to ignore or downplay the potential domino effects of Democrat Doug Jones’ win in Tuesday night’s special election in Alabama, one of the most conservative states in the country.
Gov. Scott Walker tweeted about Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers’ return from injury, but he said nothing about Moore. His campaign referred comment to the Wisconsin Republican Party, whose spokesman Alec Zimmerman said Democrats continue to “flounder for a solution to their electoral woes” and that “no amount of wishful thinking will make up for their clown-car approach to candidate recruitment and inability to connect with Wisconsin voters.”
But Matt Flynn, a former Wisconsin Democratic Party chairman who is running for governor, called the Moore defeat the “first salvo” in what he predicts will be a rejection of Republicans closely tied to President Trump. Flynn includes Walker, who endorsed President Trump and has been a frequent White House visitor since his win, in that category.
“The electorate is finally saying ‘enough,'” Flynn said.
Walker is up for re-election in 2018 along with Democratic U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin. The two races are the most prominent statewide contests next year in Wisconsin, with more than a dozen Democrats vying for a chance to take on Walker. Two Republicans — businessman Kevin Nicholson and state Sen. Leah Vukmir — are running in a primary to challenge Baldwin.
Vukmir’s spokeswoman, Jessica Ward, said in a statement that the Wisconsin Senate race will be focused on Baldwin’s record and whether she deserves a second term.
“It’s interesting that the day after the election, Democrats are opting to ignore the flawed character and conduct of Moore in (an) effort to make this a referendum on all conservatives,” Ward said.
Nicholson’s spokesman Brandon Moody also tried to keep the focus on Baldwin.
“Now, more than ever, Republicans in Wisconsin need to be focused on defeating liberal Tammy Baldwin in order to pass President Trump’s pro-growth agenda in the United States Senate,” he said.
Baldwin’s campaign, like other Democrats, issued a fundraising plea tied to the Moore defeat and said in a statement “Alabama had a better choice and they made it.”
Nicholson, Vukmir and Walker had all called for the 70-year-old Moore to drop out of the race in light of the recent allegations that the former judge engaged in sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s.
Republican U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson, of Wisconsin, was blunt Wednesday when asked by reporters in Washington why he thought Moore — who has faced allegations of sexual misconduct with teenagers when he was in his 30s — had lost.
“Alabamians didn’t want somebody who dated 14-year-old girls,” he said.
Democrats have tried to tie Nicholson to Moore, given that both had the backing of former Trump adviser Steve Bannon and GOP mega-donor Richard Uihlein.
“A lot of Republicans lost tonight, but perhaps no one so badly as” Nicholson, the Wisconsin Democratic Party tweeted after Moore’s defeat. The party again called on Nicholson to cut ties with Bannon and Uihlein.
Wisconsin Democratic Party Chair Martha Laning said the Moore defeat spelled bad news for Republicans all across the state, including House Speaker Paul Ryan and Attorney General Brad Schimel, who she argued didn’t do enough to denounce Moore and the president’s support of him. Both Ryan and Schimel face Democratic challengers next year.
Ryan’s Democratic challenger, union ironworker Randy Bryce, joined with other Democrats in jumping on the Moore defeat to try and raise money.
“If we can win in Alabama, we can win here too,” he said in a fundraising plea Wednesday morning.